JB Smiley

JB Smiley

Memphis City Councilmember JB Smiley Jr. is preparing to run for governor in 2022.

He is the fourth Democrat to have filed paperwork with state authorities allowing him to raise money for his effort.

Smiley, an attorney, was first elected to the city council in 2019. He was previously a policy adviser to the Shelby County clerk. His campaign treasurer is Julian Bolton, a former Shelby County commissioner.

Smiley told the Post that he is still deciding whether to run but that if he does he would in part model his campaign on former Memphis Congressman Harold Ford Jr.’s 2006 U.S. Senate race, in which the Democrat came close to beating Republican Bob Corker, including by engaging with voters in rural counties.

“The state is headed in the wrong direction,” Smiley said. “We spend too much time talking about national issues as opposed to focusing on what really matters to the people.”

He also told the Memphis Flyer that his priorities as governor would include expanding Medicaid, improving schools and limiting state interference with local governments.

Among the candidates Smiley could face in the 2022 Democratic primary is Nashville physician Jason Martin, who officially launched his campaign late last month. Other Democrats in the race include Greeneville pastor Casey Nicholson and Memphis activist Carnita Atwater.

Whichever Democrat comes out of the primary will likely face GOP Gov. Bill Lee in the general election. Lee first won election over former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean by more than 20 percentage points in 2018.