Newspaper people are hardly infallible, but when we inadvertently fail to interview candidates in the political races in which we make recommendations, we fail those candidates and the public interest at a critical juncture. But in a mistake over phone numbers, we unintentionally failed to arrange an interview with Brock Bennington, one of three candidates in the Democratic primary for nomination to the state House of Representative's 30th District seat. The winner in the Democratic primary will oppose veteran incumbent Vince Dean, a Republican seeking a fourth term.
Bennington, 42, a private investigator, recently retired from the Tennessee National Guard as a Sergeant First Class after a 24-year stint, including combat service in Desert Storm and duty on the southwest border. Given his job and his military service, he describes himself as someone willing to stand up for what he believes is right and is best for Tennesseans.
His chief priorities are those of most candidates: education and job growth. He also says he would try to steer the Legislature's Republican majority to focus on constructive work, and quit wasting time debating contrived non-issues. For examples, he rightly cites the Republicans' endless hearings and rhetoric in the last session on how to "protect" teachers who may comment on creationism. A similarly endless debate centered on whether to allow gun owners the uncontested right to keep guns in the their cars on employers' parking lots.
Though he has a gun-carry permit and advocates 2nd Amendment rights, he aptly notes that the guns-in-parking lots issue last spring was fomented by the National Rifle Association's insistence on drawing a dividing line over gun rights versus business owners' property rights. That created a controversy which made Tennesseans "look like idiots" determined to scare businesses away, he says.
Bennington is rightly critical of the Republican bills tying teacher evaluations to student achievement, and striping teachers of bargaining rights and tenure, a policy that only guaranteed a teacher's due process rights to contest job termination. He is equally critical of Republicans' decision to require the state to pay for-profit companies to provide online education, and let them use off-shore employees to grade online students' work.
His fellow candidates for the District 30 House seat, Sandy Norris Smith and Brian D. White, hold similar views. They want to focus attention on how the GOP's majority has used such hyper-inflated issues as a smokescreen to cover their more pernicious bills -- for example, their stealth bill to allow candidates to receive fully 100 percent of their campaign contributions from PACs, which are mainly driven by lobbyists for vested interests. The law had previously limited PAC contributions to 50 percent of a lawmakers' campaign donations.
Bennington correctly criticizes another example of Republican's playing up to favored interests over taxpayer concerns: Gov. Haslam's proposal, adopted by the Legislature's GOP majority, to allow the state to hand out cash incentives to get businesses to locate or expand plants in Tennessee, rather than continuing to use incentives based on tax-abatements. Paying cash incentives virtually invites graft and corruption at taxpayers' expense.
Bennett raises good points, and his candidacy merits consideration, especially given Dean's lame performance. This page has already endorsed Sandy Smith, a veteran teacher, recently retired, who has served the Hamilton County Education Association's efforts to keep abreast of legislative issues. We stand by that endorsement.