Governor hopefuls woo voters

Sunday, September 3, 2017
Former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean spoke to supporters Friday night in Shelbyville. From left are U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper; Shelbyville city council member and Dean supporter Henry Feldhaus; Dean; and former Nashville Banner publisher Irby Simpkins, who now lives in Bedford County. (T-G Photo by John I. Carney)

Four gubernatorial candidates brought their campaigns to Shelbyville this weekend, making appearances at the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration.

Former Nashville mayor Karl Dean, a Democrat, also met with supporters at the Microtel Inn & Suites Friday before moving to the Celebration grounds.

Also at the Celebration on Friday was businessman and former Tennessee Commissioner of Economic and Community Development Randy Boyd, a Republican gubernatorial candidate. Both Dean and Boyd were recognized from center ring.

U.S. Rep. Diane Black and Mae Beavers, who resigned her state Senate seat last month, were scheduled to attend the show on Saturday night. Both are Republicans.


Boyd played a key part in development of the “Drive To 55” and “Tennessee Promise” programs to increase high school graduation rates and to give students the chance to pursue community college or vocational education after high school.

Boyd is the founder of Radio Systems Corporation, a manufacturer of pet products such as invisible fencing and training collars.


Black, a registered nurse, was a state legislator before being elected to the U.S. Congress in 2010. She is the first female chairman of the House Budget Committee.


Beavers, a former paralegal, announced her resignation from the General Assembly last month so that she could focus more attention on her gubernatorial campaign. It took effect Friday. Her campaign website notes her work on taxation and substance abuse issues, such as DUI laws and laws against methamphetamine producers. At the time she resigned from the Senate, she was first vice-chair of the Transportation Committee and chair of the Joint Government Operation Committee’s Judiciary and Government Subcommittee.

Dean was accompanied to the Microtel event by U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, a fellow Democrat who now represents Nashville in the House but who once lived in and represented Shelbyville, his home town.

“I know first-hand he is a great human being,” said Cooper. “He will be a great governor.”

Prior to becoming mayor, Dean was Nashville’s public defender, and he said dealing with his clients convinced him of the importance of education. He said that during his terms as mayor, Nashville’s school system rose from 33rd in the state to 3rd. He said he’s concerned about teacher pay. He wants to make sure Tennesseans have access to college and, if they choose not to go to college, to technical training or apprenticeship programs.


Dean noted that Nashville’s city elections are non-partisan and said he’s had experience dealing with people from a variety of political perspectives.

On the issue of health care, Dean said it was a mistake for Tennessee to refuse Medicaid expansion. He said it has cost the state more than $3.5 billion and has resulted in Tennessee being second to only Texas in the number of hospitals closed. He said the hospitals affected are mainly rural hospitals.

“The money’s just not there to make these hospitals work,” said Dean. And a community which loses its hospital, he said, will find it harder to recruit business and industry.


Dean is joined in the Democratic race for governor by state House minority leader Craig Fitzhugh.

On the Republican side are Boyd, Black, Beavers, State House Speaker Beth Harwell, and businessman Bill Lee, who brought his campaign to Shelbyville earlier in the week but did not attend the Celebration. Incumbent Gov. Bill Haslam, a Republican, is in his second term and cannot run for re-election.