By Chris Bundgaard // WKRN
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A new Democratic leader hopes for civility as state lawmakers begin a new session in less than a month.
It’s not the only thing Rep. Vincent Dixie wants for his party that’s outnumbered three-to-one in the Tennessee House.
First, he’s aware of his history-making election and the lawmaker hopes to make the most of it.
“By electing me, the first black person to ever hold this position, it’s showing how far we have come as a Democratic caucus,” Rep. Dixie recently told WKRN-TV.
Dixie’s colleagues, who number 26 of 99-members in the Tennessee House decided earlier this month that the Nashville lawmaker’s voice would help lead them
He hopes to cool the capitol’s sometimes heated rhetoric.
“I expect more civility that we have had in the past,” Rep. Dixie declared. “I expect the temperature to be toned down on the House floor. I expect a little more collaboration between Democrats and Republicans.”
He replaces Nashville Rep. Mike Stewart who stepped down as Democratic caucus chair but remains in his seat.
Dixie hopes the questions he asks are those of every Tennessean.
The questions begin with K-12 education and COVID-19.
“I think everyone agrees that in person learning is best, but how do we do that safely and effectively?” he said during his WKRN-TV interview. “How do we build confidence in the vaccine? How do we build confidence in testing?”
The new Democrats summed it up as “we have got to buckle down so that we take care of Tennesseans.”
And with state COVID-19 cases exploding to levels leading the country in rate of increase, the new House Democratic leader urges Republican Governor Bill Lee to re-consider a statewide mask mandate.
Two years ago, Memphis Representative Karen Camper made history as the first African American to be House Democratic leader.
That position and House Democratic Caucus Chair are the party’s top leadership positions in the Tennessee House.