Campaigns wind down for state rep hopefuls looking to succeed Pinion

Campaigns wind down for state rep hopefuls looking to succeed Pinion

Posted: Wednesday, August 6, 2008 8:11 pm
By: John Brannon Messenger Staff Reporter

By JOHN BRANNON Messenger Staff Reporter The long and winding road in a local political campaign gets shorter with each passing hour as election day draws near. Thursday is election day. Precincts will open at 8 a.m. Tennesseans, other than those who chose to vote early, go to the polls to participate in a basic tenet of a free republic — voting via secret ballot for a candidate or candidates of their choice. It is a sacred right. Election cycles come and go. Election campaigns elicit public interest ranging from “ho-hum” to “hot dog!” This election cycle, in this neck of the woods, the “hot dog!” campaign is the state representative’s race. A few months ago, it was perceived as just another “ho-hum” event. The incumbent, Democrat Phillip Pinion, would be a formidable opponent. First elected in 1988, he was re-elected each election cycle. During his years in political office, he grew in popularity and stature — not only among voters but also among movers and shakers, so much so that he was appointed chairman of the powerful House Transportation Committee. So, yes, Pinion would be a hard case for any newcomer to challenge. And then came a startling development. Pinion announced he would not be a candidate for re-election. Nature abhors a vacuum. There came a rush of folks, optimists all, to file papers and qualify as candidates. For them loomed the honor of representing Obion, Lake and part of Dyer counties in the Tennessee House of Representatives. Initially, there were six — Democrats Larry Bennett of Cat Corner community, Judy Barker of Union City, county commissioner Jerry Grady of Possom Trot community and Dr. Rosaire Debrule of Tiptonville; and Republicans Bill Sanderson of Kenton and Shelly Arnett of Samburg. Debrule faces federal charges, the outcome of which is unknown. His name remains on the ballot. Then came the campaign. Days became weeks. Weeks became months. Time dwindled down to today, election eve 2008 — primary election, that is. And what of the several candidates? Having fought the good fight — and it was a clean campaign — what are their thoughts as they look back? The Messenger offered each an opportunity to speak their minds and share their thoughts. Each accepted the offer and submitted statements as published below: • Jerry Grady This campaign is Grady’s first run for state office. “I have no regrets. It’s been a good experience. It’s been a hard experience,” he said. “I have been received well. I found people are looking for someone to represent the average people, not the political few or the rich. They want someone to represent the average people.” He figures he’s spent between $7,500 and $10,000 on the campaign. He accepted no campaign donations “except from a few individuals.” “I do not want to be tied to anybody. I want to represent the people. What are the people most concerned with? The economy. But there’s nothing the state legislature can do about the price of gas and diesel and all that stuff. “If you go to Nashville as a freshman legislator, all you’ll be able to do is take care of little problems for folks. You will not be able to change the world, like some have promised. “As I said before, win, lose or draw, I will pull my signs up and go home or go to Nashville, not obligated to one person.” • Judy Barker This campaign is Mrs. Barker’s first race for public office. “It’s been a good experience,” she said. “This campaign has been a challenging yet very rewarding experience for me. I hope the people of the 77th House District will allow me the opportunity to serve them as their state representative. “We have met many wonderful people in Dyer, Lake and Obion counties over the last few months. It is very touching when we are campaigning and people invite us into their homes to talk about the issues important to their families, such as jobs, gas prices, health care and education. “Northwest Tennesseans have a lot of exciting ideas about how we can make our area and our state even better. I hope we’ll get to continue talking with them about the things we can work for together, like creating more jobs, strengthening our local economy, improving our schools and ensuring senior citizens who need medical attention can stay in their homes as long as possible.” • Bill Sanderson This campaign is Sanderson’s first run for public office. “My run for the House of Representatives has been a rewarding and eye-opening experience. I have met so many people and I’ve listened to their concerns. My experience with politicians is that they talk with frequency and ease, have little substance in what they say and lack ways and means to carry out their promises. Some positive aspects of my run are my discovery of conservatism in this district. This crosses race and gender and party lines. “The most negative and discouraging aspect of my run is just how out of control spending has become for candidates. Money has replaced a smile and a friendly handshake. Money has replaced hard work and open forums. It has replaced a political process in which candidates in previous years were chosen on their merit and ideas, but now candidates are chosen on how much money they can stuff in their war chests. “It is all about how much money one can raise and ultimately spend.” • Shelly Arnett “This is my third attempt to be elected state representative of the 77th District. The experience of this campaign has been very enjoyable,” she said. “I have had more opportunities to speak at public forums and venues, which allows the public to make informed choices about the candidate they want representing them. I have enjoyed answering questions directly from the public alongside my opponents. “The ‘playing field’ is level this time around. I have campaigned against an incumbent twice, but this time I felt I was much more prepared for the challenge of campaigning as well as ready to serve the people of the district. I also think voters have been very interested in this election because there are new faces involved. I have met many new folks and renewed relationships with those I met during the last two election cycles. “The campaign road has been positive and receptive. I am excited about the primary results and look forward to the general election in November.” • Larry Bennett This campaign is Bennett’s first run for public office. “Over the last few months, in working the campaign trail, I have learned how important the position of state representative is,” Bennett said. “I had never been in politics prior to this campaign. Now I am very glad I decided to get involved. I have met many people that I may not have had the privilege to meet otherwise. “While meeting so many people, I realize that it’s true that we do have the most kind and caring people anywhere. I have enjoyed getting to know the other candidates and learning their point of view on issues. “These last months have been a great learning experience for me. I have been able to listen to the views of the people who were once strangers to me. Now I call them my friends. “I want to personally take the opportunity to thank everyone and express my appreciation to all for the support they have shown. No matter how the race turns out, the relationships I have made will continue. The voices that I have heard — the voices of the people — will help us work on issues at hand and in the future. “Your vote for me, Larry Bennett, on Thursday in the Democratic primary is greatly appreciated.” Published in The Messenger 8.6.08

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