Memphis City Councilmember JB Smiley wasn’t the first Democrat to announce a campaign for governor in 2022 — that was Middle Tennessee physician Jason Martin — and he’s not likely to be the most well-funded bidding to take on Gov. Bill Lee.
But Smiley is the candidate many state Democrats are buzzing about. His kick-off video addressed several issues concerning Tennesseans, including gun violence, accessible health care and the connection of education to workforce development, accompanied by a gospel soundtrack. In October, his speech at the Tennessee Democratic Party’s annual Three Star Dinner generated social media generated social media talk and text messages: “Smiley knows how to tell a story,” they said.
A Memphis native, winning his home city could give him the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. Smiley is young and his political resume is still thin, but with no Democrat a threat to beat Lee, he has the opportunity to build statewide name recognition, sharpen his campaign skills and gain a seat as a leader on the Democrats’ bench of rising stars from Memphis.