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Lee names former Democratic lawmaker DeBerry as adviser

Former Democratic state Rep. John DeBerry Jr. begins work today as a senior adviser to Gov. Bill Lee.

Lee’s office made the announcement on Monday. DeBerry will be on the Republican governor’s executive leadership team and he will have an office in the Tennessee State Capitol, Lee said in a statement.

He will make $165,000 a year, similar to other senior advisers to the governor, Lee spokesman Gillum Ferguson said.

DeBerry came up short in his bid to return to the state House when he lost to Democrat Torrey Harris in the Nov. 3 general election.

DeBerry ran as an independent candidate after the Tennessee Democratic Party removed him in April from the ballot for the August primary election. DeBerry had represented House District 90 in Memphis since 1994 as a Democrat.

DeBerry was accused by Democrats of voting against his caucus’s position and of receiving donations from organizations and individuals that typically support only Republican candidates.

He and two other Democrats voted in support of a bill banning abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, and DeBerry also drew Democratic ire after he voted with the GOP-dominated House to advance a school voucher law that is currently blocked in court.

DeBerry, an ordained minister who is Black, has said he’s always maintained an anti-abortion position, noting in April that he’s “never tried to hide” his stance.

“John has fought to protect life, provide better education options for Tennessee students, and to reform our criminal justice system and I’m honored to have his counsel within the Cabinet,” Lee said in a statement.

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