Rep. Jason Potts (D-Nashville) will leave the state House after his current term is up next year.
Potts, who was first elected in 2018 and re-elected last year, said the stress of the job, its low pay and its effect on his family life contributed to his decision not to seek a third term.
The Tennessean first reported Potts’ decision and noted that the lawmaker missed more than half of House floor sessions this year.
He works in residential remodeling and carpentry and told the Post that several jobs that he was supposed to complete last year were delayed until 2021 because of COVID-19, forcing him to miss some sessions. He said the part-time legislative salary is not enough to support a family in Nashville and the in-person nature of his work makes it more difficult for him to make a living on the side than it is for, for example, his peers who are lawyers or in real estate.
Potts previously served two terms on the Metro Council, with the end of his second term overlapping with the start of his tenure in the state legislature.
“Out of respect to my constituents, I want somebody who’ll be there and can commit,” Potts said. “I just can’t be everywhere. I over-committed myself. … It takes a lot to win. I hate to give it up, but I’d rather have time with my kids and be able to breathe at night.”
He also cited frustration with the Republican-dominated legislature, where he said “they don’t let us pass anything of substance.”
Republican House Speaker Cameron Sexton told The Tennessean that Potts’ complaints were “utter nonsense” and added that "in order to pass legislation, you should be in the General Assembly to actually run a bill."
And while some superminority Democrats do pass bills every year, Potts said that it’s people like Sexton who decide what is and isn’t successful each session.
“Only a select few people are deciding on the bills,” he said. “It’s basically what the governor wants and a few Republicans. That’s it. All the committees are smoke and mirrors.”
Potts said he has no plans to influence the race to succeed him in the legislature. His District 59 includes parts of southeast Nashville, though it could be changed during impending redistricting.
House Democratic Caucus Chair Vincent Dixie of Nashville said Democrats would begin seeking out potential successors immediately rather than waiting for lines to be redrawn. He added that he loves Potts “to death.”
“Definitely, we want someone that understands the issues, and we want somebody willing to work hard and to understand we are in the superminority and it’s going to be a daily battle,” Dixie said.
Democrats have secured more than 70 percent of the vote in the district the past two times it was contested by Republicans.