Tennessee State Senator Douglas Henry (D-Nashville) announced yesterday that he will not seek re-election to the Senate for a 12th term in 2014, marking the end of a long and often storied career in Tennessee politics. Henry has told close supporters that he will leave the Upper Chamber firstly to devote more time to the care of his ailing wife Lolly, and secondly on the advice of his personal physician that he should lighten his schedule, because his continuing work as a Senator at the extremely busy pace he keeps would likely negatively impact his health.
At a time when the Democratic Caucus has become increasingly strident, likely due to its "superminority" status, Henry has been a voice of conciliation. Long more moderate in temperament and tone than many in Democratic leadership, current constitutional officers credit Senator Henry with being the reason the Tennessee State pension system has remained solvent without major tax increases through the years. Henry made the maintenance and solvency of the State Retirement System one of his "pet projects" in his years of legislative service, with State Treasurer David Lillard (R) calling Henry "the lion of the pension system." Legislators in both parties are lauding Henry for his effective fiscal stewardship.
Senator Henry's retirement could make the seat in the re-drawn 21st District more competitive next year. Attorney Jeff Yarbro, who was Henry's opponent in the 2010 Democratic Primary, is widely seen as the front-runner for the Democratic nomination. However, Yarbro could face a loaded primary field and the possibility of a hard-fought August primary and an upset. With the district having been redrawn, it will be more competitive for a Republican in the coming year than it has been for decades, and the GOP is likely to put up more than just a token opponent.
Douglas Henry leaves politics as the Dean of the Senate and Tennessee General Assembly. He was elected to the House of Representatives of the 79th General Assembly in 1954 and served a single term. He was elected to the Senate in 1970 for the 87th and 88th General Assembies, and has served continuously for the last four decades.