Jana Swearengen-Washington emerged from Tuesday’s special election as a relatively easy winner as a lion’s share of District 4 voters decided to send her to City Hall to represent them on the Memphis City Council.
The 30-year educator is the sister of Jamita Swearengen, who vacated the seat in August after winning her bid for Shelby County Circuit Court Clerk.
District 4 encompasses Orange Mound, South Memphis, and Cooper Young areas. Swearengen-Washington will serve out the approximately one year left on Swearengen’s term. Another special election will be set for October 2023 for a full-term representative.
Swearengen-Washington said the race was won with lots of prayer and hard work, two things learned from the political workings of the Swearengen family.
“My father, of course, was Judge James Swearengen, who served on the Shelby County Circuit Court, and my aunt, Barbara Swearengen, sat on the city council for 16 years,” said Swearengen-Washington. “We grew up working hard in the community because of our family.”
Swearengen-Washington said it isn’t just the family name, but work ethic and determination that she witnessed and participated in growing up.
LaTonia Blankenship, who ran as “the people’s candidate,” finished second to Swearengen-Washington, who tallied 6,259 votes to Blankenship’s 3,240. The totals for two others in the race were Barry Ford: 1,719 and Dewayne Jackson: 854.
“I am proud of the race we ran,” said Blankenship. “We ran a strong, hard, campaign with integrity. I got my message to the people, but now, the voters have spoken. This is my first political race. It was a great learning experience, and you can be sure this will not be my last run. I’ll be back.”
Blankenship is a well-known community activist, who has served her community for more than two decades. Recently, she chartered a non-profit entity called the Orange Mound Collaborative Group, which she chairs.
She was urged to run by some Orange Mound residents who wanted to see their city council representative come from their own ranks.
“I don’t have a family name or a lot of money,” said Blankenship. “I ran on my own name. And of that, I am proud. Politics is not a family business that someone has a right to just because of who they are. Elected officials are servants of the people. Constituents must be given a seat at the table through their representative.”
Swearengen-Washington said District 4 residents will come to know her as a “listening ear.”
“As an educator, I know how to listen to children. I know how to listen to parents. A representative means that a person speaks for someone else. They stand on the behalf of someone else. I am ready to do that for District 4 residents.
Swearengen-Washington is the wife of Dr. Robert H. Washington Sr., pastor of Prospect CME Church. an accomplished singer and violinist, she was an assistant principal in the Forrest City School District, Memphis.
Teri Dockery was appointed as the interim representative to Swearengen’s vacated seat and did not seek the position in the Nov. 8 election.