The Tennessee Democrat Party removed Representative John DeBerry, a 26-year veteran of the state House of Representatives, from its August primary ballot this week. “After a long meeting in which we heard challenges and evidence, we did what we thought was best to protect the Tennessee Democrat Party and the values we stand for,” said Mary Mancini, chair of the executive committee for the state party.
Translated into English, that means that DeBerry, who cast a vote last year for an unsuccessful state “heartbeat” bill which bans abortions after a heartbeat of a preborn baby can be detected, became persona non grata in a local and national political party that becomes more extreme by the week in support of abortion. His ouster is part of a national trend, openly affirmed by Tom Perez, the national chairman of the Democrat Party, that pro-lifers have no place in the party unless they are of the “personally opposed to, but publicly support” abortion type. “It’s not negotiable,” he said.
But DeBerry, an ordained Church of Christ minister, doesn’t equivocate. “This was the first chance in 25 years that I had to go on record and say I disagree with abortion,” he said last year. The bill has been re-introduced in 2020 with some modifications, which also might help explain why the state Democrats are in a hurry to send him packing before the primary.
DeBerry is respected by his peers, including conservatives. David Fowler is the Executive Director of the Family Action Council of Tennessee, a state public policy group affiliated with Focus on the Family. Fowler is also a former state senator.
“John DeBerry is one of the finest Christian gentlemen I have ever met and whose convictions, drawn from his Christian beliefs, never wavered and he always sought with integrity to apply them to whatever particular issue was before him,” Fowler told me in an email. “That there is no place in the Democratic Party for a person of John DeBerry‘s character and belief system and who has served this state so well for so long is an indictment of the Democratic Party, not John DeBerry. In my view, it is shortsighted on the part of the party and will ensure that it remains a small minority in our state legislature. I will miss the Christian fellowship I had with John.
I don’t know if DeBerry can find his way back to the Tennessee House as an independent (or perhaps as a Republican), but it will be interesting to see what his constituents think of his ouster.