Jean-Marie Lawrence is running as a Democrat for Tennessee House District 26.
She is challenging David Jones in the August primary to take on Republican incumbent Gerald McCormick in the general election.
"I chose to run because I find it discouraging to see so many of our government leaders disconnected from the people they serve," Lawrence said in a statement.
Lawrence moved to Chattanooga in 2004 and has a master's degree in public administration.
Although this is her first time running for office, she is no stranger to leadership and public service, according to a news release announcing her candidacy.
Lawrence serves on the Transportation Planning Organization's human services transportation committee and the State Council on Developmental Disabilities. She is also the co-chairperson of the Chattanooga Democratic Socialists of America.
Additionally, her own disability has provided a unique lens.
"I consider these struggles an asset to my campaign," she said. "The moment I'm no longer struggling, I've lost that connection to who I am, where I come from, and the people I serve."
Education, employment and health care will be a main focus in Lawrence's campaign, according to the news release.
As the daughter of a special education teacher, Lawrence said, she has gained a respect for education, educators and students.
"Not only did my mother teach, but she also advocated for me in school and helped teach me to advocate for myself," she said. " It's essential that state legislatures ensure our schools have the tools they need for every student to succeed."
Relying on TennCare for her health care needs has given Lawrence an appreciation for the struggles of others, including many working-class Tennesseans who can't afford health insurance, she said. Part of her campaign will include a commitment to creating employment discrimination legislation, a living wage and Medicaid expansion.