Larry Proffitt woke up at 4 a.m. on Election Day to set up his campaign signs outside of voting stations around Robertson County. He spent the day shaking hands with area voters. Despite the early wake-up call, he had spent the night before in conferences with students in his eighth-grade history class and their parents.
When he found out Tuesday evening that he lost his bid for the Tennessee House of Representatives, Proffitt was quick to say he was going to turn the experience into a classroom lesson the next day. It so happens his students will be studying the development of political parties.
Proffitt was one of at least two current K-12 Tennessee teachers who ran for office this fall. They ran as Democrats in counties that historically vote Republican.
“It’s clear Robertson County is divided like the rest of the nation along party lines, and people vote with their party,” he told Chalkbeat Tuesday night. “I ran because, as a teacher, I don’t feel like I’m being represented. I want to teach my students tomorrow to open their minds and learn to work together even among differences. That’s what will move us forward.”
This is the second time Proffitt has tried unsuccessfully to defeat Republican Rep. Sabi “Doc” Kumar to represent Robertson County, north of Nashville. Kumar is a surgeon who has held the legislative seat since 2014.
In Rutherford County, DeAnna Osborne lost a bid for the Tennessee General Assembly against Republican Charlie Baum. Osborne teaches English language learners at Smyrna Middle School. Baum is an economics professor at Middle Tennessee State University.
Osborne and Proffitt’s runs for office were part of a movement of more than 150 current educators nationwide seeking state offices. And dozens of current and retired Tennessee teachers also ran for local offices this year, including seats on school boards, city councils, and county commissions.
Osborne ran for the seat being vacated by Republican Rep. Dawn White, a former teacher, who won a seat Tuesday in the Senate.
Also in Rutherford County – Democrat Mariah Phillips, a former teacher, lost a bid for a congressional seat held by Republican U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais.
Update: This story has been updated with the status of DeAnna Osborne’s race. She lost to Charlie Baum.