With finish line in sight, gubernatorial hopefuls spend big, tout their loyalty to President Trump

Published 8:49 am Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Only one more day to go, and the Tennessee Primary will be over, and we will know the winners and losers and who will be on the ballot in November, and who will not.
For the past few weeks, political hopefuls have been charging, sometimes through mud, towards the finish lime. It’s been the same in some local races, namely in the races for county mayor and sheriff.
Some big money has been spent by the gubernatorial hopefuls. The four major Republicans — Diane Black, Randy Boyd, Bill Lee and Beth Harwell plus the two Democratic candidates, Karl Dean and Craig Fitzhugh — have spent a record $51 million in their respective primaries.
It’s a big primary year for Tennesseans, given that three of the state’s nine congressmen are retiring as well as 23 state House representatives and three state senators.
In the governor’s race, loyalty to President Donald Trump tops the Republican checklist, right up there with championing gun rights and low taxes and decrying abortion. In TV ads and debates, the four leading GOP candidates have lauded Trump and their support for him while blasting each other as insufficiently supportive of the president.
Diane Black over and over has touted her ties with President Donald Trump and as being tough on immigration. Boyd of Knoxville, former state economic commissioner, lets it be known that he voted for Trump and attended his inauguration as does Bill Lee, a Williamson County businessman.
We beg the question, what is wrong with being Republican and not being a Trump supporter?
Beth Harwell, who is currently serving as Tennessee House Speaker, is running on her record as House Speaker.
With the exception of Harwell, who has only put $3.1 million into her effort, all have been big spenders. Boyd alone has given nearly $20 million to his campaign, while Black has injected $12.3 million. Lee’s personal tab stands at $5.3 million.
Both Boyd and Black have bashed each other as well as Lee and accused each other of being soft on immigration. Boyd has slammed Black in his own TV spot as “D.C. Diane,” portraying her as a mucky denizen of what Trump has labeled the Washington “swamp.”
Realizing that Lee’s standing was on the rise, Black and Boyd then began attacking Lee. So Lee, whose ads have portrayed him as a devout Christian and the only “conservative outsider,” came back with his own ad. He decried “all these dishonest ads” while simultaneously working in subtle digs that his rivals’ ads reveal “deceitful” politicians who will “do anything to get elected.”
And their strategy continues ahead of Thursday’s primary despite scandals swirling around the White House, because even though Trump’s approval ratings are low overall, he remains highly popular among Republican voters in national polls.
Republican Gov. Bill Haslam warned the GOP candidates in a letter, saying: “No offense intended, but a lot of what was talked about during the campaign will not be the issues that end up on your desk as governor.”
The biggest spenders say they’re simply addressing voter concerns. “One of the first questions people will ask me is, ‘What is your position on supporting the president? What is your position on immigration?’” said Randy Boyd, a former economic development commissioner. “Once we can answer that for them, then we can talk to them about education, about jobs, about helping our rural communities, about getting broadband, about health care.”
U.S. Rep. Diane Black agreed, pointing to TV ads promoting her work on Trump’s tax law and her proximity to the president.
“We’ll have plenty of time after we get out of this primary to talk again more about what we’re going to do for the state of Tennessee, when I’m talking about things and opposing myself with a Democrat candidate,” she said.
In other ads, Boyd and Bill Lee cast themselves as Trump-style businessmen, while House Speaker Beth Harwell, the field’s only medical marijuana supporter, replays Trump’s 2015 comments that “medical should happen.”
Polls suggest a close 3-way race between Black, Boyd and Lee, with Harwell not out of it. Lee’s campaign grew more competitive as he talked about his farm, his business and his relationship with Jesus Christ, and now Black and Boyd are hitting at him.
Harwell had some fun with her ad, dressing children as Lee, Boyd and Black. While they bicker, she says she’s delivered on low taxes, balanced budgeting and outlawing sanctuary cities.
“There’s no swamp here,” said Harwell. “We’re doing everything right in the state of Tennessee.”
Come tomorrow night, we’ll know the winners and the losers, but the important thing is if you’ve not voted, do so. Your vote does count, and the right to vote is one of the things that makes America special.

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