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Memphis City Councilman J.B. Smiley, Jr. enters Tennessee governor’s race

Published: Sep. 8, 2021 at 6:12 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The races for Tennessee governor and Shelby County mayor are slowly starting to take shape as candidates begin tossing their hats into the ring, while others explore the possibility of running.

Memphis City Councilman J.B. Smiley, Jr. celebrated his birthday Wednesday by announcing his candidacy for governor.

“Tennesseans deserve better. Tennesseans demand better. And I’m ready to help guide us to a better Tennessee,” Smiley said before a crowd gathered inside the lobby of the Orpheum Theatre.

Smiley, who’s still in his first term on the city council, says the state’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic was a major factor in his decision to run for Tennessee’s highest office.

“As of this morning, we have lost thousands and thousands of Tennesseans to COVID-19. Those were mothers, fathers, grandmothers, children,” Smiley said.

At 34 years old, Smiley would be one of the youngest governors in history.

He’s also not well-known by voters outside of Memphis.

But Action News 5′s political analyst, Michael Nelson, points out the state primary for governor falls on the same day as Shelby County’s general election and said that could help Smiley.

“Conceivably, a big turnout will help him in the same way it helped Marquita Bradshaw, who got the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate in 2020. She was even less well known,” said Nelson.

In another big announcement Wednesday, longtime city government official, Ken Moody, said he’s exploring a run for Shelby County mayor.

Moody has held various positions through the years and currently serves as a special assistant to Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland.

“There’s many, many opportunities for the county administration to do more, to be more visible, to be more of an uniter,” said Moody.

Memphis City Councilman Worth Morgan said he’s also considering a run for Shelby County mayor. Morgan said he’ll be making an announcement with his decision soon.

Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris hasn’t announced officially if he plans to seek re-election.

Governor Bill Lee announced last year he plans to seek reelection and has already been endorsed by former President Donald Trump.

Shelby County’s primary election is set for May 3, 2022.

The county’s general election, along with the state and federal primary, and Memphis special election will take place August 4, 2022.

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