As Democratic Caucus Chair in the Tennessee House of Representatives, Mike is the strong leader fighting for Democrats and our values. Mike’s fellow members have called him “fearless” and “very easy to follow”; in his leadership role, Mike has fought for Medicaid expansion under President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, pushed for equal pay for equal work, pushed for criminal justice reform, defended the rights of workers, and fought the “Slate of Hate” and other mean-spirited Republican initiatives.
At a Glance
- Husband to Ruth, dad to Will, Joseph, and Eve
- Desert Storm Veteran
- Wife Ruth is associate dean at Meharry Medical College
- Past Neighborhood President
- Attends East End United Methodist Church
Following college, Mike became an officer in the United States Army, where he served in the Korean Demilitarized Zone and in Saudia Arabia and Iraq as part of Operation Desert Storm. As a platoon leader operating surveillance sites monitoring the North Korean Army, Mike received the Eighth Army Distinguished Leader Award.
Mike met his wife, Ruth, while he was attending law school at the University of Tennessee and she was finishing her medical residency at the flagship university. Mike joined the legislature in 2008 and quickly became a leading progressive voice, rising through the leadership ranks. He also became a partner at Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings, a firm with deep roots in the labor and civil rights movements; the firm’s founding partner defended the Highlander Center, where Rosa Parks prepared for her work as an activist.
At the Capitol, Mike has repeatedly succeeded in thwarting the most extreme Republican actions. When Rep. Jeremy Durham was found to have engaged in sexual harassment of multiple women in the Legislature, Mike led the demands for accountability and personally questioned Durham at length on the House Floor, after which Durham was expelled from the body. When then-Speaker Glen Casada and his staff were found to be sharing openly racist and sexist texts, Mike called an immediate press conference demanding for a full investigation; within weeks, Casada was forced to resign as House Speaker. When a Republican claimed he was passing a bill against “flash mobs,” Mike revealed in debate that the legislation was really designed to allow companies to dump hazardous waste, leading to a rare veto by the Governor. Today, Mike is a leading voice demanding that Governor Lee address the Coronavirus crisis in ways that protect our community and ensure that people can get by until the economy recovers.
In addition to serving in the state legislature, Mike has been honored to work in our community in many volunteer capacities, including serving on the Emergency Communications Board, serving as a trustee of his church, and as President of his neighborhood association.
Mike and Ruth, who is now Associate Dean at Meharry Medical College, have lived in their same East Nashville home 25 years. They have three children – Will, Joseph, and Eve – and attend East End United Methodist Church.