What voters don’t know about their candidates can hurt them

Published 12:23 pm Tuesday, October 11, 2022

The Tennessee gubernatorial election will take place on Nov. 8 to elect the governor of Tennessee. Incumbent Republican Governor Bill Lee is seeking re-election to a second term. Jason Martin is the Democratic nominee. Martin is a pulmonoligist and critical care specialist at Sumner Regional Medical Center and former Meharry Medical College professor.
Overall, Governor Lee gets good marks for his first term as governor. It was a learning experience for him as he never had held public office before. He had some challenges, one being COVID-19. Many in the medical field thought he was slow to act, especially on vaccines.
Lee has faced a barrage of criticism for his failure to repudiate comments by the president of Hillsdale College, Larry Arnn, the latter of whom was captured on video at a recent event calling teachers “dumb,” among other comments.
Arnn is a friend and advisor of Lee’s and the pair are working to launch 50 to 100 Hillsdale-backed charter schools in Tennessee.
Hillsdale is the private, conservative Michigan college that operates charter schools using the Hillsdale College 1776 Curriculum, designed to push back on critical race theory — which is not taught at any level below law school — and is a product of former President Donald Trump’s now-defunct 1776 Commission.
In May, Lee declined to sign the “truth-in-sentencing” bill, which would force violent offenders to serve their full sentences, but let it become law without his signature, a move that didn’t please Republican leaders.
In early June, Lee declined to sign into law a bill that criminalizes camping on public property, saying he wanted to be involved in finding solutions for persons in homelessness that don’t involve arrest.
Lee during his tenure as governor has worked with the Tennessee General Assembly to pass maximum possible protection for pre-born children and has focused on several priorities, including quality education, economic development, which perhaps is his strength, public safety and supporting families, all with a particular focus on the accelerated transformation of rural Tennessee.
His opponent, Jason Martin, has been critical of Lee’s hands-off approach to the COVID-19 pandemic. He believes Tennessee’s biggest educational challenges are rooted in inadequate school funding and wraparound services to support students both in and out of the classroom. Making his own first bid for public office, he consistently sides with policies that uphold local education control.
The choices are clear, and voters are urged to examine both candidates and educate themselves on what each stands for.
The knee-jerk reaction of far too many voters is to assume that, because this person represents my party, she or he automatically deserves my vote. The last thing candidates and their campaign advisers want is for voters to dig deeper. When voters oblige them, democracy risks slipping into the hands of people who might have no business anywhere near the levers of power.
The message for voters is clear: Don’t go on assumptions. Take time to do research and, better still, demand that the candidates attend public forums where they can explain their positions to the public’s satisfaction. None of this is to suggest these and other candidates are not nice people with good intentions. But articulating a position and defending it publicly must be a basic requirement of any elected official, whether it’s on the Senate floor or in the County Council chamber.

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