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House candidates on the campaign trail

Thursday night saw the Johnson County Welcome Center become the scene of a heated and informal group forum consisting of the candidates running for District Three State Representative. Covering Johnson County and about one-third of Sullivan county, this position became available after long time representative Jason Mumpower announced that he would not seek another term.
Hosted by the Traditional Americans for Liberty, or TEA party, this forum was one of a series. A non-partisan group of constitutional conservatives, the Johnson County branch of the TEA party held a similar forum last month for the candidates running for County Mayor. Other forums will be held for other positions and a TEA party rally is tentatively set for the second week of July in Ralph Stout Park.
The forum began with the introduction of new attendees, who gave a brief explanation for their interest in attending the meeting. Many stated that they were afraid of the current direction that the nation is taking and would like to see positive changes so that future generations would have a country they could be proud of. Others stated their concerns about state issues and economic issues. Mike Tavalario, a candidate for commissioner in the first district, was also present and announced that he was at the meeting because he believed “Johnson County should conduct all business in English only,” and that he felt “we should stick up for our language first. Learn English or go home.”
Regardless of their reasons, the large crowd was eager to offer questions to the awaiting candidates. Of the seven candidates running, five were present. One Democratic candidate, Joe Mike Akard, joined four Republicans, Sherry Grubb, Marvin Gurley, Scotty Campbell, and Timothy Hill. TEA party member Joe Summers lead the forum, which began with an introduction by each of the candidates. Once each candidate had their opening statement, questions were taken from the crowd and given to the candidates to answer in turn.
The first question posed was, “Where do you stand on term limits for politicians?” Akard was the first to answer, stating EEE´´éthat he saw both benefits and consequences to establishing term limits. Gurley, who admits to having limited political experience but years of business experience, stated that he was in favor of term limits. Campbell, the only Johnson County native, cited the fact that if voters don’t like the direction their officials are taking they can vote them out in the next term anyway. Grubb agreed with this idea, while Hill took the middle ground and stated that he supported term limits but only if it allowed for non-consecutive terms.
Another big topic that arose was the candidate’s opinions on state’s rights. All agreed that the tenth amendment, which guarantees the sovereignty of the state, must be protected. At the same time, some candidates such as Grubb and Akard who have both worked on the Sullivan County School Board, made the point that the problem facing government agencies receiving federal funding is that those agencies must meet the demands of the federal government or risk losing that funding.
One question concerned the state budget and the possibility of shortfalls throughout the year. Most of the candidates spoke of trying to become more efficient and to cut excessive spending policies.
Campbell, who has worked with various senators and representatives in Nashville as a staff member cited that he had seen numerous examples of wasteful practices that could be avoided, saving the state thousands each year. According the Hill, the economy is in survival mode and as representative he would vote against any major new tax such as a state income tax or statewide wheel tax.
Various other issues came up throughout the forum including what the candidates stance is on agriculture, local election laws, and developing connections in Nashville. A heated debate arose over the last issue between Akard and Hill. Akard took the opinion that to get the support of other lawmakers in Nashville would take a “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” policy, while Hill was much more straightforward, stating that he believed the Republicans would carry the majority and there would be no need to cut deals, but rather be “like a bulldog and get what we need.”
After a long session of questions and answers the meeting was called to an end, with each of the candidates giving their closing remarks, beginning with Campbell. Further forums for other elected positions will also be sponsored by the TEA party at a later date.