Republican gubernatorial candidates Bill Lee and Randy Boyd stopped in Wilson County on Thursday to campaign in the final days of the race for governor.
Lee held a town hall at Demos’ Restaurant, and Boyd talked to voters across the street from the Wilson County Election Commission office.
State Sen. Mark Pody introduced Lee to about 40 citizens and supporters who gathered to hear Lee speak on issues from jobs and the economy to abortion and TennCare in the packed dining room.
Lee spoke about the need for vocational and skilled labor training for kids in and just out of high school. “When I’m governor, high school is going to look different,” Lee said, “and we’re going to provide pathways, especially for those four out of 10 kids in our state that do not go to college, because they’re gifted in ways that the college kids aren’t, but we currently do very little to create a pathway for success for them.”
Vocational trade training was important to Danny Williams, of Gordonsville, who had already settled on his support of Lee before the town hall. Williams said in addition to his college education, he also received invaluable training in various trades from working on cars to plumbing and electrical work.
“Every kid is not a college student. Some just do not test well in classrooms, but they have the brains and brawn to get out and work with their hands. There’s a lot of trades out there that can make just as much money as a college graduate and we need them,” Williams said. “As Tennessee grows, and is prosperous and they keep on building, and more people come to Tennessee to live, we’ve got to build the infrastructure that much more.”
Lee took handwritten questions from the audience, where he addressed a variety of subjects such a tough but smart stance on crime, by understanding when to incarcerate people.
“If we can rehabilitate them without incarcerating them, then we save lives, we save money,” Lee said.
Lee was then asked, “Why are they saying you voted for Democrats?”
“Well, I’ve never voted for a democrat,” Lee said. “I don’t know why they would say that, I guess they would say that because I have made donations to Democrats. Let me put this all in context – I have made – and this is where you’ve got to really look when you see information – you’ve got to look for the whole truth. I’ve made $160,000 worth of contributions to candidates’ conservative causes over my adult life. 99.3 percent of those contributions were to Republicans. I’ve made contributions to a Democratic mayor ten years or twelve years ago or so I don’t know the date exactly, but our mayors were non-partisan but a Democrat mayor and another Democrat mayor. Those were business decisions; remember when Donald Trump was criticized for making contributions to Democrats? And he understood that when they’re a business person, you make contributions – but if you want to know my ideological views, and whether or not I’m a conservative, you look at the whole truth, and you’ll see that I have a long history of contributing to conservatives and I’ve never voted in a Democratic primary.”
Lee moved on to questions about infrastructure in rural communities, his support of President Donald Trump, Tennessee Ready and the complications of health care and the state of TennCare.
“There is a real opportunity to reduce the cost of healthcare both in public care through TennCare and through private care,” Lee said. “We have a fundamentally flawed health care system that has no incentive across the system to really reduce costs. We have payers, providers and patients, none of them have an incentive to reduce costs of health care, and until we figure out how to lower costs of healthcare we can never even think about how it is that we have coverage for everyone.”
Lee wrapped up his event, which continued to have supporters come in to what was then standing room only, when he said, “I’m not just excited about being the governor, I’m excited about really having the opportunity to serve.”
Boyd made his seventh campaign stop of the day outside of the Wilson County Election Commission where he met voters on the street.
One of the voters, Amy Walker, who attended both the Lee and Boyd events, talked about the importance of her ability to meet and interact with candidates face to face.
“I wanted to go to both, because campaign literature just doesn’t give you the full picture,” Walker said, “and I want to be able to talk to them and see what they say, because you can see even if they’re campaign conservatives you can tell what they really believe when you talk to them.”
Boyd said his vision is “to make Tennessee the state of opportunity.” He outlined educational goals with continuing the Drive to 55 initiative, making Tennessee the No. 1 state in the South for “high-quality jobs” and the top-ranked state to start and grow small businesses, while focusing on the struggles of rural communities.
Boyd addressed the needs of rural Tennessee by promoting the Governor’s Rural Task Force initiative.
“We’ve got to do better,” Boyd said, “We’ve reduced the number of distressed counties by 25 percent – I want to finish the job – right now, we still have 15 distressed counties. I want to have zero by the year 2025.
“We can do anything as a state when we all work together. That’s going to be our strength. We’re not going to be the richest state, but we can be the state that works best together. That’s how we win.”
Diane Black, Beth Harwell, Basil Marceaux Sr. and Kay White join Lee and Boyd on the ballot for the Republican nomination for governor in the Aug. 2 election. Karl Dean, Craig Fitzhugh and Mezianne Vale Payne are on the Democratic ticket. Early voting will continue through July 28.