If he's elected governor, state Sen. Roy Herron said Tuesday, he will fight for job creation and retention and strengthening the state's primary and technical education programs.
Speaking at the Chattanooga Kiwanis Club, the Democrat from Dresden, Tenn., said jobs and education go hand in hand. Ticking of a list of shuttered manufacturing plants in his West Tennessee hometown, Sen. Herron said the future will require students trained at levels that compare with students from India and China.
"We are in a worldwide economic competition. It simply has not been this way before," Sen. Herron said. "It's frightening, but the potential is enormous."
As governor, Sen. Herron said, he would continue to be a proponent of competition among public schools by advocating for the expansion of charter schools. He also would encourage better pay for teachers who work in math and science fields.
"This year, India will graduate three times as many engineers as the United States, and China will graduate two times as many as India," Mr. Herron said. "If we are going to lead this world's economy, it is absolutely important that we lead in education."
So far, Mr. Herron and the other candidates for governor are showing more similarities than differences.
A spokesman for the campaign of Jackson, Tenn., businessman Mike McWherter agreed that an emphasis on education and jobs is necessary.
"That involves a full 360 approach that looks at pre-k ... all the way through to making sure we have the right business climate to attract and retain jobs," Mike Kopp said.
U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp, who is running for governor in the Republican primary, said better readers will be the key to his education policy.
"Education reforms driven by real results, merit and more parental choice are always good. But as governor, I'm also going to focus on early reading skills as the real foundation for long-term success," said Rep. Wamp in a statement. "We need to benchmark children in kindergarten to see how well they're reading. ... There is a direct correlation between kids who drop out later on and poor reading skills in the early grades."
At the last financial reporting period in mid-July, Sen. Herron came in second among Democratic candidates, reporting total contributions of $607,941. He was outraised by Mr. McWherter. But, under state law, Sen. Herron could not raise funds during the legislative session.
Republicans have a massive campaign war chest. Records show GOP candidates have raised $6.5 million to the Democrats' $1.6 million.
Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle, D-Memphis; former state House Majority Leader Kim McMillan; Jackson businessman Mike McWherter and Nashville businessman Ward Cammack.
Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam, U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn., Shelby County District Attorney Bill Gibbons and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville.