Candidates on stage at UTC
photo by Thea Marshall
Democratic primary candidates for governor, JB Smiley Jr. and Dr. Jason Martin, took the stage at UTC on Thursday night with Mr. Smile saying Governor Bill Lee "is the epitome of failed leadership."
Candidates also stressed their views on topics like Roe v. Wade, Hamilton County, gun rights and education.
Smiley said electing someone who upholds women’s rights every step of the way is essential. He also said prosecutors should refrain from prosecuting women and physicians.
“Roe v. Wade was overturned last week and that alone would not have taken away women’s health rights in the state of Tennessee,” said Dr. Martin. “The dubious distinction of taking away these rights belongs to Governor Bill Lee.”
They both agreed women should have the right to their own body. Dr. Martin said women are going to die because of this and said he would use “every ounce of executive authority” he has to stop it from happening.
In regards to Hamilton County’s “issues,” Dr. Martin said spending public dollars on a sports stadium is not a priority. He said that money should have gone towards “taking care of each other first” such as paying teachers what they are worth or making sure residents have access to health care.
Mr. Smiley said something similar.
“Let’s be clear, Governor Bill Lee only cares about two things, big dollars and big business. He’s allowing big businesses to come into our communities and price us out so the doctor is right, why are we spending money on stadiums and not taking care of the people?”
Candidates also agree that marijuana should be legalized partially because it could be a resource for Tennessee. Dr. Martin referred to Colorado as a state that collects tax dollars on regulated marijuana. He said Tennessee is missing out on that revenue stream. Mr. Smiley said those resources could help fund education.
Dr. Martin said public education is there to support communities and that Governor Lee seeks to defund public education with illegal voucher programs. Both also said the governor does not care about teachers.
“This governor has been waging a war on public education,” said Dr. Martin. “I’m talking about politicising school boards, taking away local authority, encouraging edits of libraries and firing teachers for teaching American history as it happened.”
In light of Chattanooga’s recent shootings, gun violence was debated. Mr. Smiley said gun violence is an issue that affects every community and Dr. Martin said violent crime happens in poverty because people do not have options.
July 5 is the registration deadline to vote in the Aug. 5 state and federal primary elections.