Facing voters every two years is a daunting, expensive and time-consuming task for Tennessee state representatives, but it forces them to be responsive to their constituents.
In the Hamilton County delegation this year, two of the five House members — both serving their first term — have opposition.
In District 26, Rep. Robin Smith, R-Hixson, faces Joan Farrell. In District 30, Rep. Esther Helton, R-East Ridge, takes on Joseph Udeaja. Reps. Patsy Hazlewood, R-Signal Mountain, Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah, and Yusuf Hakeem, D-Chattanooga, are running unopposed.
DISTRICT 26: Robin Smith, a former nurse and former state Republican Party chairwoman who ran in the 2010 Republican congressional primary, says she appreciates the title "representative" and believes it's the "ideal model for citizen/legislator" because of the "things you're able to do."
For the state, she helped pass a telemedicine bill allowing patients to see their participating doctors electronically and for their doctors to be reimbursed by insurance companies for such visits, and she helped push a medical right-to-shop measure, allowing patients to shop by prices for procedures and services they might need.
Locally, she sought focus on automobile traffic at her district's five major railroad crossings, helped expedite the repair of Lake Resort Drive, pushed to get questions answered about the cleanup of the former Dixie Yarns plant near Lupton City and stood with Hazlewood for the passage of a second sales-tax holiday.
Farrell, prompted to run when the U.S. Senate failed to convict President Donald Trump on his impeachment last February, advocates for a rise in the minimum wage, starting at $11 an hour and increasing to $15 an hour and beyond. She also would like to see an expansion of unions and increased support for Planned Parenthood, which she says has been "demonized" and should be the go-to choice for family planning.
We believe Smith is a better representative for her constituents and strongly deserves re-election.
DISTRICT 30: Esther Helton said her election in 2018 allows her to "solve problems of constituents," such as helping direct calls concerning insurance and contractors following the Easter tornado earlier this year.
Also a member of the East Ridge City Council, she says she has been an advocate for her city in the legislature, helping it "move forward."
If re-elected, she says, she would push a stalled bill that updates a federal program that enables eligible health care providers and organizations to purchase outpatient drugs at discounted rates. She also wants to accelerate the process for vocationally trained nurses like her to move into licensed professional nurse programs.
Udeaja, a native of Nigeria, has been in the U.S. for 41 years and has worked as a pharmacist, in higher education and in the health care industry. He says Helton "has done nothing" and that he would push for an increase in the minimum wage, an expansion of Medicaid access and more money for public education.
We believe Helton is apt to be more in line with her district and advocate her re-election.