State Sen. Eric Stewart of Belvidere told Bedford County Democratic Party on Thursday that the party stands for "a hand up, not a hand out," but said Democrats make a priority of caring for "the least of these," as commanded in Matthew 25.
Democratic candidates for the Sixth District U.S. House of Representatives seat and the 62nd District state House seat also addressed the banquet.
Most observers have noted the increasing power of Republicans in the Volunteer State, where the GOP now controls both houses of the state legislature for the first time since Reconstruction. But candidates speaking Thursday night believe they can buck the trend and stressed the importance of party unity once primary elections in August determine the nominees.
The next General Assembly will have responsibility for re-drawing legislative district lines using the population figures from this year's Census.
"If we do our jobs," said Stewart, "the lines will take care of themselves."
"We've let the Republican Party steal Christianity from us," said Barry, who called Democrats the party of compassion and of helping children, the sick and the poor.
"If those aren't the core Christian values," he said, "then I'm reading the New Testament wrong."
Barry is a self-described "small-town country lawyer," who has practiced in Lebanon for 31 years.
He stressed the need for party unity leading up to the general election.
"I think we're going to stand up there and turn the tide this fall," said Barry.
"Americans are tired of the same thing we see coming out of Washington," said Carter. "They're tired of career politicians .... I'm not from Washington."
Carter is also an attorney and is a veteran of the war in Iraq. He served in the 278th Armored Cavalry, the state's largest National Guard unit and the one which now includes Shelbyville's guard troops serving in Iraq.
He said he understands how to balance a budget, through his own law practice and the individuals and small businesses which are his clients.
"If we can get organized, I have the skills to win this race," said Carter.
"It's not about party -- it's not about whether you're Republican or Democrat. It's about making decisions for what's right for the country."
Leming will make a 19-hour tour of the district beginning at midnight tonight, and plans to be at the Huddle House in Shelbyville at about 1 a.m.
Lee said that her son, who attended and later taught at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., "understands the importance of education." Leming also served in Iraq after the Sept. 11 attacks and worked in military intelligence.
Local Democratic party chair Connie Crafton, who emceed Thursday's banquet, read a letter from candidate Dee Butler, who was unable to attend due to having had oral surgery earlier in the day. Butler noted her work as a teacher and the fact that she has published a book on the history of African-Americans in Rutherford County. Butler said she stands for "integrity, hard work and a love and respect for the land." She said she supports environmentally-responsible job growth and creation and the idea of "reduce, re-use and recycle."
George Erdel, another Sixth District candidate, was unable to attend due to attending a Tea Party event in Gallatin.
But Hunt said she also stands for financial responsibility and accountability.
"We cannot spend what we do not have," she said, asking how the federal government plans to pay for the new health care plan.
She said that working with the state grant process and seeing some grants awarded even though the projects were outside the published guidelines was part of what made her want to get involved with state government.
Hunt said employment is the major issue facing the 62nd District today, noting the loss of jobs at Summit Polymers and Sanford Corp. last year.
"It's all about jobs, jobs and jobs," said Hunt.
She said she supports the use of renewable energy.
"Our economy is in trouble," said Winton. "We've come to this plateau where we've got to start building back."
Winton said he lives by the acronym HOPE: Help Other People Excel.
"If we can just help that one person, like Eric talked about, that will make us a stronger district," said Winton.
He said his involvement in coaching youth sports taught him the importance of heart and desire in building success.
"I've ... committed my heart to this campaign," he said.
Winton also repeated the idea of uniting behind the nominee and promised that if Hunt wins the nomination, he will join her on election night and the two of them will become "one candidate" in November.
Candidates for countywide offices, who will run in Tuesday's Democratic primary, were introduced but did not speak.