NASHVILLE — Chattanooga City Council Member Demetrus Coonrod made it official Wednesday, declaring her candidacy for Tennessee's House District 28 seat and setting up a Democratic primary race with three-term incumbent Rep. Yusuf Hakeem, of Chattanooga.
"I am excited to take the next step in my commitment to serve the people of Tennessee," Coonrod said in a release formally announcing her candidacy. "I'm running to be a voice for the people that have been marginalized, those who have lacked representation on the issues that affect us all. I know firsthand the challenges that families in my city face, and I am eager to bring these insights into the needs of our communities to the State House to work towards positive change."
Coonrod, a businesswoman, represents City Council District 9, which includes Eastdale. The release noted Coonrod was first elected in 2017, when she defeated then-District 9 incumbent Hakeem. District 28 includes portions of downtown Chattanooga, Alton Park, East Chattanooga, and Brainerd.
Coonrod touts her record and experience in the announcement, describing her as a tireless and seasoned advocate for Chattanoogans while promoting economic development, criminal justice reform and social equity.
She will focus on issues like public education, criminal justice reform and health care access, she said. She also promised to work to bridge gaps and create collaborative solutions for residents of the district.
"My journey, both in City Council and in life, has been a profound teacher," Coonrod said by email about what has prepared her for the legislature. "Serving in City Council for two terms has been more than a job; it's been a commitment to the betterment of Chattanooga. This experience has honed my skills in navigating diverse perspectives, finding common ground and legislating for the collective good — skills that directly translate to the nuanced landscape of the State House.
"Yet," it's the personal hardships I've faced that have etched the deepest understanding of our community's needs," she added. "I haven't just observed these struggles from a distance. I've lived them. I've experienced the challenges that many Hamiltonians grapple with daily — financial uncertainties, access to resources and the quest for a better life."
Coonrod has talked about and written a book about overcoming her own hard-scrabble past that included abuse as a child, becoming an early-teen mom and scrapes with law enforcement. She said in 2021 those have made her an effective advocate.