Which GOP House candidate is ‘just right’?

Wendy Smith
Government/Politics columnist

A forum for Republican candidates for Tennessee’s 18th-district House seat came across a little like the story of Goldilocks − conservative, more conservative, most conservative and an outsider.

The candidates − incumbent Martin Daniel, his predecessor Steve Hall, former Stacey Campfield aide Bryan Dodson and attorney James Corcoran − spoke at last week’s West Knox Republican Club meeting. The 18th district is roughly constrained by Pleasant Ridge Road, Northshore Drive, Gleason Drive and Lovell Road.

Daniel would be difficult to knock from the top of the conservative heap. He’s unapologetic about being business-friendly, and says he’ll resist any unnecessary business regulation. He touted successful passage of a bill that enables the Legislature to review occupational licensing regulations, and claimed that he was the first to notice excessive spending by UT’s diversity office.

He voted for elimination of the Hall Tax, and says he’ll oppose any attempt to reinstate it.

Hall, who served on City Council for eight years before serving two terms in the House, said he’s a conservative and he’s never voted for a tax increase. His claim to fame is helping constituents navigate government bureaucracy.

Daniel, who spoke after Hall, said he’d simply eliminate bureaucracy.

Dodson introduced himself as a constitutional conservative, an evangelical Christian and a recovering alcoholic. The state needs more faith-based leaders, he said.

He’s in favor of a true voucher system that would allow parents to send their kids to private school or homeschool without paying twice, and he’d like to see corporate taxes reduced to keep businesses from moving overseas.

Corcoran, a juvenile court attorney, says the issue of neonatal abstinence syndrome is at the heart of his campaign. The incidence of babies being born addicted to opiates is 45 times higher today than in 1999, and it’s a pro-life issue that needs to be addressed constitutionally, he said.

He’d like to see legislation that would allow family members to file a petition to require drug-addicted moms to be treated. His work has given him a unique perspective, he said.

Daniel was asked to explain his opposition to the Hall Tax, given that those who pay it have substantial investment income. The tax has a disproportional impact on seniors, he said.

When asked to comment on Insure Tennessee, Corcoran said he was in favor of it because of the number of Tennesseans who don’t have health insurance. Hall said he’s opposed to an expansion of Medicaid, but knows “we need to do something.” Dodson said he’s against it, but that a viable conservative option should be sought. Daniel said Insure Tennessee is “all but dead,” but he’s in favor of finding a conservative way to provide insurance for those who can’t afford it.

Daniel was asked why the state found it necessary to get involved with the operation of UT.

The university was given the opportunity to respond to concerns, but when it didn’t, the Legislature had to step in, he said.

“I love UT as much as anyone in here. I want to save it from its mistakes.”

Leave a Reply