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VOL. 133 | NO. 142 | Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Tate Censured by Local Democratic Party

By Sam Stockard

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Amid early voting, the Shelby County Democratic Party is censuring state Sen. Reginald Tate for derogatory comments he made about Democrats this summer and for calling himself a “black Republican.”

Tate, who represents Senate District 33 and faces Katrina Robinson in the Aug. 2 Democratic primary, was caught on an open microphone during a Fiscal Review Committee meeting in Nashville earlier this summer telling Republican Sen. Bill Ketron that Democrats are “full of s---,” in addition to saying he identifies himself as a Republican.

At a Tuesday, July 17, meeting, the local Democratic executive committee voted 12-4 to censure Tate specifically for the comments, describing them in the censure as "vulgar," "detrimental to the party" and "unbecoming of a Democrat."

"These remarks stepped over the line of acceptable behavior for a Democrat, and a substantial majority of our Executive Committee felt that censure was the appropriate response," said Corey Strong, chairman of the Shelby County Democratic Party in a statement after the vote. Strong said the decision came after a lengthy discussion.

“We just wanted to make a statement basically … because we’ve had a lot of issues with Tate,” said Amber Sherman, a member of the executive committee. “It was basically the things he said about the Democratic Party and not being a Democrat.”

The censure is not an endorsement of Robinson, since the party doesn’t endorse during primaries, according to Sherman, who chairs the Young Democrats of Tennessee Women’s Caucus and is Women’s Caucus secretary for Young Democrats of America.

In those positions, Sherman said she communicates frequently with legislative representatives but usually has problems tracking down Tate. He doesn’t respond to emails or phone calls and, to make matters worse, is rude to constituents, she said.

“The only time I ever saw in the five years I’ve lived in the area where I can vote for him was at a town hall meeting, and he told me he was a grown-ass man first before he was senator and I need to know my place. So I don’t have a good relationship,” she said.

Tate is a former member of the local executive committee and lists his membership on the General Assembly’s website. He could not be reached for comment on the executive committee vote. A message was left with his legislative office.

Robinson responded by saying, “It just confirms there’s one real Democrat in this race. Every four years, Sen. Tate campaigns and markets himself as a Democrat here in Memphis and then goes back to Nashville to vote in lock step with Republicans – against health care, against women and against public schools.”

The Democratic Party’s censure illustrates the need for voters “to respond at the polls,” added Robinson, who is focusing on issues such as Medicaid expansion and workforce development to ensure high school students can find jobs..

In a previous interview she said Tate’s comments in the legislative meeting were “appalling,” considering the 33rd District is 73 percent minority and largely Democratic.

Robinson further noted she has had trouble holding a conversation with Tate, even though she has been cordial to him in public meetings.

Their relationship got off to a difficult start, she said, when they met at a Christmas party last year where she introduced herself and he said, “Oh, you this Katrina, I’m going to take my belt off to you.” Then, a few minutes later he said, “I’ll see you on the killing floor,” according to Robinson.

Robinson said she was “taken aback” and found his comments offensive. She wasn’t certain what he was talking about but assumed he meant he was going to spank her.

Tate did not respond to a phone call earlier this summer about those comments either.

Meanwhile, state Rep. G.A. Hardaway is endorsing Robinson in the Democratic primary, saying Tate’s “arrogance and ignorance is just overpowering.”

“This is just a raw, naked truth,” said Hardaway, a Memphis Democrat whose 93rd District includes part of Tate’s district. “The way that the circumstances have changed upon (Capitol) Hill, we can’t carry dead weight. In Tate’s case, we have worse than dead weight. We have an individual who, when he feels like it, actually sabotages Democratic efforts that would advance the legislation that supports and adheres to our principles and our values. At that point, you’ve gotta go.”

Hardaway contends Tate provides Republicans, who hold a 28-5 supermajority in the Senate, cover for “extremist” votes, enabling them to point to Tate and say they have a black legislator and a Democrat supporting their legislation.

In one of Tate’s most controversial votes earlier this year, he backed legislation to defund Planned Parenthood.

Robinson said she isn’t criticizing Tate for his vote on the matter but said she believes it is “an issue of services being available to low-income women.” She pointed out Tate’s response was that women could receive services at the Shelby County Health Department, which she says is unable to accommodate the number of Shelby women who need health-care treatment.

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