Harris defeats DeBerry in state House District 90 race

By , Daily Memphian Updated: November 04, 2020 7:41 PM CT | Published: November 03, 2020 10:20 PM CT
<strong>Torrey Harris addresses his supporters at Curry 'N Jerk in Downtown Memphis on Tuesday, Nov. 3. Harris beat 26-year state House veteran John DeBerry.</strong> (Ziggy Mack/Special to the Daily Memphian)

Torrey Harris addresses his supporters at Curry 'N Jerk in Downtown Memphis on Tuesday, Nov. 3. Harris beat 26-year state House veteran John DeBerry. (Ziggy Mack/Special to the Daily Memphian)

In his second challenge of 26-year state House veteran John DeBerry, Torrey Harris scored an overwhelming victory Tuesday.

Harris, who lost to DeBerry by 21 percentage points in the 2018 Democratic primary, posted a lead in early voting that proved insurmountable for DeBerry as Election Day votes were added to the total. The District 90 seat takes in an area from Cooper-Young to South Memphis.

With all precincts reporting in the district, the unofficial totals are:

Harris 15,930

DeBerry 4,675

DeBerry, first elected to the House in 1996, was a Democrat until this election. 

If Harris defeats DeBerry, he’d be first openly LGBT lawmaker

The Tennessee Democratic Party took DeBerry out of its August primary, citing his record of voting with Republicans in the Legislature. The complaint to the state party’s executive committee was made by a Memphis Democrat living in the House district. 

Some Democratic legislators from Shelby County criticized the decision by the state party. And the Legislature passed a law that reopened the filing deadline in the race to allow DeBerry to run as an independent.

Harris said there was more to his victory than DeBerry’s removal from the primary in August.

“We won it because we actually talked to the voters and we found out what they cared about,” he told The Daily Memphian. “I believe that the voters finally said, ‘Enough is enough.’ Black lives matter. People are tired of the same normal things that have continued to happen.”

Harris and Eddie Mannis of Knoxville, who also was elected Tuesday, are the first two openly LGBT legislators in the state’s history.

Harris ran on a progressive platform, emphasizing DeBerry’s record of voting with the Republican supermajority in the House, particularly DeBerry’s votes for the education savings account bill that affects Shelby County Schools, as well as two votes for anti-abortion legislation in the 2019 session of the General Assembly. 

DeBerry’s voting record prompted several primary challenges over his last three terms of office including the one by Harris two years ago that DeBerry survived.

Democratic candidates try to separate themselves in District 90 House race

DeBerry had nominal support from Republican state House members from the Shelby County delegation and other parts of the state. Republicans did not run a candidate in the race.

Harris said he intends to talk to DeBerry about a transition of the House seat.


2020 Election Torrey Harris John DeBerry

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Bill Dries

Bill Dries

Bill Dries covers city and county government and politics. He is a native Memphian and has been a reporter for more than 40 years.


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