Five days before Election Day and within a few hours of the last day for Early Voting, Karl Dean arrived outside the polling place at Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church to keep – as he described it – “plugging away.”
The former Nashville mayor knows he needs a big show of support from the Greater Memphis area as polls show him trailing his GOP opponent, businessman Bill Lee, in the race to become Tennessee’s next governor.
The temperature gauge had turned determinedly south of 60 degrees as Dean greeted people before and after voting, including a busload of LeMoyne-College students hyped for voting and shouting their joy about attending Memphis’ only HBCU (historically black college/university.)
“If you want a change, you’ve got to vote. If you want a better world, you’ve got vote,” Dean told the LOC students.
The line of those taking advantage of the chilly last day to early vote had extended into the parking lot at the onset of dawn. Amid passers-by, Dean fielded media questions, including why earlier in the day he had said he would call the Tennessee General Assembly into special session to again consider Medicaid reform, if he were elected.
“It’s largely the urgency of it,” said Dean, “in terms of what it means to the state fiscally to keep rejecting this money that could be beneficial to the state. The money that we’re paying in taxes we want to bring back to Tennessee.
“But more importantly, it’s going to have a significant effect on Tennessean’s lives. A report came out last week …that estimates somewhere around 600 people would be saved if we had Medicaid expansion. Then you have early diagnosis of issues like cancer that would help people live longer lives. I think that’s critical,” he said.
“You have over 300,000 people – working people, veterans, people with disabilities, pre-existing conditions — that need access to health care and every day that goes by when they don’t have it, when they are not getting checkups, when they are not getting preventing care is not good.”
Deborah Reed, who chairs the Tipton County Democratic Party and serves on the state executive committee, was nearby as Dean detailed his health care stance regarding Medicaid expansion.
“We’re trying to help West Tennessee,” she said, explaining why she had made the trip to Memphis. “We’re working together. They come out to Tipton County to visit us when we need things done, when we need support and we come out to support them as well.”
West Tennessee is “going to be extremely important” to Dean, Reed said. “We’ve already seen the numbers of voters in East and Middle (Tennessee)…We’ve got to get more voters in West Tennessee to come to the polls. It’s just that simple. Voter turnout is going to be the key to winning this race. If we can get them out, we can win.”
The LeMoyne-Owen College students rode in by a bus made available as part of the United We Vote campaign sponsored by the National Women’s March group. Danny Glover, senior political director for the Karl Dean for Governor campaign, connected with that outreach through Christopher Smith, with whom he had worked with in the effort to elect Bernie Sanders president.
“They are traveling from state to state, mainly battleground states, to drum up turnout, get first-time voters access to the polls, get drop-off voters access to the polls. It’s free of charge. They fund the entire thing. They are not promoting any candidate, just pushing Democracy and getting people out to vote.”
Glover got Smith in touch with Frankye Mills at LeMoyne-Owen College. “Frankye pretty much did all the work and got it rolling.”
Election Day is Nov. 6.
Gallery (Photos: Karanja A. Ajanaku)