Some history-making moments happen on a world stage. Others happen inconspicuously with little fanfare. The election of Hendrell Remus was more of the latter.
It was at a Saturday meeting of the Tennessee Democratic Party’s executive committee. Remus felt that he had something to offer – vision and direction – to a party that some say “may not be fully delivering.”
“There are two things I could bring to the table – my love for politics and a unique organizational skill set,” said Remus. “I felt that I could streamline our organization and infrastructure in some party procedural issues. Although I had only been on the executive committee for a short period of time, I wanted to run, and I won.”
Not only is Remus the first African American to hold the position of Tennessee Democratic Party chairman, he is also the youngest person.
“I am the first millennial to head the state party,” Remus said.
Remus is no novice in politics. He has worked on a number of notable political campaigns, including: Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris in 2018 and Joe Biden for President, Southeast Region Tennessee Leadership Council, 2020.
Smitten with politics, Remus wet his feet in a couple of unsuccessful runs for public office: 2012, Tennessee House of Representatives, Dist. 84; and 2014, Shelby County Commission, Dist. 11. He lost both, but his star continued to rise as a member of the Tennessee Young Democratic National Committee.
And, he learned some valuable lessons – lessons that have brought him to this moment.
“I have a vision for this party,” said Remus. “When people say that Tennessee is a ‘deep red state,’ I remind them that prior to the rise of the Tea Party, we had Democratic governors. A Republican governor would serve for eight years, and then a Democrat would serve for eight years.”
Remus has watched with great interest the historic “blue-ing” of Georgia.
“Stacey Abrams strategically worked a 10-year plan,” said Remus. “It wasn’t a ‘get-blue-quick’ scheme. There is a blueprint for what happened in Georgia, and there is no reason it can’t happen in Tennessee.
State Democrats, said Remus, have to improve in two very important areas: messaging and strategy. If messaging and strategy is more efficient and effective, he thinks the party has a good chance of winning over Independents and even some Republicans.
“Our messaging has to break through some of this vitriol spewed by the Republicans,” said Remus. “Politics consists of two main divisions: social issues, which have to do with the heart, and economic issues, which have to do with the pocket. We really aren’t going to make much headway on the social issues, but everyone has suffered under the economic policies of the Republicans.”
Remus said the key to growing the party’s power across the state is increasing new voter registration efforts in every region. Voters will welcome the economic policies of the Democratic Party, he said.
“Especially for Black and Brown people, we want to work toward everyone making a living wage, economic relief for student debt, more grant assistance with college, and more government assistance for entrepreneurs trying to open small businesses,” Remus said. “The government should also sponsor more community banks in economically impoverished areas.”
He is looking with great anticipation to mid-term elections in 2022.
“Republicans will be re-districting,” said Remus. “Re-districting is supposed to be fair, but it hardly ever is. We must get some Democrats on those committees so that re-districting will be fair. If not, the party will launch a robust, legal assault. Gerrymandering is still being done. It is not legal, but it is still done.”
(Gerrymandering is the practice of manipulating the boundaries of a district to favor a particular party or class.)
Although Remus’ term is only two years, he foresees setting in motion plans for the party being competitive in the governor’s race.
“I believe we have a really good shot against this governor,” said Remus. “Working with people across the state, registering new voters, and improving our message and strategy will make a Democratic (candidate) very competitive.”
Remus, who has lived in Nashville for five years, is originally from Memphis.
“I attended Oakridge High School and LeMoyne-Owen College, although I received my bachelors degree from another college,” said Remus. “I love Memphis. Memphis is home.”
Remus is presently assistant director of the Emergency Management Office at Tennessee State University. He will be vacating his post to take on the duties of Tennessee Democratic Party chair.