Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Who I am voting for, for Governor in the Republican primary.

by Rod Williams, July 28, 2018- As a minor league blogger pundit, I have a few people who apparently value my opinion and they keep asking me who I'm supporting for governor.  I usually have strong opinions backed up by reasons I can articulate. If I were to tell someone who I was supporting for governor, I would want to be able to tell them why. Well, I am still undecided.

I am not undecided because I don't know enough about the candidates.  I am not undecided because I don't care.  I have seen all of the four major candidates speak several times, I have kept up with the news reports and I have read their press releases and visited their web pages and read their campaign literature. I am not undecided due to lack of knowledge of the candidates.

I am primarily undecided because I think we Republicans have four candidates with excellent credentials and I would be pleased with any one of them. Also, I am undecided because I have been so disgusted with the negative campaigning, that I find it hard to support someone who is willing to get in the gutter and fight dirty to get elected.

Luckily, since I "cut the cord" about a year ago and do not have over-the-air TV or cable TV, I have not been inundated with the commercials. I have had to click on them to watch them.  I have seen them. Listening to talk radio, I have heard the radio commercials.  The Tennessean has also done an excellent job fact-checking the commercials. For me, the negative campaigning has had the opposite effect of the intent.  It has not made me turn against the candidate being attacked,  but against the candidate making the attack.

When Diane Black was attached for being soft on immigration and weak on abortion, it did not make me want to vote against her, but made me more inclined to support her because I know those attacks are unfair. Years ago Diane voted with almost every other state legislator to allow illegal immigrants to have drivers license. At the time it seemed like a good idea to know who was driving cars. I agreed with the drivers license position at the time. This was before 9-11. After 9-11 we all became much more concerned about security and Diane supported the change in law that again denied drivers license to illegals.

Diane Black has also in the past expressed skepticism about building a wall the full length of the southern border. In my view, she was right to be skeptical and I remain skeptical.To shore up her anti-illegal alien bona fides, she has now proposed legislation to make illegally crossing the border a felony. I disapprove. I want to improve border security but felonies should be reserved for serious crimes. In any event, there is not much a governor can do about immigration and Diane Black, is sufficiently opposed to illegal immigration.

The charge that Diane Black is somehow insufficiently pro-life is ludicrous. She has been a consistent crusader against Planned Parenthood and she voted at least eight times to cut off funding for Planned Parenthood since coming to Congress in 2011 and she has been the lead sponsor of the legislation that sought to end Planned Parenthood funding. 

She did vote for federal spending bills which included funding for Planned Parenthood. Here is how anyone with a record is subject to having a record distorted. Say a spending bill includes funding for Planned Parenthood but it also contains funding to treat Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome for war veterans. If a legislator votes for it, he is accused of supporting Planned Parenthood; if he votes against it he is accused of voting against health care for war veterans. Opponents have you no matter how you vote. National Right to Life has endorsed Diane Black for Governor and that should satisfy anybody. These unfair attacks against Diane Black have made me more inclined to support her.

When Randy Boyd was attacked for not overpaying his income tax, it made me want to rally around him.  My view is that if you pay more than you have to in income taxes you are an idiot. Any restructuring of your business or life you can do to avoid an income tax obligation or any legal deduction you can take is perfectly fine with me. The fault is not with those who legally reduce their tax liability but with a tax code that is too complex.

When Bill Lee was attacked for making a few paltry contributions to some Democrats, I was more disgusted by the hypocrisy of those making the attack than I was Bill Lee.  Those criticizing Lee gave Donald Trump a pass and Trump contributed mass amounts of money to Hillary Clinton, Ted Kennedy, Chuck Schumer, and other Democrats over the years.

From the very first I was inclined to support Diane Black.  I was most familiar with her. I had seen her speak at First Tuesday several times over the years and at other places.  I was familiar with her work in Congress and had seen her interviewed on TV.  To me, Diane always seemed solidly conservative, reasonable, and level-headed. She also had a compelling personal life story.

I was also very familiar with Beth Harwell. I had seen her speak at First Tuesday over the years and at other places.  I was familiar with her leadership of the house and how she steered the Haslam agenda to legislative victories. I like Beth and was impressed.

I did not know Randy Boyd or Bill Lee prior to the start of the campaign.  I gave Randy Boyd a chance to persuade me he was the person I should support, because I would have anyway, but because my brother is such a strong supporter of Boyd. My bother, Tim Williams, is a successful businessman in Knoxville and contributed somewhat heavily, I think, to the Boyd campaign and Tim appeared in a commercial on his behalf.  Tim is the sibling whose political values I share and whose political opinions I respect.

As I followed Boyd's campaign there were a couple things that concerned me. One was the contribution to Conexion Americas.  If his gift would have been more modest, I would have not been so bothered, but $250,000 is a lot of money.  I have seen Boyd explain this and he says he was giving money to support an entrepreneurship program. Conexion Americas does provide services to immigrants regardless of their immigration status and the leader of the organization does advocate for illegal immigrants.  However, the organization also does a lot of worthwhile work helping immigrants assimilate and succeed in America. They help them learn English and prepare for citizenship test and help them navigate the bureaucracy.  If an immigrant wants to operate a food truck or open a restaurant they can get the training to legally do so.  A long time ago I had an association with Conexion Americas myself and could see that I would be attacked for that if I was in Boyd's place and running for office.  So, while I wish he had not given $250,000 to Conexion Americas, I am not as bothered by that as some and can see how a man as wealthy and generous as Randy Boyd may have made that contribution.

Another negative against Boyd is that he supported a property tax increase in Knoxville. I generally think people are taxed enough and seldom see a reason to raise taxes.  However, I do not live in Knoxville and do not know the specifics of the financial situation of the city of Knoxville at the time and am going to hold that position against him.

Boyd has been attacked by Black as being a "moderate." She also attacked Bill Lee as a moderate. This is one of the things that made my support for Diane Black lessen. From the start my vote was Diane's to lose and this attack on Boyd and Lee chipped away at my support for her. What is a "moderate" Republican.  I have been called a moderate, a RINO and neocon by some fellow Republicans myself. Words and terms have lost all meaning. I think William F. Buckley and Ronald Reagan would be denounced as RINOs or "moderates" if they were around today

Starting in about 2010 with the rise of the tea party movement there has been an element of fanaticism in the Republican Party. That year saw a rebirth of the radical conspiracy-touting John Birch Society. It also saw the rise of new, somewhat nutty conservative organizations such as the Glen Beck supported 9-12 organizations. It saw the rise of irrational conspiracy movements such as the hysteria surrounding something called Agenda 21. If you liked shady sidewalks or believed the first amendment also applied to Muslims, you were attacked as not a true believer in the conservative cause. Conservatism and the Republican Party, to a large extend, were hijacked by nut-jobs. Not that this faction ever gained dominance but by shear passion and bullying they made their presence known. I do not intend to demean the whole of the tea party movement; I felt a part of it, but there were irrational and extremist elements to the movement.

Following the waning of the tea party movement, we saw the rise of Trumpism. Donald Trump's appeal was not conservatism but populism. Prior to running for office as a Republican, Trump had supported liberal causes and politician. As a candidate he took some very unconservative positions like expanding entitlements, tariff trade wars, and massive spending on infrastructure. Trump was able to take a lot of Republicans and conservatives and turn them into his followers. Some of the people who had been most active tea party people then became the loudest supporters of Donald Trump. Despite Trump not being ideologically conservative, the most passionate of Trump supporters claim to be the real conservatives and anyone else who does not fall in line is a neocon, RINO, or "moderate."  Although I have always been a conservative with a well-founded basis for what I believe, I find myself thinking that if someone is attacked for being a "moderate,"  maybe that means that are someone who does has not joined the cult of Trump. Maybe a "moderate" is someone who is not a fanatic or a nut job. Maybe a "moderate" is what used to be called a conservative back when words had meaning.  Maybe I'm a moderate in today's political spectrum.

So, I am not rejecting Boyd because he is a "moderate" or because he doesn't overpay his taxes or because of a generous contribution he made to Conexion Americas.  The reason I look favorably on Randy Boyd is because he is the candidate that comes closest, I think to offering a Haslsm third term. I have been very pleased with the progress Bill Haslam has bought to Tennessee.  He reduced the number of state employees while bringing massive improvements to Tennessee especially in the fields of education and economic development. Randy Boyd had a major role in developing Haslam's education initiatives and served as Haslam's Commissioner of Community and Economic Development. I am inclined to want to have continuity and keep heading in the direction we are headed.

I have not been inclined to support Lee primarily because, I do not think we need someone as governor who has never had any government experience. There are times when government spending is out of control and when corruption is rampant, that I think we need an outsider to shake things up, but I don't see this as one of those times. The state of Tennessee is heading in the right direction. We do not need a shake-up. However, if Lee became the nominee I would enthusiastically support him. He strikes me a as a capable man and a very good person. He has a real heart for helping people. I am very impressed by his advocacy for criminal justice reform.

I commend Beth Harwell for not engaging in negative campaigning. She has not been attacked by her opponents and has not attacked them. Her campaign seems not to have gained traction however, and that is probably why very little of the negative attack ads have been directed her direction. I trust the polls enough to believe she cannot win, but I may just vote for her as a protest vote and she is the only one who has not gotten in the gutter and slung mud.

So, at this point I am still undecided. I had narrowed my choice between Black and Boyd. The tone of the campaign however has made me waiver and look favorably toward Harwell.  I may decide between now and August 2nd who I will support or I may simply not vote.  There has been a lot of hand wringing recently about Tennessee's lack of voter participation.  I have never been one to despair over low voter turn out.  I would like to have more people vote but I don't want undecided people to vote just so they can say they did their civic duty and voted.  I would rather have one hundred people who have carefully studied the issues vote than a thousand people who just go and pull a lever. In fact if one does not carefully study the issues and have a reason for casting the ballot they way they do, I would just as soon they not vote.

Not voting is not irresponsible or a shirking of civic duty. Not voting can be an indication that people are relatively content with the decisions informed people are making on their behalf. Or, not voting can be a vote of confidence that whichever candidate wins they will do a good job. Or, not voting can be a statement that all the candidates are flawed and you are just not going to give any of them your stamp of approval.  I will be voting in the General election and I will be voting for the Republican nominee for governor but as of today, I am undecided for whom I will vote in the Republican primary or if I will vote at all.

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