Democratic candidate Gloria Johnson announced last Friday that she would once again be challenging incumbent Republican Eddie Smith for the State House District 13 seat, marking the third time the two candidates will vie for the same seat in one of Knoxville’s most competitive districts.
Gloria Johnson formerly represented District 13 for two years after besting Republican nominee Gary Loe in the 2012 election, garnering a little over 48 percent of the vote. That victory would prove short lived, however, as the seat was taken by current state representative Eddie Smith in 2014, and then again in 2016. Close each time, Johnson lost by a slim margin of only 182 and 154 in 2014 and 2016 respectively, even going so far as to file for a court injunction in 2016 before eventually conceding the race.
Hoping to capitalize on the wave of democratic enthusiasm witnessed in special elections across the country, Johnson said that her focus, the key issues of healthcare, education and jobs will set her apart from what she believes is out of touch Republican leadership.
“I think a lot of people don’t really study up on what their legislature votes for or how they vote,” Johnson said.
Johnson points to the state’s refusal to expand medicaid under Governor Bill Haslam, turning away billions of dollars that would have otherwise gone towards rural hospitals across the state. Tennessee leads the nation in hospital closures, with nine rural hospitals closing since the ACA was enacted in 2009.
“We’re holding Tennessee back by not providing access to affordable healthcare for all citizens, when it wasn’t going to cost Tennessee anything,” Johnson said.
A proponent of public education as much as an opponent of charter schools, Johnson hopes her focus on investing in public education as well as raising the state minimum wage will help propel her back into her former leadership role.
“You cannot live on a minimum wage job. You can’t afford a one bedroom apartment on a minimum wage job,” Johnson said. Though unemployment has decreased statewide under Republican leadership, Johnson points to the high number of workers within Tennessee working at minimum wage. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Tennessee led the nation in 2014 in proportion of citizens working at minimum wage.
One of the city’s more diverse state house districts, District 13 runs like a horseshoe around the populated center of downtown Knoxville, encompassing much of North and South Knoxville around John Sevier Highway.

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