NASHVILLE — State Rep. JoAnne Favors, D-Chattanooga, announced today she will not seek re-election next year to her House District 28 seat after serving seven terms in the Tennessee General Assembly.
"It has taken a lot of introspection and talking to some close friends and family," said Favors, first elected to the House in 2004, in an interview.
A retired registered nurse and former health facilities administrator, Favors pointed to responsibilities taking care of great-grandchildren as well as her mother among other consideration.
"I finally decided it was the best thing for me at this point," said the former Hamilton County commissioner, who added it will also allow her more time to devote to writing."
In a subsequent news release, Favors expressed "sincere gratitude to the thousands of voters who elected me to serve seven very productive terms in the Tennessee General Assembly."
She called it a "distinct honor to serve my constituents and the citizens in Tennessee. I have made every effort to work for the good of the people.
"Now it is time to take a different path which will allow me to devote more time to my five generations of family members, including my 94-year-old mother, my church members and my many friends."
Favors is the only black member of Hamilton County's legislative delegation to the Capitol and one of just two Democratic representatives from GOP-dominated East Tennessee.
Her decision not to seek reelection in 2018 creates a rare open legislative seat opportunity for the politically ambitious in Chattanooga's black community. The district is racially mixed.
During her time in Nashville, the former Chattanooga State associate professor has been on the forefront of issues ranging from health care to battling, unsuccessfully, against Tennessee's photo identification requirement for voters.
Earlier this year, she and state Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, fought unsuccessfully to require Tennessee school buses come equipped with three-point safety harnesses following the Nov. 21, 2016, crash of a Woodmore Elementary School bus that claimed the lives of six children and injured others.
Favors also joined with Hamilton County legislative colleagues and then-Hamilton County Mayor Claude Ramsey in 2007 in an successful successful push to spur revisions to Tennessee's Basic Education Program funding formula for local schools.
In 2015 and 2016, the retired nurse joined in support of Republican Gov. Bill Haslam's ultimately unsuccessful effort to extend Medicaid health care coverage to several hundred thousand Tennesseans' under the governor's proposed Insure Tennessee expansion of Medicaid under the federal Affordable Care Act.
Reflecting on her service, Favors said it's been "a good feeling for me to help people I've known all my life. And having support from so many physicians and clergy."
The lawmaker has also been a staunch advocate of abortion rights, chiding Republican colleagues who control the General Assembly on restrictions, recalling the botched illegal abortions she saw coming into the hospital during the 1960s.
A former member of the Erlanger Board of Trustees, served as administrator of the Alton Park Community Health Center and Dodds Avenue Community Health Center.
She ran successfully for the Hamilton County Commission in 1998, winning reelection to a second term in 2002.
In 2004, Favors successfully challenged then-Rep. Brenda Turner, D-Chattanooga, in the Democratic primary and won.
After Republicans won control of the House and Senate and drew up a 2012 redistricting plan that put Favors and then-Rep. Tommie Brown, D-Chattanooga, in the same district, Favors emerged as the winner of their ensuing Democratic primary battle.