Darren Jernigan, a Metro councilman whose District 11 includes parts of Old Hickory and Hermitage, confirmed to The City Paper Wednesday he plans to run as a Democrat for the state House District 60 seat currently held by Republican Jim Gotto.
“Becoming a state representative gives me the opportunity to expand my passion for public service beyond the local level,” said Jernigan, who recently appointed a treasurer for his campaign with the Davidson County Election Commission.
Prior to the state’s redistricting, Jernigan’s residence was in state Rep. Mike Turner’s District 51. Political observers had predicted Jernigan’s Old Hickory area would be redrawn into District 60, opening the door for Jernigan to challenge Gotto, who until last fall was one of Jernigan’s Metro Council colleagues.
Gotto could not immediately be reached for comment.
Jernigan, elected to serve a second term on the council in August, has been eyeing the seat for months but finally announced his candidacy Wednesday.
“I grew up in District 60 and now I’m proud to raise my family here,” Jernigan said in a statement. “I want to help make Tennessee an attractive place to relocate, start a family, or create a new business.
“Tennessee is confronted with tough issues every day,” he added. “It has become more important than ever that we stand together, partner with stakeholders, and listen to the views of all of our citizens in order to overcome these challenges.”
Jernigan will compete in August’s Democratic primary for a chance to challenge Gotto next November. Assuming Jernigan wins his party’s nomination, Jernigan will attempt to bring a red seat back into the Democratic column.
The House District 60 seat, which includes the far eastern part of Davidson County, had historically belonged to Democrats. But former longtime Democratic state Rep. Ben West Jr.’s retirement, coupled with sweeping Republican victories statewide in 2010, led to the Republican gain. Gotto defeated Democrat Sam Coleman, also a former councilman.
Tennessee Democrats will no doubt track the District 60 –– and target Gotto –– as perhaps one of the few opportunities to pick up a Republican seat in November.
“I respect state Rep. Gotto, but ideologically, we’re on two different playing fields, I guess you could say,” Jernigan said, adding that they did work together on some council issues.