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State Rep. JoAnne Favors during a meeting at the Times Free Press offices on May 26, 2015, in Chattanooga.
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Dennis Clark is a Democratic candidate for the Tennessee House District 28 seat.
facebookRep. JoAnne Favors, D-Chattanooga, faces her first primary challenger since redistricting pit her against Tommie Brown for the Tennessee House District 28 seat in 2012.

Dennis Clark, 32, who owns a small public relations and marketing firm, is running against Favors, who has served six terms in the Tennessee General Assembly, in the Democratic primary. District 28, composed mostly of East and South Chattanooga, will remain in Democratic hands after the primary since no Republican is seeking the seat.

In his announcement, Clark said he considers five years of legislative experience in Tennessee and Georgia as a critical asset, citing service as a legislative advocate for juvenile justice and delinquency prevention with the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth from 2004 to 2009. He also worked as a legislative aide and policy advisor to Georgia state Rep. Alisha Thomas Morgan from 2009 to 2010.

The needs of the district's black community have not been addressed at the state level, and that has to change, he said.

"We need a new generation of leadership for the people who need it the most," Clark said. "We need safer streets, stronger families and communities and smarter children."

Clark calls for properly funding a high-quality education for every child, "regardless of race, economic status and what part of town they live in" and for ending "the school-to-prison pipeline I see in my community."

His platform also demands criminal justice reform that helps formerly incarcerated people to re-enter society as productive citizens.

Living wages, educational opportunities for adults and small business growth for minorities and women form the core of his vision for rebuilding urban communities, Clark said.

Clark's campaign coffers ended the second quarter with $357, according to state financial filings. He started the quarter with $845 and raised $5,100. The campaign spent $5,588.

Favors, 73, began the quarter with $8,999, more than 10 times what her opponent had at the same time. She tripled Clark in funds raised and doubled him in dollars spent, amounting to $16,150 and $12,295, respectively. Favors' coffers held $12,854 at the quarter's end.

She serves on the House Health Committee, the Health Subcommittee and the Insurance and Banking Committee and has served as the House Democratic whip. Favors is only one of two House Democrats in East Tennessee and one of 33 Democrats out of 132 General Assembly members.

Favors, a registered nurse, began public service as a trustee of the Erlanger hospital board and served as a Hamilton County commissioner from 1998 to 2002. Before the redrawing of state districts by the Republican super-majority, Favors represented District 29 from 2004 to 2012.

The incumbent calls for improved student achievement and increased access to health care.

"It is not at all coincidental that the poorest-performing schools are in [District 28]," Favors said in a recent phone interview. "We need to implement programs that enhance student achievement."

Favors has long opposed proposals for school vouchers and charter schools, instead challenging the state to fully fund and fix existing public schools.

"We've placed too much attention on pulling out of public schools, rather than trying to improve public schools," she said in a recent meeting with Times Free Press editors.

Favors has championed the Affordable Care Act and Insure Tennessee, Gov. Bill Haslam's ACA alternative waiver program.

"Some of the sickest and poorest people in the nation live in Tennessee," Favors said, blaming partisan politics for impeding health care for those who need it the most in the state — white males.

Favors also said she hesitates to make promises about public safety and dealing with violence, which mostly falls upon local governments.

As a state legislator, Favors said her ability to impact public safety falls only within the realm of enacting, amending or repealing laws and approving state budgets.

Contact staff writer Paul Leach at 423-757-6481 or pleach@timesfreepress.com. Follow on Twitter @pleach_tfp.

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