Senator Jim Tracy steps down

Wednesday, November 8, 2017
Jim Tracy

Marshall County added another election race to an already full slate next year.

State Senator Jim Tracy submitted his resignation from the General Assembly, effective this past Monday.

Tracy accepted the appointment to serve as the Tennessee State Director for Rural Development within the United States Department of Agriculture.

The USDA Rural Development program is tasked with strengthening economic development and infrastructure projects in rural areas through various grant and loan programs administered by USDA.

“Today is a very emotional day,” Tracy told the Shelbyville Times-Gazette Monday morning. He said the USDA job is “an opportunity to continue my public service” and that the idea of developing rural areas and working to promote agriculture appealed to him.

“That’s a passion of mine,” he said.

He said he was proud of working in the General Assembly to streamline government.

“We’re one of the best-run states in the country right now,” said Tracy. He also said he was proud of his bill which prohibited smoking in restaurants and other public places.

“That was a big deal at the time,” he said.

When Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced President Donald Trump’s appointments for Rural Development directors on Friday, it was initially unclear if Tracy would have to step down from the State Senate in order to accept the position.

Tracy will not face confirmation by the U.S. Senate.

Tracy, a Republican from Shelbyville, has represented the 14th Senate District, which covers Marshall, Lincoln, Bedford, Moore, and parts of Rutherford Counties since 2004.

He served as the chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee and was recently chosen as the Speaker Pro Tempore for the Senate.

He challenged incumbent U.S. Representative Scott Desjarlais for the 4th Congressional District seat in 2014, losing in the Republican primary by 38 votes.

Lewisburg Mayor Jim Bingham credits Tracy’s attention to his district’s needs for many of the Tennessee Department of Transportation projects undertaken in Lewisburg, including the current widening of Ellington Parkway.

“I am saddened that Lewisburg has lost one of its great benefactors,” Bingham said. “His influence has been responsible for numerous improvements too long to list.”

The timing of his resignation triggers a requirement for a special election to fill his seat.

Governor Bill Haslam has 20 days to set the dates for a primary and a general election for the seat.

Marshall County Administrator of Elections Andrew Robertson said that early voting could begin around Christmas or New Years, depending on the date set by the Governor.

“Turnout will be low,” Robertson said of the one race ballot. “That’s one thing you know going in.”

Interest in the seat should be high, however, as Tracy joins several long-serving Senate Republicans vacating their seats for other campaigns or for Federal appointments.

Less that an hour after the official release announcing Tracy’s decision, the first candidate for the seat, Shane Reeves of Murfreesboro, announced his entry into the Republican primary.

John Carney, from the Shelbyville Times-Gazette, contributed to this story.