While the state Senate primary battle between incumbent Sen. Mae Beavers and Rep. Susan Lynn — both Mt. Juliet Republicans — has captured attention, the race to replace Lynn has been overshadowed.
But Lynn’s record in House District 57 appears to be something the leading candidates for her current seat want to emulate, and there is a strong Republican trend in the district heading toward the Aug. 5 primary.
Three Republicans are in the race — attorney Adam Futrell, retiree Robert Fields and Mt. Juliet Mayor Linda Elam. One Democrat, Allen Barry, will be on the ballot, as will two independents in November.
Lynn has used her position to advance the issue of state sovereignty and led an effort in the House to protect Tennesseans from having to conform to the new federal health care law, an effort that failed in the House but nevertheless bolstered Lynn’s reputation as a Tenth Amendment advocate.
Similar political philosophies and priorities are being expressed by the field of candidates in the race to replace her.
“Susan has served the district admirably, and she has been a keystone of the conservative movement in Tennessee,” Futrell said. “Everybody is running a reasonably positive race, focusing on the issues. I certainly am doing that. People are responding to the level of optimism I’ve been bringing.”
Fields notes few philosophical differences among the Republican candidates.
“We have the same fundamental beliefs,” he said. “We’re all fiscally conservative and believe in the Second Amendment. The only difference is I’m the only veteran in the race, the only retiree who can devote 100 percent of my time to representing the people. I’m the only father and grandfather in the group. I’m the only one living on a fixed income who knows how to keep a budget.”
Elam has said with her mayoral experience she could hit the ground running. Elam, who was elected mayor of Mt. Juliet in 2004 and re-elected in 2008, said said her platform is reducing the size of government.
Jobs remain the most important issue in the campaign, but Futrell said voters are concerned more than ever about the basic competence level in government and its ability just to get a job done. He said voters increasingly want to talk about issues like energy policy with the BP oil spill dominating the news.
“It has just caused people to say, ‘I want people in government who know what they’re doing,'” Futrell said.
But Futrell is upbeat about the contest.
“My message has been that we’re all still Americans, we’re still Tennesseans, and all the problems, as enormous as they are, are the kinds of things we’ve always found solutions to. I’m just presenting conservative ideas, and people are responding well.”
Fields reports the same reaction.
“It’s a very humbling experience,” he said. “I don’t take anything for granted, but I’m getting very positive reaction.”
Just as the Legislature has been pushing back against federal mandates, at least one candidate in the field points out that the same principle applies at the local level.
Heather Scott is a Libertarian, but she is running as an independent.
From her eight years as a member of the Wilson County Commission, Scott says she’s seen how programs come down from the state and federal government that may or may not be right for a particular county, yet local governments have to enact them and cover the costs that come with them.
Scott recalled how she led a resolution a few years ago sending a message to both the state and federal governments to stop unfunded mandates.
She also recalled how a couple of years ago the Wilson County school system needed $1.5 million and that it looked like a tax increase could be involved. But she looked at the schools’ budget and saw an undesignated fund balance of $3 million. When she pointed out the schools had the money they needed, she learned the schools were required by the state to keep 3 percent in an undesignated fund balance for emergencies, so the commission, without her support, voted for a tax increase.
“I thought it was crazy, because they had the money. They just couldn’t spend it,” Scott said.
“It’s a trickle-down effect. Government should be strongest at the local level. More tax dollars should be kept at the local level. We send our income tax to Washington then have to beg for it to come back to local communities, and then they usually have strings attached. That money should never leave our community in the first place.”
Scott, a sales and marketing professional who is attending the Nashville School of Law, said the election laws in the state are set up in a way that make it difficult for a third-party candidate to run, so she opted for the independent tag rather than run as a Libertarian.
“I wouldn’t be telling the truth if I ran as a Republican, because I’m not a Republican,” Scott said.
Another independent in the race is Luther Lenning.
The District 57 race has gone under the radar of the race involving Lynn against Beavers, because Beavers at one point had announced a run for Wilson County mayor. Beavers changed her mind, and Lynn had already said she was going to run for the Senate seat, which left a campaign between the two who are widely perceived as personal rivals.
“I’ve not made a secret of the fact I am a supporter of Susan Lynn, but I have no problem with Senator Beavers,” Futrell said.