Tennessee Governor Race

Abigail Fanning, Social Media Coordinator

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Once again, it is the time when when the citizens of Tennessee see yard signs telling them who to vote for. This year, the yard signs do not involve the presidency, but rather another high level of elected office: governor.

Incumbent Bill Haslam’s term is up and he cannot run for re-election, and that means the people of Tennessee are left to choose one Republican and one Democratic candidate to run for the highest elected position in the state.

So far, eighteen people are considering the run for governor, but only seven have announced that they are running for office. Former Mayor of Nashville, Karl Dean, and Tennessee House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh are pursuing the Democratic nomination.

Tennessee State Senator Mae Beavers, United States Congresswoman Diane Black, Economic and Community Development Commissioner Randy Boyd, Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell, and Higher Education Commissioner Bill Lee are pursuing the Republican nomination.

Karl Dean is a Former Nashville Mayor who served Nashville from 2007 to 2015. Dean is running on a pro-business platform with a focus on education and jobs. Craig Fitzhugh is the Tennessee House Minority Leader.

On the Republican side, Mae Beavers is the Tennessee State Senator from Mt. Juliet. Diane Black is the United States Congresswoman from the Sixth Congressional District of Tennessee.

Randy Boyd is a first generation college graduate and hopes that Tennessee continues to improve in education. Beth Harwell is the Tennessee Speaker of the House. She hopes to improve the economy and education in Tennessee.

Bill Lee is the Higher Education Commissioner of Tennessee. Lee has had no elected experience.

Most candidates believe they would help Tennessee in various ways.

Speaker of the Tennessee House Beth Harwell believes the State of Tennessee should continue improving the economy and education.

“Tennessee has had some great success over the last few years in areas that really matter: the economy and education,” Harwell said. “But we cannot let our foot off the gas pedal. With my experience in leadership in state government, I think I am right for the job. I can step in on day one and get to work.”

Boyd is running to make Tennessee a better place. His campaign is focused on education, jobs and opportunity.

“I am running for governor to make Tennessee the State of Opportunity: opportunity for a better education, opportunity for better jobs, opportunity for all,” Boyd said.

Harwell’s priorities range from preparing the workforce to the opioid epidemic.

“My priorities as governor will be pushing for a better prepared workforce, ensuring we remain a business-friendly state, improving education, finding solutions to the opioid epidemic, and increasing public safety,” she said.

Boyd agrees.

“We need to ensure every Tennessean, whether a high school graduate or adult, has the opportunity to get the education they need for the jobs of the future,” he said. “For our state to be successful, we must achieve our mission of the Drive to 55, meaning 55 percent of the population has some credential past high school by the year 2025

Boyd is particularly concerned about the economy.

“By nearly every statewide measure, we’re living in the best time in our state’s history, but that’s not true for everyone,” he said. “In fact, 17 of our 95 counties are classified as distressed, meaning they are in the bottom 10 percent in the country in poverty, income and unemployment. There is similar economic distress in many areas of our cities. We are only successful if we are successful together, and we have some neighbors who are struggling. We must double down, and then triple down, until no community is left behind.”

Harwell wants to protect Tennessee’s pro-business reputation.

“I would oppose anything that harmed our business-friendly reputation, and anything that would be harmful to the fiscal health of our state,” Harwell said. “We are fortunate in the state of Tennessee that we balance our budget each year and are responsible with taxpayer money.”

Boyd agrees and also hopes to protect small businesses.

“As a small business owner and later as ECD Commissioner, I’ve seen firsthand just how much of a burden we place on small businesses in Tennessee with over-regulation and a business tax that is too high,” Boyd said. “Small businesses are the backbone of the Tennessee economy and we will do everything we can to help them thrive, including slashing red tape.”

Both candidates have a positive opinion of Haslam, the current governor.

“Governor Haslam has managed this state well, and as I said before, we have made great strides in a lot of critical areas,” Harwell said. “And we can’t stop now.”

Boyd agrees.

“Governor Haslam has been a great leader for our state and created a foundation to continue building on Tennessee’s success,” he said. “I am very grateful for the opportunity to serve alongside him as a member of his cabinet.”

Harwell and Boyd both believe they have a chance of winning the Republican nomination for governor.

“We have a strong campaign, and as I have traveled the state listening to Tennesseans, our message of less government, efficient government, and real solutions is resonating with people,” Harwell said.

Both candidates continue to travel across the state to learn more about what people are looking for in a leader.

“We will be the hardest working campaign,” Boyd said. “We’ve been to all 95 counties in Tennessee and continue listening and learning from Tennesseans in every corner of our state. We are confident in our ability to win because of our commitment to work hard on behalf of Tennesseans.”

Education is important to the candidates, and if elected, will impact the lives of students in Tennessee.

“Ensuring a better prepared workforce is a priority; I want to evaluate some of the higher education initiatives we’ve started in recent years, ensuring that we are continuing them based not on intentions, but results,” Harwell said. “The state has made some significant improvements in education, but we have more to do. We need to maintain our high standards and ensure teachers have the tools they need to help our students in the classroom.”

“Improving education in is about knocking down barriers and we’ve seen how outside the box thinking with tnAchieves has already made Tennessee one of the fastest-growing states for post-high school enrollment,” Boyd said.

All of this leads to the question, why should Tennesseans vote for these candidates?

“I have the experience to continue the successes we have seen in this state. During my tenure as Speaker of the House, we have enacted policies that are resulting in a more prosperous Tennessee,” Harwell said. “We currently have the lowest unemployment rate in our state’s history, we’ve cut taxes, we’ve shrunk the size of government and made it more efficient, and we have made strides in education. I can continue and build on this success as governor.”

Boyd has gone on “Governor Training School”, meeting Tennesseans in their towns to learn their needs and dreams.

“Tennesseans want a leader who is willing to listen and learn from them,” Boyd said. “I’ve spent the last nine months on the campaign trail doing what I like to call ‘Governor Training School’, meaning taking the time to meet Tennesseans in their hometowns, learn about their needs and dreams, and commit to implementing plans that will move our state forward. As governor, listening will be one of the most important traits I will bring to the table.”

Boyd wants students to see firsthand how government works in Tennessee.

“It is very important for students to see firsthand how our government works and shapes the kind of state we live, work, and play,” he said. “As Governor, I hope to make our state capitol even more accessible to students to learn what it means to be a public servant.”

Harwell believes students should get involved in government, ranging from school days to your drivers license.

“There are a lot of ways state government affects your life, even as a middle or high schooler: your Tennessee legislature sets how many days you have to be in school, we set the laws surrounding how you get your driver’s license, we set standards for your schools; the list goes on and on. The better understanding you have, the bigger impact you can make.”

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