Sen. Reginald Tate’s primary opponent endorsed by Democratic colleagues, citing his siding with GOP in legislative voting

Two of state Sen. Reginald Tate’s Democratic colleagues from Memphis – Sens. Lee Harris and Sara Kyle – have endorsed his primary opponent as he seeks reelection, reports the Commercial Appeal, adding that’s a break with tradition and “a consequence of siding with Republicans on hot-button issues like defunding Planned Parenthood.”

Harris, the Senate minority leader who is running for Shelby County mayor, and Kyle are backing Katrina Robinson; a young single-mother and entrepreneur who launched her own nurse vocational school, The Healthcare Institute, in Memphis.

Tate defiantly defends his voting record as the pragmatic decision in a Senate made up of 28 Republican members and only five Democrats. But Robinson hopes his more controversial votes could be an Achilles’ heel if an anticipated “blue wave” of progressive Democratic voters floods the polls this fall.

Tate and Robinson face off Aug. 2 for the Democratic nomination in Senate District 33, which stretches north from the state line to the Park Avenue corridor, including Memphis International Airport, Hickory Hill and part of East Memphis. No Republicans filed to run.

Among the votes some Democrats take issue with, Tate voted to defund Planned Parenthood this year; to tighten historic preservation laws aimed at blocking the removal of Confederate monuments in 2016; and against an expansion of TennCare, the state’s Medicaid program, in a March committee meeting. 

He also voted for Republican Ron Ramsey for lieutenant governor in 2013 and 2015, and for Republican Lt. Gov. Randy McNally in 2017, alienating his party’s leaders.

“You can say you’re a Democrat all day, but your actions don’t show it,” Kyle said of Tate.

But Tate said he rejects the idea that he must vote in step with his party, especially when working with Republicans is what it takes to score wins for Memphis and Shelby County.

“It has nothing to do with me,” he said of Harris and Kyle’s endorsement of his opponent. “It’s they that don’t get respect, from the party they oppose, that I get.”

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