Former Nashville mayor and candidate for governor Karl Dean stopped by First Baptist Church-Broad on Thursday to meet with Pastor Keith Norman and some other pastors about the issues in their communities that they want the next governor to address.
Dean, who is seeking the Democratic Party nomination in the Aug. 2 state primary election, said he would bring a pragmatic and common sense approach to issues facing the state and that Memphis will be high on his list of priorities because of the problems the city faces.
“I’m essentially running on this idea that I’m convinced that the people of Tennessee want a governor who is pragmatic, has common sense and is going to work on things that really matter to people,” he said. “I don’t think the state wants an extremist or someone who looks at everything through partisan eyes and you’ve got to get to the point where you’re trying to move the state forward.”
Norman asked Dean what he could do as governor about the guns that are flowing into some areas of Memphis as they are in many other urban city areas.
Dean said there needs to be more thorough background checks to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill, felons and anyone else who shouldn’t have them, but there is also pushback from gun rights advocates to consider.
“You have to find the ground where you can actually accomplish something,” he said.
Education is the ultimate key to moving the state forward, Dean said, adding that education has a key role to play in public safety,
“Our goal has to be every child has access to a quality education,” he said, acknowledging that cities such as Memphis need more funding because they face special challenges. He noted a 47 percent poverty rate in Memphis’ African-American community.
Pastor Dewayne Breckenridge of New Mount Sinai Missionary Baptist Church told Dean that pastors in Memphis “try to preach hope.”
“As representatives of our communities we want to see where the state can bring us some assistance in hope,” he said. “We look forward to great things and I promise you this, if Pastor Norman is an advocate for you, we are advocates as well.”
He asked what the next governor of Tennessee might be able to do about the driver’s license trap many of the working poor find themselves in when they let penalties, fees and court costs pile up after having lost their driver’s license.
Dean said he thinks that there needs to be a better solution for people who pose no threat to the community.
“We need to try to find a way for them to get their driver’s license back,” he said.
Norman asked whether Dean, as governor, would have any influence on where companies might be encouraged to locate when looking for new places to expand.
“You can’t tell a company where to go, but you can suggest,” Dean said. “To me, that’s how you approach it.”
With Arkansas and Mississippi just across the city line, Dean said Memphis faces some unique challenges in recruiting and retaining businesses. Because of those challenges, “more chips have to be put on the table,” if the city is going to play to win in the area of recruitment, Dean said.
“A challenge for Memphis is to stabilize and increase your tax base,” he said.
Pastor Melvin D. Watkins Jr. of Mt. Vernon Baptist Church-Westwood and Pastor Jason Mitchell of Perfecting Love Community Church were also at the meeting.
Asked by Breckenridge if he believed he could really make a difference as governor, Dean said, “I think who the governor is and the governor’s priorities make a big difference.
“I pledged that you will have my full attention on a daily basis, on economic issues, poverty issues and education issues.”
With a big fund-raising lead as he seeks the Democratic Party nomination, Dean’s chief opponent is State House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh.
The New Tri-State Defender’s Associate Publisher/Executive Editor Karanja A. Ajanaku has had one-one-one interviews with Democratic Party candidates for governor Karl Dean and Craig Fitzhugh.
To read those interviews, visit: