Odessa Kelly, Community Advocate, Announces Run for Congress

Well-known community leader pushes for bold, ambitious change

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Odessa Kelly (Courtesy Photo)
Odessa Kelly (Courtesy Photo)

NASHVILLE — Odessa Kelly, a long-time public servant and community organizer from East Nashville, announced today she is running for the Democratic nomination to the 5th Congressional seat representing Davidson, Cheatham and Dickson counties. Kelly launched with a two-minute video highlighting Nashville and the public service work she and her family have done for the city.

“I’ve watched kids grow up in this city and felt their fear when we didn’t know what would come next,” said Kelly, co-founder and executive director of Stand Up Nashville and former community center manager at Napier Recreation Center. “We need more pathways out of poverty, and the status quo is no longer good enough. I know how to build coalitions that get results, and I’m running for Congress so that we can make bold, ambitious change at the national level.”

As an advocate for racial and economic justice, Kelly co-founded Stand Up Nashville to bring together diverse coalitions that win everyone their fair share. Under Kelly’s leadership, Stand Up Nashville was able to secure a first-of-its-kind community benefits agreement, requiring investments in child care and workforce housing, on top of a guarantee that all workers earn $15.50 an hour in good union jobs at Metro’s future soccer stadium. She also ensured COVID-19 relief money got to the people who need it most. She would be the first openly gay Black woman in Congress.

Kelly is taking on Representative Jim Cooper, a leading member of the Blue Dog Coalition. Cooper has been a member of Congress for 38 years, a conservative Democrat with a record of supporting Republican proposals as recently as 2019, like the Balanced Budget Amendment which would cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

In 2012, Cooper supported an amendment to raise the Social Security age and cut Medicare and Medicaid. Cooper’s Republican-lite views led him to be one of only 11 Democrats to vote against President Barack Obama’s recovery package. Cooper made a national name for himself when he led conservative Democrats to oppose Hillarycare in the 1990s.

“I’m the only candidate for Congress who is committed to bold, ambitious change,” Kelly said. “Jim Cooper is one of the wealthiest members of Congress who takes money from corporate PACs representing weapons manufacturers and real estate developers, with no real record of progressive change in nearly 40 years. This city needs a leader who will fight for the people who make Nashville great.”

Kelly announces today with the endorsement of Justice Democrats, a national organization with a strong record of unseating corporate-backed incumbents in favor of everyday people who understand what their communities need. She also enters the race with the support of clergy, educators and local leaders. You can view Kelly’s endorsements here.

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