Randy Boyd officially enters Tennessee governor's race

Randy Boyd officially enters Tennessee governor's race

March 16th, 2017 by Judy Walton in Breaking News

Staff Photo by Dan Henry / The Chattanooga Times Free Press- 1/24/17. Tennessee commissioner of Economic and Community Development Randy Boyd speaks about how Volkswagen Chattanooga will partner with the State of Tennessee to establish a $1-million science lab program for Hamilton county middle and high school students while at the Volkswagen Academy and Automation Center on January 24, 2017.

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.

2018 election dates

Party primaries for state House, Senate and governor: Aug. 2
General election: Nov. 6

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The race for Tennessee governor in 2018 is no longer officially a solo event.

Randy Boyd, former state commissioner of economic and community development and a successful entrepreneur, formally announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination Thursday at the Chattanooga Convention Center.

He joins state Sen. Mark Green, of Clarksville, a physician and businessman who launched his run in January to replace term-limited Republican Gov. Bill Haslam.

However, Green is under "strong" consideration for Army secretary by President Donald Trump, The Tennessean newspaper reported Wednesday. If chosen, Green would be out of the race, but a clutch of other Republicans are testing the waters, as well.

Boyd, who is from Knoxville, said he chose Chattanooga for his campaign kickoff because the city embodies how entrepreneurship can create growth and prosperity.

"I want to make Tennessee the state of opportunity, opportunity for better education, opportunity for better jobs and better opportunities for everyone," Boyd told about two dozen people over a luncheon of tossed salad, fried chicken and iced tea.

Boyd's bio says he built his pet-products business out of the back of his van. Now Radio Systems Corp., of Knoxville, has more than 700 employees and revenues approaching $400 million, selling under brand names such as Invisible Fence, PetSafe and SportDOG. Boyd also owns the Tennessee Smokies baseball team, the AA affiliate of the Chicago Cubs, and the Johnson City Cardinals, a rookie league affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals, according to his bio.

As economic and community development commissioner, Boyd helped create the Drive to 55 program, which aims to raise the share of Tennesseans with college degrees to 55 percent by 2025, and the Tennessee Promise scholarship that pays tuition at community and technical colleges for young state residents.

Boyd said fulfilling the Drive to 55 promise is one of three goals he would work toward as governor. The second, he said, would be to raise Tennessee from fourth to first place in the Southeast for high-quality jobs, and the third would be to help struggling rural areas.

"This is the best time in Tennessee history, but not for everybody," he said, adding that 17 Tennessee counties classed as "distressed" need education and jobs. Saying broadband internet access is a necessity, he promised to "not just double down but triple down" to bring up those distressed counties by 2025.

And the state must push harder to raise the health of its citizens and combat the opioid crisis, he said.

"We can never get health care costs we can afford if we're unhealthy," Boyd said.

Other Republicans said to be considering a run include U.S. Reps. Diane Black and Marsha Blackburn; Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell; state Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris and Franklin businessman Bill Lee. And U.S. Sen. Bob Corker must decide whether to run again for his Senate seat next year or set his sights elsewhere.

On the Democrats' side, former Nashville mayor Karl Dean said he's definitely running. State House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, of West Tennessee, has said he is interested, and in a December straw poll among Nashville Democrats, Fitzhugh took 26 votes to Dean's 20.

Contact staff writer Judy Walton at jwalton@timesfreepress.com or 427-757-6416.