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Sparks flying in Senate campaign
Jul 12, 2006 12:00 am
July 4, 2006 Apparently looking past his primary opponent, former Sen. Bob Rochelle is aiming squarely at his seat's successor, Sen. Mae Beavers, accusing her of voting against lower taxes.
In a press release issued late last week, Rochelle said the District 17 senator's vote against Gov. Phil Bredesen's "fiscally responsible" budget constituted a vote against helping working families. Beavers voted against Bredesen's proposed budget, which included rescinding $3-per-car access fees to state parks.
"High gas prices are forcing many working families to stay home for summer vacations and many of them will be visiting our state parks," Rochelle said. "Mae Beavers voted to take more money out of the pockets of working people."
Beavers fired back Monday, saying the attack is a "desperate attempt" to divert attention away from Rochelle's attempt to "cram an income tax down the throat of Tennesseans.
"He was willing to shut down the parks, lay off state employees, destroy the bond rating of the state or do whatever it took to get his way on the adoption of a state income tax," Beavers said Monday.
Beavers, who was the only senator to vote against Bredesen's budget (there were numerous votes against in the state House), blamed the institution of the fees on Rochelle. The former senator was an avid supporter of a state income tax, but has said he will not vote for one if re-elected without a referendum.
"The issue here is if Bob Rochelle had not tried to force an income tax down our throats, there wouldn't have been an access fee on the parks," Beavers said.
Fees were instituted in 2001 in the wake of then-Gov. Don Sundquist's support of a state income tax.
Despite the fact there is a month left until the Aug. 3 primaries, Rochelle campaign spokeswoman Anastasia Ada said his campaign is not overlooking fellow Democratic candidate Aubrey Givens. Like Rochelle, Givens is a Lebanon attorney.
"We are focused on the primary, but we believe that this election is about honesty and trust, and so when the governor was in Lebanon, it was a good opportunity for us to tell the voters some truth about Sen. Beavers' voting record," Ada said.
Bredesen visited Lebanon on Friday as part of a statewide tour announcing the end of access fees such as those at the Cedars of Lebanon State Park.
Beavers said given the history between she and Rochelle, the attacks are expected.
"Obviously, when I filed to run last time he got out of the race, so naturally I would be the one he would attack," Beavers said. "I was one of the major players in fighting the state income tax. He was the major sponsor of the state income tax."
Regarding Rochelle's comment about the high price of gas, Beavers alleged Rochelle voted for an increase on the state gas tax "multiple times."
Rochelle is attempting to reclaim the Senate seat he held for 20 years before he stepped down in 2002, when then-Rep. Beavers, a Mt. Juliet Republican, won the seat.
Givens could not be reached for comment.
Staff Writer Jason Cox can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 45 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.