Debates

Where do Republican candidates stand on key issues?

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (NEXSTAR) - Tennessee voters will head to the polls this November to vote on the state's next governor. 

On Wednesday night, four top Republican candidates - Randy Boyd, Diane Black, Beth Harwell and Bill Lee, will participate the second hour-long debate in the Tennessee Governor Debate Series. 

The candidates will share a stage at Pope John Paul II High School in Hendersonville with a live audience

You can watch the debate on News 2 or wkrn.com at 7 p.m. Central on Wednesday, June 20.

One more debate is scheduled later this summer in Knoxville. 

Here's a look at where the candidates stand on some key issues. 



Diane Black

Education and College Tuition: Black has said a good education should prepare a student for a career and that education doesn't’t have to come from a four-year university. She has emphasized Tennessee students can succeed without a traditional four-year college degree, and that it’s important to make student aware of that opportunity as early as possible.

Black believes incorporating aptitude testing in middle school years to help students thing about career paths and give them the option to get a license to practice a trade – that way they can begin a career as soon as they graduate from high school.  

Tuition increases at Tennessee universities are among the highest in the nation. 

Black believes it’s time for a tuition freeze to make sure rising costs don’t “devalue” the Hope
Scholarship and make college out of reach for some Tennesseans. 

Medical marijuana: Representative Black for now maintains she would veto any medical cannabis bill as governor.

Opioids: With Tennessee facing its biggest drug crisis in history, Rep. Black has said she wants to increase punishment for drug dealers. She said she also wants to support “more avenues “for treatment, so “we can begin healing addicts from the inside out.” 

Immigration: Black has said the state of Tennessee will not tolerate Sanctuary Cities. She said with the help from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the state of Tennessee will not tolerate criminal illegal immigrants, either.

Pro-Life: "I fought to pass Tennessee's most important pro-life law ever," Black said. 
Black has said the rights of the unborn “must always be protected” and that Tennessee should be the national leader in preventing abortion.  

Second Amendment: Black is a lifetime member of the NRA. She said she will continue to fight our fundamental right to keep and bear arms. 

Taxes:  "I fought to stop the state income tax,” Black said.

Healthcare: Black has said the rural counties of Tennessee do not have enough doctors. She wants to institute “Fast Track” MD programs at medical schools. Middle Tennessee State University and Meharry Medical College are beginning a 3+3 program for students to get a bachelor and medical degree in six years. She also wants to help with tuition for those who begin their careers in a rural county. 

Arming teachers: When asked about arming teachers, Rep. Black has said, [it] is worth looking at.” 

Welfare: Black has called Tennesseans “compassionate people,” but she thinks the welfare policy should be designed around getting people back to work and eliminating fraud, waste and abuse. 

Adoption: “We’ve got to make it easier for family members to get custody of children in dangerous situations. I’ll push legislation that fast-tracks the adoption process for family members.” 

Support from Trump Administration: The Black campaign received a letter of praise from Pence - and a $4,000 check from his political action committee. The vice president in the letter cited the congresswoman from Gallatin for her "strong stand with our administration." Pence wrote that he and President Donald Trump "stand with those who stand with us."

Running for governor: "It does not matter to me whether it's a male or a female. I just think we just need a good strong governor who is fighting for conservative principals,” she said. 
Rep. Black has also said, “It's simple. Fight for what's right. Most people in politics say the right thing, but they never fight for the right thing. They're too meek or maybe even too weak. I'm Diane Black and I don't back down."

Read more about Diane Black. 



Randy Boyd

Education: Randy Boyd was previously a top advisor to Gov. Bill Haslam as he rolled out his free community college program called “Tennessee Promise” and his “Drive to 55” initiative to boost the percentage of Tennesseans with higher education, degrees or certificates. 

"Right now, we are 39 percent [of people with a post-secondary degree]. We want to have 55 percent of our population with some sort of post-secondary degree by the year 2025," Boyd previously said. "If we achieve that, we will make $9 billion more a year."

Medical marijuana: Randy Boyd has been non-committal about the use of medical marijuana. He has said he wants testing and input from law enforcement and the medical community before making a decision. 

Immigration: Boyd said he believes Sanctuary Cities are illegal, and as governor, he will follow the law and say “No” to Sanctuary Cities in Tennessee. 

Pro-life and abortion: Boyd is firmly pro-life and pro-adoption. He said he will defend life at every opportunity. His wife, Jenny, was adopted when she was just two weeks old.

TennCare work requirements: Boyd said it must make economic sense for the state. 

Second Amendment: As a gun-owner and lifetime member of the NRA, Boyd strong supports the Second Amendment and the constitutional right of all law-abiding Tennesseans to defend life, liberty and the property against anyone who threatens our safety and security. 

Healthcare:  Boyd wants to center the healthcare conversation back to the most important, but often missing piece – the patient. He believes that fundamentally focusing on the heart of the issue – the individual – can create a patient–centered set of reforms that are what’s best for Tennesseans.
He also is calling for the federal government to provide the appropriate resources to Tennessee so that we can design and build the best practice health care system in the country.

Economics: "I think it’s important that the next governor knows something about being an entrepreneur, being innovative, making a payroll and running an organization," Boyd has previously said. 

Finances and personal income: If elected, the Republican said he intends to continue releasing his 1040 income tax summary pages and intends to forgo the governor's salary.

The family of the Tennessee Smokies’ owner, Boyd donated $5 million to Zoo Knoxville. It’s the largest private gift ever received in zoo history. 

"Jenny and our family have always loved the zoo, so it's personal," Boyd said. "The economic impact on the region is more than $34 million annually, but what children learn when visiting the zoo about care and love for animals is priceless." 

Fundraising: Boyd leads the candidates with $4.3 million raised in the first round of campaign finance reports, including $2 million from his own pocket. 

Business and jobs: "I have managed to create a company that has 700 employees from scratch, so I know what it means to bet everything you own to start a business and to create jobs." 

Tennessee: "We are going to talk about our central message, which is making Tennessee the state of opportunity - opportunity for education, opportunity for better jobs [and] opportunity for everyone."

Health and fitness: Boyd has said he will run more than 537 miles across the state in about 100 days so he can meet voters. He said the run will help him meet as many Tennesseans as possible while promoting a healthy lifestyle for the state. 

“The thing we need to spend more time talking about is how we can have a healthier population,” he said. “We can’t afford the health that we have.”

Read more about Randy Boyd. 



Bill Lee

Education: Bill Lee has said bringing more vocational, technical and agricultural education into schools and equipping students with real job skills when they graduate is his top priority for education. 

Medical marijuana: "I think there is a lot more to be looked at with regard to the low THC CBD oils and explore that further before we go to higher level THC level marijuana."   

Lee said he would veto such a bill "until I knew more about an expanded use of non THC marijuana."

Opioids: Lee has called Gov. Bill Haslam’s plan a “great first step” in Tennessee opioid crisis. Lee has said the issue is a mental health issue that the state can’t solve.

"But I believe the private sector, community based organizations and faith based organizations can play an integral part in this."

He has also said as governor, he will invest in “sustainable, community-based options that give non-violent addicts a path back to society. We also must address the taxpayer-subsidized access to opioids which makes solving the opioid challenge harder than it should be.” 

Immigration: Lee said his first priority as governor will be to keep Tennessee citizens safe. 
“Border security, improved vetting, and intelligent immigration policies are common-sense solutions that our state should support.”

He has also said he opposes Sanctuary City policies that make “Tennesseans unsafe and made it harder for law enforcement to do their job.” 

Healthcare: According to his website, Lee said he believes Tennessee needs to return to basic market principles, focusing more on improving and expanding the supply of healthcare in our state, rather than simply spending more money on new programs.

TennCare: Republican businessman Lee said TennCare should also incentivize patients to help lower costs.

Second Amendment: Lee said he is a gun-owner and a lifetime NRA member. He said he will defend the Second Amendment from those who are hostile to our constitution. 

Pro-life: Lee has said he believes life begins at conception and that every life is precious. 

Taxes: “The government shouldn’t be in the business of picking winners and losers. That’s why I believe we should place equal emphasis on recruiting new businesses as we do on growing Tennessee businesses of all sizes. That requires reducing the tax and regulatory burden for everyone. We must first acknowledge that we have one of the most burdensome business tax policies in the region. With a franchise-and-excise tax rate of 6.5%, we make it too easy for neighboring states to poach away employers,” Lee said on his website.  

Preventing school shootings: "We start by pulling together experts around mental health and begin to say, 'How is it that we can change a culture, begin to change a culture?'... not look so much at the shootings themselves, but what is behind them," Lee said.

Running for governor: “I just think Tennessee could be better,” Lee said. "Until everyone is kind of reaping the benefits of who we are as a state and feel like we're in a good spot, then we have to keep after it."

Read more about Bill Lee. 

Beth Harwell

Election: As the first woman to be House Speaker in Tennessee, Beth Harwell hopes to become the first speaker in more than three decades to win election as governor. 

Medical Marijuana:  Speaker Harwell cast the tie-breaker vote to move the Medical Cannabis Only Act out of the House Criminal Justice subcommittee. 
Harwell is open to medical marijuana in Tennessee. And she believes it may help tackle the opioid crisis. Her sister, who lives in Colorado, used marijuana in place of opioid painkillers when she broke her back.  
Harwell opposes the legalization of recreational marijuana. 

Opioid crisis: Harwell calls opioids a “true crisis in our state.”  She sent a letter to Attorney General Herbert Slatery asking him to consider suing the big pharmaceutical companies that make opioids, saying, “To some extent drug manufacturers have misled how addictive these prescriptions are. 
She also believes there should be tougher sentencing for dealers, especially those who lace their products with fentanyl and other dangerous drugs. She wants greater restrictions on prescriptions, and more rehab over prison. 

Second Amendment gun rights: Speaker Harwell comes from a family of hunters. She has had a carry permit for more than 8 years. She says, “I know the importance and the value of our Second Amendment rights. No one will infringe on those rights while I am governor.” 

Taxes: Harwell says she follows Ronald Reagan’s conservative view that “The best social program is a good paying job.” She believes cutting taxes and regulations will grow jobs in Tennessee. 

Investigating sexual misconduct in the legislature: The Speaker pushed for an Ethics Committee rule change to allow the House Ethics Committee to hear sexual harassment complaints while protecting the confidentiality of complainants. 

Education: Harwell claims she has always made education a priority. She supported the movement to end Common Core, supports charter schools, and led the fight to invest more in education without a tax increase, according to her website. She says Tennessee is one of the fastest improving states in education.  

Illegal immigration: Harwell supports a ban on sanctuary cities in Tennessee and efforts to stop illegal immigration.  She vows that Tennessee “won’t become a magnet for illegal immigrants” if she becomes governor.

Right to Life: Tennessee Right to Life has given Harwell a 100% score for the last 10 years.

TennCare: Harwell sponsored the work requirement bill for some of the state’s nearly 1.5 million Tennesseans on TennCare. 

Juvenile crime: Speaker Harwell co-chairs a task force on the state’s juvenile justice system. The group includes lawmakers, prosecutors, child advocates and law enforcement officers who deal with juveniles.
"Some of our laws are antiquated, we certainly need to look more at rehabilitating and turning young lives around so we are going to look at what the latest research shows," said Harwell. 
She is also advocating for changes to lighten the burden on Tennessee’s juvenile justice system. 

Federal overreach: Harwell says she has fought mandates from the Federal government because “Washington doesn’t know what is best for Tennessee. Challenges facing our state are best addressed on the state level, as the Founders envisioned.”

Read more about Beth Harwell
 


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