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Governor Bill Haslam

Tennessee Governor: Haslam

Barring something unforeseen, Republican Gov. Bill Haslam will roll to a second term on Election Day on Nov. 4.

He deserves to.

With only minimal opposition from Democrat Charles "Charlie" Brown, a retired construction worker and also-ran 2002 gubernatorial candidate, and several independents, Haslam can look forward to a second-term agenda of moving the Volunteer State ahead in funding for education, adding high-wage manufacturing and other jobs, and working toward a more effective, efficient government.

He made great strides in each of those areas -- along with cutting grocery taxes and eliminating the death tax by 2016 -- during the former Knoxville mayor's first term as governor.

One of Haslam's initiatives that will bear watching is his Tennessee Promise, a first-in-the-nation offer of free tuition and fees for students who attend state community colleges, maintain a 2.0 grade-point-average, complete eight hours of community service and agree to work with a mentor.

Since the money is coming from lottery reserves, state residents deserve to know how students who take part are faring and on whether the $34 million a year price tag is worth it.

Also expect a continuing debate on whether state incentives to new businesses are worth the price; on whether Common Core educational standards will go forward, be adjusted or be abandoned; and on Haslam's promise to pursue his 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.

As to the latter, he has been criticized for, instead, not expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Depending on the source, his plan hasn't yet been given approval because of delays on his end or on the end of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Either way, Haslam should make the uninsured an early -- if not current -- priority.

Although the governor also experienced first-term hiccups in other areas (lack of unanimity with his super majority legislature, broken promise of teacher raises and delayed release of 2014 TCAP test scores), he's overall been effective and should have no problem winning a second term.

U.S. Senator: Alexander

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Lamar Alexander

Lamar Alexander, at 74, has two terms as Tennessee governor, two terms as U.S. senator, a stint as president of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville and time as U.S. Secretary of Education under his belt. He is odds-on favorite to win a third Senate term and could remain a quiet member of Washington's exclusive club for another six years.

But he has something else in mind.

If Republicans win control of the Senate, Alexander would be in line to chair the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee and the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development. As a member of the committee in the past year, he sponsored bills -- that actually passed the stagnant Senate -- that expanded research, education and intervention related to premature births and that prohibited the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from restricting access to fishing below the dams on the Cumberland River.

As head of the HELP Committee, he believes he might be able to do something about the Affordable Care Act, which has increased health care cost for many Americans while allowing only an extra 4-plus percent to gain health care coverage.

Alexander also wants to help TVA deliver "good, safe, reliable power," speed construction of the new Chickamauga Lock by increasing user fees barge companies are "insisting on," reduce the massive federal student loan application form and return more education decision-making to the states.

We endorse him for a third term in the hopes a Republican Senate can get the country moving again after Democrat Majority Leader Harry Reid's years of obstruction.

While Alexander is favored in the race, his opponent, liberal trial lawyer Gordon Ball, has more standing and more money than Gov. Haslam's opponent, Charles "Charlie" Brown. So he also has more to defend.

Ball, whose marketing has attempted to spin him as a folksy, middle-of-the-road candidate, has been endorsed by the AFL-CIO and other unions calling for another vote at the Volkswagen's plant here after workers rejected unionization, was caught by Buzzfeed News for having plagiarized a large portion of his web site from sites of other liberal senators and received a grade of "F" from the National Rifle Association.

And the challenger's website indicates he has similar ideas about illegal immigration as Alexander, who was accused by primary opponent state Sen. Joe Carr of supporting "amnesty" but said the country already has "de facto amnesty."

So while Alexander's position on illegal immigrants may not be supported by a majority of Tennesseans, the rest of his stances place him well on the right and merit his re-election, especially in the hopes he'll have a Republican Senate to work with in January.

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