Progressive group backing primary challenger to Tennessee Democrat

A progressive group that has successfully backed primary challenges to a number of Democratic members of Congress has a new target in its sights: Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.).

Justice Democrats said Monday that it will support Cooper’s primary challenger Odessa Kelly, a Black organizer and founder of Stand Up Nashville!, a nonprofit focused on fighting for racial and economic justice in Tennessee’s largest city.

Kelly launched her campaign Monday morning with an ad produced in the same style as previously widely-seen ads made for the winning campaigns of progressive firebrands Reps. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).

The ad was also featured on an ActBlue page hosted by the Justice Democrats.

“We’re going to run a bold campaign,” Kelly told Nashville Scene in an interview. “This campaign is about Nashville. It’s about telling a story about Nashville that most people don’t get to hear. It’s about telling a story about everyday, hardworking people who have something to say.”

Cooper has been in Congress since 2003 and is dean of the state’s congressional delegation. A member of the Blue Dog coalition, he is seen as one of the more conservative Democrats in Congress.

The primary contest could also highlight racial differences in a district where nearly 1 in 4 residents are Black and 67 percent of the population is white.

“There’s a new generation of Democrats who are coming up from the bottom of the party who are younger, more diverse, more progressive and have public service or community leadership experience, and we need more in Congress,” Waleed Shahid, a spokesperson for Justice Democrats, told Nashville Scene. “She is the exact kind of person we need to see more of in the Democratic Party and in Congress.”