If it's true that we attract what we fear, then Jason Holleman and Jeff Yarbro have only themselves to blame for the possible state Senate candidacy of Mary Mancini.
Since the two Sylvan Park Democrats confirmed their respective bids for the District 21 seat that will be vacated when Sen. Doug Henry retires next year, anxieties about a mystery candidate from elsewhere in the district have been shared by supporters on either side. If the two men themselves didn't fear the appearance of such a candidate — particularly a woman — they should have.
Earlier this week, Mancini, a well-known local liberal activist and executive director of Tennessee Citizen Action, confirmed to the Scene that she is considering getting in the race. If she does, it could dramatically alter the dynamics of what was already set to be the hottest legislative race of the year.
So far, perhaps the biggest question looming over the race was how to tell the two candidates apart. It seems it would take a fine-tooth comb to separate the two on matters of policy, to say nothing of their chosen profession (law), family life (married, to lawyers, with kids), neighborhood (Sylvan Park) and hue (about the same shade of white). Unlike Yarbro, Holleman has legislative experience, having served two terms on the Metro Council. Unlike Holleman, Yarbro has not pissed off various political players while serving two terms on the Metro Council.
Differentiation would be less of a problem for Mancini. For one thing, she doesn't live in their neighborhood, but rather in Woodland in Waverly, in the southern portion of the district. She may well be liberal enough to challenge Holleman and Yarbro on an issue or two. And she is also a woman — have we mentioned that? — at a time when many in progressive circles are looking for fresh female faces to enter the still largely male political sphere. It was just last month, after all, that the Women for Tennessee's Future political action committee had a coming-out party, urging women to run for open seats and declaring its goal of making maximum contributions to as many as 10 candidates in upcoming elections.
Despite years of political activism, and many hours spent in the halls and committee rooms of the state legislature, Mancini tells the Scene this is the first time she's considered running for elected office. She says she still has lots to consider, including whether she'd rather continue devoting herself to the work she's doing now with Tennessee Citizen Action. And even though Holleman and Yarbro have already begun raking in campaign dollars — with the latter disclosing six figures in contributions last quarter — Mancini says she doesn't feel any pressure to make a final decision until candidates can officially pull papers in January.
"I'm not worried about it," she says. "I have to make the decision that's right for myself and my family, which consists of my husband and my three dogs, but still, they're important. That's more of my consideration rather than what else is going on in the race."
To date, Mancini would most likely be holding a press conference or facing off with a government official on behalf of some set of consumers or citizens she insisted was being wronged or ignored. It's a similar motivation that she says has her weighing a run at the legislature.
"There's so much money in politics right now that I think there's a voice that's not being heard," she says.
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