Boyd joins Black in attacking Lee in GOP primary

Republican GOP Candidate Randy Boyd is introduced to the crowd for the debate series at the Pope John Paul II High School in Hendersonville, Tenn., Wednesday, June 20, 2018. (Lacy Atkins/The Tennessean via AP)
Republican GOP Candidate Randy Boyd is introduced to the crowd for the debate series at the Pope John Paul II High School in Hendersonville, Tenn., Wednesday, June 20, 2018. (Lacy Atkins/The Tennessean via AP)

NASHVILLE - Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Lee is coming under attack again, this time from a second rival in Tennessee's four-person Aug. 2 GOP primary.

In a new 30-second TV spot, Knoxville businessman and former state economic development commissioner Randy Boyd's campaign charges that Lee, owner of a Franklin-based business and residential building services company, "was state president of a group that lobbied for amnesty for illegals."

The ad, narrated by a gravel-voiced male speaking in a folksy tone, also charges that Lee "donated to disgraced liberal Democrat Mayor Meghan Berry, who supported sanctuary cities."

And, the ad charges, "Bill Lee didn't support Donald Trump in 2016. It's our vote. We deserve to know a candidate's record, don't you think?"

Boyd's campaign has also put up a website:

Speaking with reporters Wednesday at early voting site in Williamson County, Lee said Boyd's attack as well as an earlier TV-ad assault by another GOP rival, U.S. Rep. Diane Black of Gallatin, demonstrates his own rising support triggering a case of the jitters from his opponents.

"Our campaign is having a real surge in momentum, and it's evidenced by I'm the only candidate being attacked by everyone," Lee said. "That shows we have real momentum. And people are believing the message and understanding my vision of what I hope for Tennessee."

Lee said "I'm certainly not for amnesty; I fully supported Donald Trump, voted for him. My wife and I went to his inauguration."

He said although he served as president of the Associated Builders and Contractors of Tennessee's board in 1999, he was not president of the national association.

"I'm a construction executive and I work in the construction industry with plumbers, pipe fitters, welders and electricians," Lee said. "The Associated Builders and Contractors represent construction workers all across the state. And I'm proud of my association with that industry group."

The national group in the 2000s has advocated for what the national organization's vice president for federal affairs once described in a 2013 letter as a "comprehensive immigration reform that secures our nation's borders, deals with the 11 million undocumented workers currently in our country and provides a legal immigration system that can respond to economic demand."

While Boyd's actual campaign ad did not cite sources for its criticisms of Lee, Boyd spokeswoman forward information that included links to the Federal Election Commission website which lists a total of $2,100 in contributions by Lee to the national ABC in 1997, 2000, 2006 and 2016.

As for Lee having contributed to former Nashville Mayor Berry, the businessman did give $500 to her campaign in 2015. In March, Berry resigned after admitting to an extramarital affair with her police security officer.

After Black's campaign attacked Lee earlier this month on his contribution to Berry as well as former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, now a Democratic gubernatorial candidate, and former Gov. Phil Bredesen, now a U.S. Senate candidate, Lee's campaign told the Tennessean newspaper that the contributions were "business decisions."

While Boyd's campaign attacks former Mayor Berry for supporting a so-called "sanctuary" policy, Berry in 2017 actually opposed an effort by Metro Nashville Council members to limit police cooperation with federal immigration officials, the Tennessean reported at the time. Council members dropped the effort.

Boyd himself has come under criticism for a $250,000 contribution he made back in 2016 to Conexion Americas, a Nashville nonprofit Conexion Americas. The money was for the group, which serves immigrants, to expand its culinary incubator and entrepreneurship program.

And Boyd has also come under fire for not having supported Trump in the 2016 GOP primaries.

Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell, the fourth leading Republican in the GOP gubernatorial field, is the only candidate who hasn't been attacked. She has lagged behind the other three in recent polls.

Democrats in the race are former Nashville Mayor Dean and state House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh of Ripley.

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