Torrey C. Harris overwhelmingly defeated veteran state Rep. John J. DeBerry Jr. in the District 90 House race for the Tennessee General Assembly, according to complete but unofficial returns.
Harris received 15,930 compared to 4,675 votes for DeBerry.
Tuesday night Harris said he was so grateful that voters are giving him a chance.
“I’m just grateful that they took the time to get to know the people who were listed on the ballot,” Harris said. “I am excited to be the representative that they chose.”
The win makes Harris, 29, the youngest legislator in the state. He is also the second openly LGBT lawmaker in the Tennessee legislature. Also, winning election Tuesday was Republican Eddie Mannis, who won an open seat on the GOP ticket in Knoxville, according news reports.
“I’m so happy to be able to say that,” Harris said about being a part of the LGBT community.
Harris is a human resources director in the Shelby County Trustee’s Office.
Early in his campaign, Harris said he would do a lot of listening to voters in his district because he said they had not been adequately represented in a long time.
On Monday, Harris said he spent last weekend knocking on doors and talking with voters.
“For a long time the citizens of this district have not had their voices heard,” he said.
The district includes parts of North and South Memphis, as well as Midtown.
Harris plans to have town hall meetings to keep in touch with what the citizens of his district are concerned about.
DeBerry had not returned telephone messages by Wednesday morning. He served in the Dist. 90 House seat as a Democrat for 26 years.
DeBerry ran as an independent in this election because he was forced out of the Democratic Party for breaking with the party on several issues. The legislature passed a bill this summer enabling him to put his name on the ballot as an independent.
One of his controversial stances involved the state’s fetal heartbeat bill, which would ban abortions after detections of a fetal heartbeat, usually when an unborn baby is around six to eight weeks old.
“The bill made it to the floor and I could not in good conscience vote against the bill,” he said.
He broke with his party in support of school vouchers and voted for a Republican for House Speaker, according to news reports.