Decision 2018

What is most important? Opponent’s less effective stances?

State House, District 89 candidates: Democrat Coleen Martinez

Your two most important issues, and any strong differences with your opponent on the same issues?

As residents and voters in Tennessee we have many reasons to support an expansion of Medicaid.

The first reason is that right now Tennessee taxpayers are paying $2.6 million dollars a day for health care. We have lost over $4 billion dollars for health care that has not been spent in our state but spent in other states that expanded Medicaid.

Second, Tennessee leads the nation in rural hospital closures with eight closures and more on the line to close. When the majority of our state is considered rural, hospital closures are a big deal for most of our residents.

Third, the only way to combat the opioid epidemic is to expand Medicaid. Suboxone costs $500 a month.

Hospitals are overrun with treating infections from people with addictions. Treatment, care and recovery are not free; people with addictions need health insurance so they can heal.

Finally, 75 percent of Tennessee residents want our state to expand Medicaid so that 300,000 hard-working Tennesseans in low-income jobs can have access to affordable health care.

My opponent is part of the minority of Tennesseans who do not want hard-working people to have access to affordable health care.

As residents and voters in Tennessee we also have many reasons to support our public schools. Children are our future and we must prepare them for future careers in the 21st Century workplace.

A majority of jobs open now and in the near future for our students will be in the STEM field. But are we doing enough for our students when one laptop cart has to be shared between eight classrooms? Many of you know a child who attends a public school or know someone employed by Knox County Schools.

My two children attend KCS schools. I have volunteered in our schools and have worked as a substitute teacher in KCS. Many of you may not be aware that our state is actually not fully-funding our schools. They are underfunded by $500 to $900 million dollars.

This means that teachers have gone without pay raises and are working second jobs, school boards have considered cutting vital programs like Project GRAD, Magnet Programs and Gifted & Talented school budgets and resources have been depleted. We cannot accept a debate about Charter schools and private school vouchers when we have not fully funded our public education system and fully realized the potential of public schools.

I believe that access to affordable health care is a right, not a privilege. Your job or your stature in life shouldn’t determine the type of health care you receive. I believe that every child in Tennessee deserves a Free, Fair and Appropriate public education because education is a right, not a privilege.

Your family’s wealth should not determine the education you receive. I am fighting for basic rights for everyday families like mine and like yours.

State House, District 89 candidates: Republican Justin Lafferty

Your two most important issues, and any strong differences with your opponent on the same issues?

The two things that I am most passionate about are the preservation of our Republic and keeping government financially responsible to its citizens.

For decades our federal government has allowed spending and our debt to get out of control. The history of the world demonstrates, repeatedly, that great nations fail because they go broke. Tennessee has done well to stay responsible to her citizens. We must keep it that way.

In our current economic environment, the money is pouring into Nashville. It is easy to show restraint when times are tough.

The difficult task is when times are good. Good times give politicians the false sense that new government programs or the growth of existing programs are a good idea. They fail to consider the day the pendulum swings back the other way.

Our Republic was established to maximize personal liberty and limit government interference into our lives. That interference is most noticeable in the form of taxes. You work hard for what you have.

It is infuriating to watch the government build billion dollar bridges to nowhere, purchase twelve-hundred dollar hammers or, closer to home, spend millions on student testing only to have the results discarded. That last example only referred to the tax dollars wasted and not the mental anguish placed on our students and teachers, but I digress.

We do not have to reinvent the wheel. The blueprint is there in our constitution. By following its basic principals of limited government, Tennessee can continue to be a leader in new business and job creation. It is also no coincidence that we are one of the least taxed states in the union.

There is another view that has grown in popularity the last few decades. That is the idea that government does not need to be restrained by a centuries-old document that laid the foundation for all the freedom and prosperity we so easily take for granted today. That view is being tested and the results are not good.

You don’t have to look as far as Venezuela to see what unrestrained government can do to its citizens. Bankruptcy filings in Stockton, California; Detroit and Jefferson County, Alabama had devastating effects on their citizens. Today, people are fleeing California, Illinois and numerous other high tax and spend states to come here.

It is imperative we continue to hold our government in check and limit its appetite for your dollars. This idea is not new and it must be defended to secure our future prosperity.

State Senate, District 7 candidates: Democrat Jamie Ballinger

Your two most important issues, and any strong differences with your opponent on the same issues?

I was born in Knoxville and raised by hard-working parents. They taught me “work hard and you can have a better life.” My dad was an electrician, and my mom worked at Kmart.

Thanks to public schools, I became the first in my family to graduate college. I earned my undergraduate degree and my law degree at UT. I practice healthcare and employment law at Baker Donelson, and I have been an attorney for 10 years. I am also an adjunct professor at the UT College of Law, a Fellow in the Knoxville Bar Association, and I serve on the Board of the Great Smoky Mountain Association.

Public education changed my life. As a graduate of public schools and the wife of an educator, I know that good public schools are the best chance for the most people to better themselves.

In Tennessee, we are not investing enough in our public schools. My opponent voted for a school voucher proposal that would have taken over $70 million of our taxpayer dollars out of our public schools.

In the state Senate, I will work to make sure Knox County Schools get their fair share of funding, and to ensure that we pay our teachers what they have earned.

I will also invest in career and technical courses, so that we produce more graduates in the skilled trades who can get a good paying job.

Good paying jobs are the building blocks of strong communities. It is crucial to invest in the private sector, but it is also crucial to invest in our people. We can and should do both.

It is great to see low unemployment in Tennessee, but my opponent over-emphasizes this statistic. A closer look reveals that many of these jobs are minimum wage and temporary jobs with no benefits or financial stability. Tennessee has the second-highest percentage of minimum wage workers of any state in the country.

You cannot support a family at the minimum wage, and we often end up footing the bill when workers and their families rely on public assistance programs.

Unlike my opponent, I will ensure that when we give tax breaks to businesses to come to our state, these companies provide good paying jobs with benefits. Having a strong middle class is good for our state’s economy. Many want the minimum wage to be raised, but I would have a fiscal study completed before moving forward on this issue.

I am running for state Senate to bring balance and dialogue back to our state government, as well as a new perspective.

As an attorney, I have the skills and the experience to navigate complex problems, find common ground and produce results.

I will work with anyone — Republican, Democrat or Independent — who wants to make life better for our people.

Campaign manager Feroza Freeland:

Ballinger’s website:

State Senate, District 7 candidates: GOP incumbent Dr. Richard Briggs

Your two most important issues, and any strong differences with your opponent on the same issues?

The most important determinant for happiness in an individual’s life is a well-paying job with benefits.

A “good” job provides a middle class lifestyle with shelter for our family, a safe neighborhood, the security and peace of mind of health insurance and a retirement plan for our senior years.

Government cannot guarantee or provide for these, but government can create an environment to encourage business development for the good jobs and the training for individuals to fill the good jobs.

In Tennessee, I have worked hard to create a business-friendly environment to bring the good jobs to our state. We have eliminated job-killing regulations, reduced business taxes and partnered with businesses for workforce development.

We passed the Tennessee Promise to allow our high school graduates the opportunity for two free years of community college or technical training to fill the well-paying jobs.

Tennessee Reconnect encourages Tennesseans with some college to return to finish their college degrees. We’ve expanded the Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology to meet industry’s demand in technical fields.

In summary, government can create a business-friendly environment and provide training programs for individuals where success and achievement is limited only by ambition and ability.

The best industries in Tennessee came here and continue to expand because of our right to work laws and pro-business environment. Let’s not bring to Tennessee a job-killing, failed model from elsewhere.

As a physician, I recognize Tennessee has serious health care issues. We are near the bottom of all states in general health. Our worker absenteeism due to physical illness is too high and we are reeling from the opioid epidemic. As the state senate leader on health issues, my legislation established a state-wide network for life-saving referrals for stroke and heart attack victims. I sponsored a series of bills that closed over 50 percent of the pill mills in Tennessee.

We cannot solve the opiate crisis without an affordable plan for rehabilitation. My proposal for access to health care will bring over $1 billion per year to the state with no cost to the Tennessee taxpayer. The specifics include affordable premiums and co-pays, penalties for non-compliance, elimination of federal mandates and establishing work requirements for beneficiaries.

I have traveled to Washington and believe the present administration will allow Tennessee to be the first state to implement these proposals.

My opponent does not have my experience of 40 years in the practice of medicine or a background in health-care policy to address these complex issues.