Political Notebook: Tennessee state Rep. Hazlewood says she plans to run again in 2024

Staff Photo by Robin Rudd / Tennessee state Rep. Patsy Hazlewood, R-Signal Mountain, seen in 2019, has said she plans to run for reelection in 2024.

Note: This story was updated Nov. 17 to correct the political affiliation of Red Bank Vice Mayor Stefanie Dalton.

NASHVILLE — Tennessee House Finance Committee Chair Patsy Hazlewood, R-Signal Mountain, says she doesn't know exactly how talk started that she won't seek reelection.

Hazlewood said the talk began after Rep. Curtis Johnson, R-Clarksville, the House deputy speaker and one of the more senior members in the GOP majority caucus, said he won't seek an 11th term.

"I think after Curtis' announcement, I got a couple of texts," Hazlewood, who was first elected to the House District 27 seat in 2014, said in a phone call. "My plan right now is to run again. It's a long time between now and whenever the filing deadline is."

The district includes Signal Mountain, Red Bank and Lookout Mountain. There is talk in Hamilton County circles that Red Bank Vice Mayor Stefanie Dalton, a political independent, is eying a District 27 bid. Efforts to reach her have been unsuccessful.

(READ MORE: State Rep. Hazlewood becomes first Hamilton County resident named as Tennessee House Finance chair)

Rep. Esther Helton-Haynes, R-East Ridge, meanwhile, is also quashing talk she won't seek reelection.

"I have plans to run for the House again," Helton-Haynes said by phone.

She was first elected to House District 30 in 2018.

Helton-Haynes said she and many colleagues were fairly worn out this year, first during a regular legislative session and then a special session called by Gov. Bill Lee and held in August to address school safety and related issues after the deadly March shooting at The Covenant School in Nashville.

The regular session was marked by massive demonstrations in favor of gun control. Upset House Republicans voted to expel two Democratic lawmakers for an impromptu floor demonstration over GOP leaders and members' unwillingness to pass gun control measures, drawing national attention.

(READ MORE: 'Stay on the bill, sir.' What led to the ouster votes for The Tennessee Three)

And later there was Lee's special session, during which House and Senate Republicans controlling both chambers were criticized for not passing additional gun controls.

Helton-Haynes, a nurse by training, came under fire during the regular legislative session as she, House Speaker Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, and others successfully pressed to create a narrow exemption in the state's near-total abortion ban.

But the lawmaker said she and most colleagues are looking forward to coming back in January.

Office flap

In a new fundraising pitch for her U.S. Senate bid, state Rep. Gloria Johnson, D-Knoxville, is using a 2021 controversy during which Tennessee Republican House Speaker Cameron Sexton moved her legislative office to a small conference room.

"Have I told you the story of the time Cameron Sexton (the speaker of the Tennessee House) put me in a closet? (That's the closet!)" she said in a new fundraising email, posting a photo of the room.

Johnson (a former college basketball player who is nearly 6 feet tall and has back problems and often uses an electric scooter to get around) said she has a "habit of being a thorn" in Republicans' sides in Nashville.

"Look, I got out of that closet eventually, but the fact is, I don't care where I have to sit — or who I have to piss off — to deliver for the people of Tennessee," Johnson said.

"I'm not afraid to stand tall and speak out even when others would prefer I keep quiet. There's no point in running for office if you're not willing to use your voice for the people you represent. So anyway, that pissed Cameron Sexton and the TN GOP off. And their solution was to try to put me down in the pettiest way possible."

Johnson faces Memphis environmental justice candidate Marquita Bradshaw of Memphis and former Fayette County school board member Civil Miller-Watkins in the Democratic primary. The winner will face incumbent Republican Marsha Blackburn.

(READ MORE: Beacon Center Poll: Poll shows Marsha Blackburn over Gloria Johnson in Tennessee US Senate race)

Firearms definitions

Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs, a potential 2026 Tennessee Republican gubernatorial candidate, is celebrating a federal judge's injunction blocking the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives from enforcing a Biden administration rule that redefines braced pistols as short-barreled rifles under federal law.

Jacobs, a professional wrestler known nationally by his ring name "Kane," posted on social media a still photo of himself firing a pistol.

"I'm thinking about putting a pistol brace on this dude, well, just because," Jacobs wrote. "It's good that there are still some judges who understand a rule from one of the government's many alphabet soup agencies doesn't override the Constitution."

In the case, U.S. District Court Judge Matthew Kacsmayrk of Amarillo, Texas, blocked enforcement of the rule across the nation after a three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last month it likely violated the Administrative Procedures Act. The circuit court ruling only blocked enforcement against plaintiffs in the case.

A pistol brace is a way to attach a pistol to the shooter's forearm, stabilizing the firearm.

Contact Andy Sher at asher@timesfreepress.com or 615-285-9480.