Candidates square off at Westhaven forum
By Carole Robinson, Staff Writer
More than 250 people packed into the Westhaven Community Center to hear the views of candidates for the State House districts 61, 63 and the new District 65.
The forum was organized by The Franklin Resolves, a local group seeking to apply Biblical principles to all areas of life, and moderated by Dr. Carol Swain, a professor of political science and law at Vanderbilt University. The forum was highlighted by two controversial incidents both related to the District 61 race – one that caused the incumbent candidate to withdraw from the forum Sunday evening.
As a result of a Facebook posting by Swain in which she reposted an advertisement sent to her by Janice Johnson, campaign manager for District 61 candidate Rob Hathaway, offering to hire people to work for Hathaway’s campaign, Rep. Charles Sargent withdrew from the forum.
“I spoke with advisors on my campaign and also got an outside opinion,” Sargent said Tuesday. “I sent an email to the organizers at Franklin Resolves and to Dr. Swain voicing my concern that the moderator did not disclose her posting prior to the forum and would not be impartial. I asked that my email be read at the forum.”
The email was not read but Swain did admit she reposted the ad and apologized to the gathering.
For the candidates in the District 65 race, once again, since they all profess to be Conservative Republicans, their biggest challenge was not answering the questions, but doing so in a manner that would reflect their differences and highlight their qualifications for the job.
Each of the candidates was given a chance to introduce themselves.
Running unopposed, Rep. Glen Casada in District 63, led off the forum by introducing himself as a student of Thomas Jefferson with the philosophy, “Government that governs least governs best.”
This year the General Assembly passed, “The largest tax cuts in legislature history,” he said. “I feel strongly if we can leave your money with you, you’ll grow the economy.”
The Hall Tax, a 6 percent income tax on interest and dividend income from investments, is the next tax the General Assembly will attack, but the challenge is to do it and not hurt local counties and cities that receive the funds raised from the tax, Casada said.
Dennis Kiser, vice president of Client Services at Jackson Dawson Communications and candidate for the new District 65 said, “We need a business approach to government.” Kiser has lived in Tennessee for seven years and in Williamson County for four years.
Jeremy Durham, attorney and partner with Hawkins, Durham & Associates in Franklin and a District 65 candidate said, “We need to cut red tape for small businesses, cut the Hall Tax and Death Tax and allow locals to make education decisions.” Born in Adamsville, Tenn., Durham has been a Williamson County resident for just more than a year.
Kenny Young, an attorney and partner with Buerger, Mosely and Carson, said jobs and the economy are the primary issues. Young is a lifelong resident of Williamson County.
“I am an attorney, partner and owner of a law firm. I know how to develop and balance a budget.”
Hathaway, a retired Army Major who has been a resident of Williamson County for two years said, “One of the most important issues that abounds is truth.”
Questions ranged from how a candidate’s world view would affect policy, the state’s role in job creation, the issue of illegal aliens given the recent Supreme Court’s Arizona ruling, state funding of Planned Parenthood and Tennessee’s options should Congress not rescind the Affordable Healthcare Act (Obamacare).
When Young was asked about recent campaign literature he sent out showing an computer-altered picture of Jeremy Durham behind bars to bring attention to his college arrest record, Young said, “I think [the photo] was the wrong thing to do. We could have handled it in a better way.” Then turned to Durham, apologized and they shook hands.
Those who attended the event were glad to have a chance to meet and listen to the candidates.
“I was so glad to have this happen,” said Joanne Arentson. “It was very enlightening.”
Nena Grosse said the forum helped her understand how the candidates view the issues.
“This is what we need to be doing as citizens,” said Keith swift. “It’s our duty to be responsible and informed. It’s ‘We the people.’ Candidates serve for the common good.”
Alexa Ketchum said. “Every American needs to take the opportunity to listen to what candidates are saying. I encourage everyone in Williamson County to have a conversation with the candidates and then vote.”
Ann Little, a former member of the Franklin Board of Mayor and Aldermen said, “It was very interesting. All the candidates had good answers.”
Pam Dugger said, “It’s real important for [citizens] to delve deeper into the candidates. Some candidates don’t know Williamson County and the dynamics.”
Posted on: 7/11/2012