In the Democratic primary, the three candidates share strengths and common interests, but Testerman seems better equipped to manage the work of building inroads to Republican counterparts.
Coleman is a stalwart advocate of education and community-building both in the African-American community and across the broad middle class of working Tennesseans. His interests lie in improving job opportunities, education, tax equity (by shucking the sales tax on groceries), common-sense environmental regulation and infrastructure. All these, he points out, have been overridden by the Republicans' loud focus on issues pertaining to guns, gays, religion, abortions, and their quieter shell game of giveaways to corporate interests and lobbyists in return for PAC contributions.
McGary's rapid-fire rhetoric touches all bases, but he's more interested in the tactical political art of influencing Republicans by debate toward a more balanced agenda.
Testerman is equally skeptical of that right-wing dynamic. He rightly thinks the Legislature's narrow focus has generated "a disconnect" between the needs of regular working families, teachers and their state government. He wants to help "bring back common sense" to the Legislature and focus more constructively on the gamut of middle-class needs -- core educational improvement, strengthening small businesses and job creation, and more transparency in Gov. Haslam's gifts of taxpayers' money to big business.
Testerman can't cure Republicans' "waste of time on 'flashpoint' legislation," but as a longtime principal and teacher, he can give voice to the denigration of teachers under Haslam's extreme evaluation schemes. He is especially troubled by the discharge of young teachers who now work in a climate of fear and are fired after two-or-three years without being given a reason, or any mentoring for a perceived weakness -- a needlessly harsh loss by both sides. He would pursue a broader curriculum for technical and vocational training to help students win jobs at new local plants, and seek to change the casual rhetoric of "failing schools" that neglects needed aid to parents who don't know how to prepare their pre-school children to learn..
He would push back against the GOP legislation that let 100 percent of campaign donations to lawmakers come from lobbyists' PAC funds, while lawmakers simultaneously stripped teachers' bargaining rights. These are just a partial list of his concerns, but they suggest why he merits support for his party's nomination.