Free Press picks for U.S. Senate, governor

Free Press picks for U.S. Senate, governor

July 27th, 2014 in Opinion Free Press

Lamar Alexander

Photo by Doug Strickland/Times Free Press.

OTHER ENDORSEMENTS

In the Aug. 7 general election and Republican primary, the Free Press also endorses:

3rd District Congress

Weston Wamp

27th District, State House

Patsy Hazlewood

County Mayor

Jim Coppinger

County Commission

District 1

Randy Fairbanks

District 6

Joe Graham

District 7

Sabrena Turner

District 8

Kenny Smith

District 9

Chester Bankston

General Sessions Court, Division 1

Christie Sell

Juvenile Court

Rob Philyaw

Public Defender

Steve Smith

Criminal Court Clerk

Gwen Tidwell

Board of Education

District 3

Greg Martin

District 5

Patrick Hampton

District 6

Ballard Scearce

District 8

David Testerman

District 9

Steve Highlander

Re-elect Alexander to help forge solutions

Die-hard tea party enthusiasts - not those who lent their names to the movement in 2010 simply to object to President Barack Obama's economic overreaches - would like to believe they have an opportunity to knock off Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander in the Aug. 7 Republican primary.

However, the Volunteer State is not Virginia's 7th congressional district, where House Majority Leader Eric Cantor was upset in his primary, or Mississippi where Sen. Thad Cochran came within an eyelash of losing his seat in a primary runoff.

This is Tennessee, where clearer heads prevail, where there is understanding that compromise does not mean conquered and where a few months of rhetoric do not trump years of faithful and worthy service.

Alexander, 74, is being challenged in the primary by state Rep. Joe Carr, 56, among six challengers in all, but we heartily endorse the state's senior senator for a third term in the hopes that he can be a leader in a potential Republican Senate to help craft solutions for the country's most serious problems.

He has stood up to Obama on health care reform, voted to repeal, defund or oppose Obamacare or its provisions every time they reached the Senate floor and has suggested market-driven reforms for it; opposed more federal control over schools, believing decisions are best made in states and with parents; and recently co-sponsored a bill that would help alleviate the illegal immigration crisis at the country's southern border.

One of Carr's biggest talking points is Alexander's vote last year that would give illegal immigrants an opportunity to obtain citizenship. Carr calls it "amnesty," but amnesty is when pardon is granted to a large group. That's what the estimated 11 million have now because no action is being taken against them.

The bill, which the senator stands by but which did not pass the U.S. House, required a 13-year pathway that mandated security benchmarks before a green card could be obtained, required a workplace verification system for employers and increased security and completed the ence at the border.

Regardless of Carr's understanding, the problem will not go away and needs to be dealt with. Rounding up 11 million people, putting them on buses and letting them off across the country's southern border is not going to happen. Dealing with the problem in a serious way requires negotiation, maturity and, yes, even talking to Democrats.

No Republican wants the 11 million to become just another group enslaved to an entitlement-giving federal government -- and thus Democrat voters -- but right now, here in the United States, they have no consequence.

Speaking of entitlements, along with Bob Corker, Tennessee's junior senator, Alexander also has introduced legislation to reduce the growth of mandatory entitlement spending by nearly $1 trillion over the next 10 years. Simply suggesting government spending is out of control, as Carr has, is no solution.

Although Carr claims Alexander is no conservative, he has conservatives bonafides in an A rating from the National Rifle Association, a 100 percent rating from the National Right to Life, 100 percent rating from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and recently stood with Hobby Lobby on the issue of people having to defy their religious beliefs and provide certain abortifacients for their employees. There's also the senator's support from former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson and former GOP presidential candidates Mike Huckabee and Newt Gingrich, all conservatives.

Looking strictly locally, the Maryville native Alexander also was instrumental in June in adding legislation to the Water Resources Reform and Development Act that should help speed up work on the new Chickamauga Dam lock.

A former two-term governor, United States Secretary of Education and University of Tennessee president, in addition to senator, he has worked hard for Tennesseans and for the country, and we believe he deserves re-election.


Governor Bill Haslam

Photo by Erin O. Smith/Times Free Press.

Gov. Haslam should sail to second term

If Tennesseans find a governor whose every policy decision pleases every Volunteer State resident all the time, suspend the two-terms rule and allow that governor to serve for life.

Gov. Bill Haslam is not that man, but he has worked hard to make economically sound decisions for the state but still put forth out-of-the-box solutions like two years of free community college tuition for every high school senior who qualifies.

For his accomplishments over the past three-plus years and without significant opposition in the Republican primary, he deserves a healthy primary win and eventual reelection.

Three men, Mark "Coonrippy" Brown, Donald Ray McFolin and perennial Chattanooga candidate Basil Marceaux Sr., none of whom have much name recognition, oppose him in the GOP primary.

With a Republican Senate and House -- albeit more conservative than he is -- Haslam has been able to get most of his initiatives passed. They weren't always passed to his specifications, and he has certainly been less than enthused about some legislation, but the relationship between the executive and legislative branches has generally been cordial.

The governor, a former mayor of Knoxville, set a goal for the state to be tops in the Southeast in high quality jobs. Since he assumed office, the state has added 168,000 jobs, become second best in the Southeast for manufacturing job growth and seen its unemployment fall 30 percent. Earlier in the month, he was in Chattanooga when Volkswagen announced it was expanding its plant -- with the help of millions in state dollars -- and adding some 2,000 jobs.

To keep up the pace of family-wage jobs, Haslam understands the need for a better trained workforce and sought to expand funding for education. To date, he has increased education funding by more than $400 million, including $130 million for higher teacher pay, and seen rising K-12 rankings in return. In 2013, he announced his "Drive to 55" initiative to increase the number of Volunteer State residents with a post-high school certificates and degrees from 32 percent to 55 percent by 2025.

This year, it was "Tennessee Promise," the first-in-the-country community college initiative for free tuition and fees. It is expected to use about $34 million a year from lottery reserves to cover the tuition. Students, in turn, must maintain a 2.0 grade-point-average in college, complete eight hours of community service and agree to work with a mentor.

Just last week, the annual Kids Count Data Book, a report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, found Tennessee was one of five states with the biggest improvement in the past year. The state moved up in overall rankings (which measures for education, health care and poverty) from 39th to 36th and in the area of education from 42nd to 37th.

Along the way, Haslam worked with the General Assembly to eliminate the gift tax, lower the sales tax on food, lower the Hall income tax on seniors and begin to phase out the death tax. The climate he helped create made Tennessee the third best managed state in the country by Barron's Magazine in 2012, saw it ranked as having the lowest per capita debt in the country by the Tax Foundation in 2012 and be tabbed by Bankrate.com as the best state in which to retire in the country in 2013.

Haslam also has tried to walk a middle ground on some initiatives as he did on civil service reform in 2012. The bill, which makes it easier for the governor to hire, fire, promote and demote executive branch workers and introduces merit pay and performance standards, was negotiated with Democrats and the Tennessee State Employees Association union and passed with the support of both groups.

The governor, however, is often dinged for not expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, an attempted overreach by the federal government. Instead, he decided to pursue his so-called Tennessee Plan, which would use federal dollars to purchase private health insurance for the working poor. It would include patient co-pays, healthy living incentives and other stipulations that call for personal responsibility.

The problem is the state so far has not been given a waiver to implement the plan. Why the waiver is taking so long is unclear, but we would like to see the governor make this a high priority even before he begins a likely second term so people who don't have a health care alternative can get some assistance.

Health coverage, slow tax revenue growth and the need for more higher education funding will be among the issues on a potential second-term front burner. We endorse his reelection, so he can make those a priority.