By Steve Hunley

Republican Bill Lee will face off with Democrat Karl Dean to serve as Tennessee’s next governor in the November general election.  Lee and Dean are both leaders with very different backgrounds.  Lee has never run for political office before and was the upset winner of the Republican primary, beating Congresswoman Diane Black, businessman Randy Boyd, and Beth Harwell, Speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives.  Boyd had tried to position himself as the non-political outsider with business experience.  Boyd’s strategy just didn’t seem to ring true.  Bill Lee seemed more authentic, especially as to being a genuine conservative in the age of Trump.

Karl Dean was the law director for the metro government in Davidson County before winning the first of two terms as Nashville’s mayor.  Dean is clearly the candidate of experience, if being in politics for years is the primary qualification.  By contrast, Bill Lee is a successful businessman, meeting payrolls and he campaigned with a zest that appealed to Tennessee Republicans.

The Lee campaign just released its first commercial for the general election cycle and it reinforces Lee’s theme from the primary campaign.  Lee, appearing in shirtsleeves, says, “I’ve never run for office before.  It’s an interesting experience and you sure learn some things.  Like politics isn’t the solution, it’s generally the problem.  People are the solution.  So, whatever your party or if you’ve just given up on politics altogether I hope to earn your support.  Tennessee is a great state, but you and I, we can make it even better.”

While Bill Lee continues with the theme that worked so well for him in the GOP primary, Karl Dean is talking about counties being able to have the option to add a local surcharge to the gasoline tax collected by the State of Tennessee.  Dean reasons with tourism being such a big industry in Tennessee, out-of-staters would help fill up the tax coffers, which will allow counties to fund such things as infrastructure, fix roads and pay for transportation programs.  “Unlike my opponent, I believe in passing the IMPROVE Act was the right move for Tennessee,” Dean said.  “But we can’t rest; we can’t sit still.  As governor, I’ll work with legislators to make transportations infrastructure an even better tool to add jobs and increase access to high-quality education and health care.”

Just what giving counties the ability to snatch their own portion of the gasoline tax will do for education and health care is a mystery to me, unless of course Dean is suggesting the local gasoline tax can be diverted to pay for those things locally as well.

Dean’s statement refers to Governor Bill Haslam’s “IMPROVE” Act, which increased the state gasoline tax.  A couple of powerful incumbent Republican state legislators lost their primary elections over the IMPROVE Act.  Just why it was necessary to hike the gas tax when the state has a surplus of $2 billion was never really explained and some attempted to make the laughable claim the IMPROVE Act really lowered people’s tax bills.

So Bill Lee seems to be sailing straight ahead while right out of the gate Karl Dean is proposing to allow local governments to hike taxes even higher.  That will appeal to a lot of politicians and bureaucrats who always like having more money to spend.

Bill Lee succinctly said politics is the problem and people are the solution.  It appears Karl Dean will find that out come November.