Mayor's Race

Memphis Mayor’s Race 2023: Karen Camper

By , Daily Memphian Published: September 05, 2023 2:02 PM CT

In her campaign for Memphis mayor, Rep. Karen Camper is emphasizing her relationships with the Tennessee legislature’s Republican leadership, saying she is in a “unique position” to bring more state resources to Memphis.

Camper, the state’s House minority leader, said her approach after two Democratic state representatives used a bullhorn on the House floor, leading protesters in chants, opened the door for some sort of gun-safety legislation during the special legislative session that began Aug. 21.

“At the end of the (regular) session, the Republican leader came to my desk and said, ‘Leader, I’m open to a conversation about what we can do with gun violence,’” Camper said in July on the WKNO-TV show “Behind The Headlines,” referring to House Majority Leader William Lamberth, R-Portland. She said House Speaker Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, said the same thing.

Lamberth, Camper’s Republican counterpart, called her a “passionate advocate” in a brief interview.

“I have a great level of respect for her,” Lamberth said. “She is always able to disagree with folks in an agreeable fashion.”

Read more about Camper: In her run for mayor, Karen Camper says she’s in a ‘unique position’

To learn more about all of the candidates, visit The Daily Memphian’s 2023 City of Memphis election landing page

In her own words

The Daily Memphian: What is the most pressing issue facing the city today?

Karen Camper: Memphis is in a crisis caused by out-of-control crime. We have seen increases in violent crime, gun crime, car theft, carjackings and car break-ins. Our police force is stretched too thin and is overwhelmed with solving crimes and cannot focus on preventing crimes. We need to have a comprehensive review of the entire public-safety ecosystem so that we can reform what is not working and reinforce programs that are working. 

What do you think the City of Memphis budget should spend more on? What do you think it should spend less on?

My budget priorities would include increasing funding to housing and community development to revitalize our neighborhoods and create affordable housing with an emphasis on encouraging first-time homeowners. I would also look to increase funding for public works, putting an emphasis on repairing potholes, removing blight from our neighborhoods and working to decrease flooding through better drain maintenance.

The last thing I would like to see increased are grants and subsidies so that our nonprofit and faith-based organizations can apply for additional funding.

Before I make a decision on decreasing funds, I would want to examine what each department and budget line item are being used for and if those programs or projects are succeeding. 

Is the City of Memphis going in the right direction?

I believe that our city is going in the wrong direction. There are examples of decline across our community. Whether it is out-of-control crime, rising poverty, crumbling roads, lack of affordable housing, continuing power outages whenever we have a weather event or our failing schools, Memphis needs a new course.

Would you ever be in favor of increasing property taxes?

You should never say never to any possible revenue stream, but as things stand today, I would not be in favor of raising property taxes. Too many people are struggling to pay their day-to-day expenses, let alone another tax increase. 

Do you believe that, as a representative of the public, your vote should reflect how your constituents would vote or are they electing you to use your own judgment?

I believe it is a blend of the two. Voters make the decision on who they believe will be the best to lead them by being informed where candidates stand on issues and whether candidates share their values. As an elected official, I adhere closely to the positions that I staked during election time but know that, ultimately, I must use my best judgment to serve those that elected me to office. 

What do you think are the keys to your success?

Respecting others and listening. The old saying goes that “God gave us two ears and one mouth, so that you do twice as much listening as you do talking.”

As a state legislator for the last 15 years and as the Minority Leader of the Tennessee General Assembly, respecting others’ opinions and listening to others concerns and suggestions has provided me with the ability to work with both parties to get things done for Memphis and our state. 

What was the last book you read?

“Bluff City: The Secret Life of Photographer Ernest Withers,” by Preston Lauterbach.

If you got to choose a last meal, what would it be?

My last meal would be oxtails, turnip greens, macaroni and cheese with hot water cornbread, with a glass of sweet iced tea.

What talent or skill do you wish you had?

I wish that I had amazing computer-science skills. I am fascinated by coding, programming and the applications of computer science. I would love to take those skills and work on predictive futuristics.

What activities do you enjoy outside of work?

I truly enjoy spending time with my family, having a meal together and playing cards at the table. So many of my best memories are with the ones that I love the most. 


Karen Camper 2023 Memphis Mayor's race


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