McKenzie prepares for general election, hopes to unite district after a competitive primary

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — One day after all the votes were counted, Democratic primary winner Sam McKenzie said he hopes to unite the state’s 15th House District, which he calls a very diverse district.

The results of provisional ballots in Knox County, released Tuesday, put an end to any doubt as to the winner of the Democratic primary for Tennessee’s 15th House District. Sam McKenzie was the top pick, by 25 votes.

Matthew Park finished second, while Incumbent Rick Staples’ bid for re-election ended in third place.

The numbers:

  • McKenzie 2,032 40%
  • Park 2,007 39%
  • Staples 1,095 21%

This count is still technically unofficial. The election will be certified Aug. 24. Assuming the result remains unchanged, McKenzie will face independent candidate Troy Jones in the general election.

Wednesday, we spoke to McKenzie about his tight victory. “We are a very diverse district with a whole lot of thoughts, a whole lot of goals, that may not be aligned. But, I truly believe, once we have clear conversations, there’s going to be a lot more things that bring us together as a district than divides us,” he said.

As he looks ahead to the general election, we asked about his day-one issues, if he’s elected. His top two priorities, he said, include healthcare and education.

On health care, McKenzie plans to push for Medicaid expansion. “I think there’s a measure of support there. I think we’re just a few legislators away, maybe some things have changed, or will change, before January,” he said.

On school funding, McKenzie doesn’t believe school districts are well-equipped enough, financially, to re-open during a COVID-19 pandemic. “Most every school system in the counties have either gone totally virtual or a hybrid model. That costs money. We need to understand that and we need to give our school systems the money…all of them, the urban ones as well as the rural ones.”

He also mentioned legislative goals in the areas of job recruitment and workforce training, as well as criminal justice reform in the state.

Following a competitive primary, between now and November, he aims to unite the district.
“We’ve changed over the last 10 years. The dynamic of South Knoxville, downtown, East Knoxville, it’s evolved. It’s still evolving. It’s why I thought it was time for me to run. I’m a uniter. I think I can understand the complicated issues and bring people together,” he added.

(See more of WATE 6 On Your Side’s Blake Stevens interview with Sam McKenzie on Tennessee This Week on Sunday at 12:30 p.m.)

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