|Senate candidates share their views
|Posted: Friday, July 20, 2012 2:18 pm
|After nearly 20 years of service in the State Senate, Sen. Roy Herron of Dresden announced his retirement earlier this year, which left an empty seat for the 24th state Senate district.
Three candidates are currently fighting to win Herron’s seat for the opportunity to serve six counties that span from Obion to Benton County.
On Aug. 2, one of the candidates from the Republican Party primary will be weeded out, and the voters in the 24th district will know which two candidates will be on the ballot in November. Republican candidates Danny Jowers of Kenton and John Stevens of Huntingdon will face off in the primary.
The biggest concern many voters have is whether that seat will remain blue or turn red. On Nov. 6, the voters will make the final decision between the winner of the Republican primary and the Democratic candidate, Brad Thompson of Martin.
Jowers currently serves as the director of Obion County Emergency Management Agency, and is also an Obion County Commissioner. Jowers is the Budget Chairman for the Obion County Commission, and UT Martin graduate.
Stevens currently serves as an attorney in private practice in Huntingdon and as a United Way volunteer. Stevens also coaches youth basketball and soccer, and he was appointed by Gov. Bill Haslam to the Delta Leadership Institute Executive Academy.
Thompson, the lone Democratic candidate, currently serves as the director of Community Development for the City of Martin and as a member of the Drug Court Steering Committee for the 27th Judicial District. Thompson has been a leader of the United Way of Obion County and Chimes for Charity Drive, and he earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Agricultural Business from UT Martin. Thompson also served with retired U.S. Rep. John Tanner as a field representative for nearly 15 years.
The Press spoke with the three candidates to get their views on the following issues:
Q: With the recent drought negatively affecting crops, is there anything you have planned to be able to help the local farmers?
A: Jowers – Usually with disaster relief, it comes from the federal level. State legislature doesn’t have the funds set aside. They would get help from mostly crop insurance or federal disaster relief.
A: Stevens – I will certainly help support the ag help through federal assistance. I’d reach out to see if state programs are available and possibly pressure the governor to get the counties designated as disaster areas. I’d work with the city, county and state leaders, as well as work with Congressman Fincher’s office.
A: Thompson – Farmers take out crop insurance. I come from a farming family, and I’m thankful for the recent rainfall. Insurance helps cover the losses. I would encourage the governor to request a disaster declaration from FEMA and TEMA. A state senator can also help families get totals up for state and federal government. I’m definitely a strong voice for farmers. I worked in Tanner’s office on that in the past, so I understand the process and I’m experienced to handle it.
Q: There has been a lot of discussion on opening slaughter houses for horses in the state. What is your stance?
A: Jowers – That comes from the federal level, but I’m in favor of that. A lot of people are turning their animals loose, and it’s beginning to be a problem.
A: Stevens – I’m glad you asked. I have a friend in town who is a vet who said they (slaughter houses) are very humane. Lots of people in West Tennessee can’t afford to keep their horses, so they could put them down in a humane fashion. There’s also a great amount of demand internationally for it.
A: Thompson – I followed it through the last legislature. We can’t let horses starve, and people do let horses starve. I don’t know a lot about this issue. I can see both sides of it. It’s a touchy issue and I’d like to study up on it. I’m going to make sure I read all of the bills, find out who a bill is affecting, how it is affecting them, and talk with the people back home on the issue.
Q: Do you agree with labor unions, that we need to be anti-free trade?
A: Jowers – Yes, but on both ends. We need to be able to export freely just like we import freely.
A: Stevens – On public labor unions, I do not believe that the system treats taxpayers fairly. With unions, in government, there is no taxpayer representation. On the public side, collective bargaining has been around for years and ends up hurting the worker. Even with Goodyear, businesses can’t adjust with long term contracts to adjust with economic circumstance. It’s certainly part of free economy.
A: Thompson – We need to keep business here. Everybody deserves a seat at the table with these issues. I think we’ve had a significant job loss of right at 14,000 in the 24th state Senate district over the past 10 years. We’ve got to stop that bleeding and retain existing jobs. I’m an advocate for this. I will introduce legislation to allow Tennessee contracts to go to Tennessee businesses first. I believe in fair trade.
Q: Many small businesses in this area are struggling. As State Senator, what would you do to try and help?
A: Jowers – Worker’s comp reform and court reform. We need to get unemployment insurance where workers aren’t forced to pay unemployment when a worker is fired for theft, and the employer has to defend himself in court. That’s crazy.
A: Stevens – Lower taxes when possible, reduce government regulations, and red tape. If you reduce the cost of business, they can reduce prices, raise wages, and reinvest in the business. It frees up the dollars for the business owner’s interest and not sent off to Nashville for politicians to redistribute.
A: Thompson – That’s exactly what my job is. I’m the director of Community Development for Martin. I have past experience working with community development, industry development, and I’ve worked on lots of projects throughout the district. I understand the problems that small businesses are having, and we need to make sure they have good local support. All needs are individual. The new interstate system is broadband. If a small business gets tied in, it’s more globally competitive. One problem is that most folks don’t have access, and they need to make sure they have it if it is in their niche market.
Q: Do you think that lowering the minimum wage or increasing minimum wage could help out small businesses?
A: Jowers – I’m not for lowering minimum wage at all. The employers should have a say.
A: Stevens – It’s an area that I think helps out younger workers. Minimum wage keeps a lot of younger workers out of the work force. Unemployment of high school and college graduates are higher than the overall unemployment rate. So, it’s intended to help, but actually hurts them because they don’t have a job.
A: Thompson – With families today working on minimum wage, it’s tough. I don’t think with lowering wages that the advantages outweigh the hurt. An employee working 40-hours per week at $7.25 per hour makes under $300 per week. With a family of four with both parents on minimum wage, it’s impossible with gas and groceries as high as they are. Anyone who thinks it is enough needs to work on minimum wage for one month and see how they can survive.
Q: Unemployment remains at all-time high levels. Should Tennessee require unemployed individuals who are re-certifying benefits to list businesses to which they have applied for a job?
A: Jowers – Yes. You want to be out there looking for a job anyway. As long as we make it easy for people to not find work, they won’t find work.
A: Stevens – I think they already have to, maybe about 25 names a week?
A: Thompson – I don’t have a problem with that. It would affect places in rural areas because there are not a lot of places to apply for jobs. The accountability factor makes sense. However, I can see how it would be difficult for rural residents to meet the requirement weekly. I’d want to read the exact terms of it.
Q: Should Tennessee tie the number of maximum weeks of eligibility for unemployment benefits to the state’s unemployment rate?
A: Jowers – Yes. Deptartment of Labor has two sets of numbers. If they aren’t looking, I don’t understand why they are drawing unemployment benefits.
A: Stevens – I haven’t thought about that. That sounds like it would work.
A: Thompson – If you look at the state unemployment now, and then look at Obion, Carroll, Weakley, and the other counties, they have the highest unemployment in the state. The latest figure for the state unemployment is 7.9 percent. Obion County is ranked No. 2 at 13.2 percent and Weakley County is No. 7 at 11.4 percent. The rest of the counties in the district are in the double digits. It’s alarming.
Q: Should Tennessee reduce unemployment benefits gradually in order to ensure all unemployed individuals are actively seeking work?
A: Jowers – Yes, absolutely.
A: Stevens – Tennessee recently ranked in May in Chief Executive magazine, which can be found at chiefexecutive.net, as the No. 4 best place to do business. What holds Tennessee back is the unemployment system. Texas, Florida and North Carolina are ahead. I’m open to reforming it but I have no specific proposals.
A: Thompson – No, I don’t think you should reduce it when people are actively trying to work and people are trying to regain full employment. You shouldn’t penalize people because they’ve lost a job at no fault of their own and they are trying to better themselves.
With the redistricting in the election, the 24th state senate district saw a few changes. While the district lost Decatur, Henderson, Lake, Perry, and Stewart counties, it gained Carroll and Gibson counties.
Early voting has already started and will last through July 28. During the early voting period, Weakley County residents can vote at the county Election Commission office in Dresdeb from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 8:30 a.m. to noon on Saturday.
Voters must have a government-issued photo ID to cast a ballot. College IDs will not be accepted.
For more information on the three candidates, voters can “like” them on Facebook at Danny Jowers for State Senate, John Stevens for Tennessee Senate 2012, and Brad Thompson for State Senate. Jowers has a website at www.JowersforSenate.com and Thompson has a website at www.VoteThompson2012.com.
For questions about the general election process, visit the Weakley County Election Commission site at www.weakleycountytn.gov/electioncommission or call 364-5564.
Editor’s note: This is Part 1 of a two-part series of a “question and answer” highlights with the three local Senate candidates. To see where each candidate stands regarding Education, Legislation and Job Growth, see Tuesday’s edition of The Weakley County Press. Published in The WCP 7.19.12
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