VOL. 133 | NO. 177 | Thursday, September 6, 2018
GOP Candidate Lee Calls for ‘Accelerated Transformation’ of Shelby County
By Bill Dries
Republican nominee for Tennessee governor Bill Lee opened the post-Labor Day leg of the race in Memphis Wednesday, Sept. 5, with a call for an “accelerated transformation of Shelby County.”
Speaking to a Republican women’s luncheon and then to a crowd at local Republican campaign headquarters in Cordova, Lee touted the economic development plan for Memphis that he introduced last year.
“A year ago, I proposed what we call the commitment to Memphis and Shelby County,” Lee said after his remarks at the Trinity Commons gathering. “It’s really a commitment to have Shelby County play an important role in our effort in economic development, education reform, public safety – recognizing that working with Memphians and those who live in Shelby County to tailor solutions to this community is critically important.”
A day earlier, Democratic rival Karl Dean was in Memphis pushing his own economic development plan that, like Lee’s, calls for more state involvement and economic development measures that recognize the border competition from Mississippi and Arkansas that makes Memphis different than other parts of the state.
Attorney Lang Wiseman, Lee’s Shelby County campaign chairman, referred to Dean as “copycat Karl” as he touted Lee’s plan. Lee made no reference to Dean either by name or indirectly.
“We certainly need to be competitive and create an environment that is competitive for attracting jobs into this community,” Lee said. “But more importantly it’s creating jobs in this community. I am a strong believer in an increased focus on vocational and technical education as part of the transformation of our educational system. That creates jobs in Tennessee, not just attracts them. I think a job created in Tennessee is more valuable than one brought here.”
In his speech, Lee emphasized his business experience as the owner of a 1,200-employee mechanical contracting business in Franklin and his upset victory in the August statewide primary in his first bid for elected office.
“We were running in last place a long, long time,” Lee said, recounting early campaign stops where no one showed up.
“My life experiences outside of government were in fact powerful tools for me as I consider the executive branch of government,” Lee said at the campaign headquarters. “I have a lot of executive experience.”
Dean has touted his experience as the former mayor of Nashville on the onset of the Great Recession and into that city’s economic-boom years.
Shelby County is likely to remain on the schedules of both contenders because it comprises the largest Republican and Democratic base of voters in a single county in the state.
“We absolutely have to get our vote out,” Tennessee Republican Party chairman Scott Golden told the group of 50 at the Cordova storefront. “Do not leave anything on the table for Nov. 6.”
The audience was a mix of Lee supporters, Republican contenders from the August county general election that ended in a Democratic sweep of countywide offices and Republican nominees for the Tennessee Legislature who are also on the Nov. 6 ballot.
Also in the crowd were outgoing Democratic state Sen. Reginald Tate, who lost a primary challenge for re-election in August, and former county commissioner and local Democratic Party chairman Sidney Chism.