Progressive Organizer Odessa Kelly To Challenge Conservative Tennessee Democrat

Written by on April 5, 2021

Nashville neighborhood organizer Odessa Kelly introduced on Monday that she is mounting a progressive major problem towards Rep. Jim Cooper, a veteran Tennessee Democrat with a historical past of fiscally conservative votes.

“We want extra pathways out of poverty, and the established order is now not adequate,” Kelly, a co-founder and government director of the liberal group Stand Up Nashville, stated in a press release. “I understand how to construct coalitions that get outcomes, and I’m working for Congress in order that we will make daring, formidable change on the nationwide stage.”

Kelly, who’s 39 and Black, is the primary candidate the left-wing group Justice Democrats recruited to run this election cycle.

The first election in Tennessee’s fifth Congressional District, which Cooper represents, is because of happen on Aug. 4, 2022.

Within the 2018 and 2020 election cycles, Justice Democrats recruited or backed candidates who ousted 5 reasonable Home Democrats. The group’s most well-known recruit is Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a New York Democrat who unseated then-Home Democratic Caucus Chairman Joe Crowley in June 2018 and subsequently turned a nationwide media star. 

Justice Democrats goals to shift the Home Democratic Caucus to the left by changing reasonable or conservative Democrats in secure blue seats with anti-establishment progressives prepared to play hardball with occasion management.

Kelly and Cooper, a 66-year-old lawyer with deep roots in Nashville politics, each match the group’s ideological standards.

Citing her Christian religion and working-class upbringing, Kelly declared in a two-minute video accompanying her official marketing campaign announcement that she helps “Medicare for All” and a Inexperienced New Deal. She vowed to refuse donations from company political motion committees.

Though Cooper is comparatively liberal on so-called social points, with excessive marks from the reproductive rights group NARAL Professional-Selection America, he’s a proud member of the conservative Blue Canine Coalition and has been to the suitable of the Democratic mainstream on plenty of key fiscal priorities. 

Cooper was certainly one of simply 11 Democrats to vote towards then-President Barack Obama’s financial stimulus bundle in 2009.  

I’m working for Congress as a result of we deserve a consultant who fights as onerous as we do for our households and for this metropolis. Odessa Kelly

Three years later, as progressives fought to guard social insurance coverage packages from a bipartisan “Grand Discount” to cut back the debt, Cooper was out entrance making an attempt to strike such a deal. 

He teamed up with a Republican colleague to name for Social Safety profit cuts, in addition to caps to Medicare and Medicaid spending that had been prone to lead to cuts. His plan to cut back the debt was composed of two-thirds spending cuts and one-third income will increase, incomes the scorn of a center-left assume tank that had supported Obama’s plan to cut back Social Secuity’s cost-of-living adjustment.

As not too long ago as 2019, Cooper co-sponsored a invoice proposing a balanced funds modification to the Structure. If enacted, such an modification would deprive the federal authorities of the flexibility to deficit-spend, together with throughout a recession when there’s a broad financial consensus that deficit spending is important. 

Cooper can also be cozy with company America. He has acquired about $2.7 million in contributions from company PACs since 2004.

In her marketing campaign video, Kelly lamented how Nashville’s gentrification was leaving underprivileged metropolis natives behind. She accused Cooper of catering to the rich donor class reasonably than addressing that disaster.

“Whereas we had been combating for us, Congressman Jim Cooper sided with the wealthy and highly effective, time and time once more,” she stated. “I’m working for Congress as a result of we deserve a consultant who fights as onerous as we do for our households and for this metropolis.”

Along with the group’s ideological concerns, Justice Democrats usually seeks to recruit minority contenders from modest financial backgrounds who higher mirror a district’s residents, the group says.

Right here too, Kelly’s background contrasts sharply with Cooper’s. Cooper, a Harvard Legislation College graduate who represented the Nashville space from 1983 to 1995 and was elected once more in 2003, is akin to royalty in metropolitan Nashville. His father Prentice was governor of Tennessee and his brother John is the present mayor of Nashville.

Cooper’s family web price is between $7.6 million and $24.9 million, in keeping with his most up-to-date monetary disclosure.

Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.), who served from 1983 to 1995 and has held his current seat since 2003, has taken conservative stan

Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.), who served from 1983 to 1995 and has held his present seat since 2003, has taken conservative stances on key fiscal points.

Kelly enjoys no such privilege. Raised by a well being care employee and a metropolis worker, she labored full time for the town’s parks and recreation division till Nice Recession-era funds cuts lowered her hours. 

Extra not too long ago, as a frontrunner of Stand Up Nashville, Kelly helped dealer a historic neighborhood advantages settlement with Nashville’s Main League Soccer group in 2018. The group’s house owners dedicated to constructing the brand new stadium with staff paid a dwelling wage and promised to construct inexpensive housing and a day care middle on the land they plan to develop.

Kelly may also show to be an thrilling candidate for nonwhite residents of Tennessee’s fifth. About 1 in Four residents of the district, which incorporates Nashville suburbs in Davidson, Cheatham and Dickson counties, are Black. One other 10% of district residents are Latino.

“As somebody who has spent her life as a public servant and a neighborhood organizer, Odessa Kelly is strictly the form of Democrat we’d like in Congress,” Alexandra Rojas, government director of Justice Democrats, stated in a press release. 

Unseating Cooper will seemingly be harder than a few of Justice Democrats’ previous feats, which passed off whereas Donald Trump was president.

Cooper ran uncontested in his common election in 2020. And Democratic major voters might have much less of an urge for food for disruptive politics beneath a Democratic president.

There are nonetheless indicators that Cooper is weak. His 2020 major challenger, Keeda Haynes, pulled in a decent 40% towards him regardless of elevating a fraction of his funds. The district has been trending extra Democratic in each presidential election since 2012.  

And Kelly introduced that she is beginning off with the endorsements of two Nashville metropolis council members: Delishia Porterfield and Sean Parker.

“Our grassroots motion has shocked the nation in two cycles and we’re ready to do it once more,” Rojas stated. 


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