State Senator Mae Beavers (R-Mt. Juliet) narrowly won the Rural Tennessee Speaks Republican gubernatorial straw poll over Williamson County businessman Bill Lee on Saturday held Saturday evening in Dover, Tennessee.
A large crowd of more than 200 turned out to hear from all four announced candidates who are running for the Republican gubernatorial nomination.
“It was 66 for Mae, and 62 for Bill Lee. Not everybody voted. 147 votes were cast. As far as the other three candidates, there were a total of 19 votes cast for them. Diane Black received 10 votes, Beth Harwell received 7, and Randy Boyd received 2,” State Rep. Jay Reedy (R-Erin), President of the Rural Tennessee Speaks PAC, told The Tennessee Star.
Both Beavers and Lee showed up and spoke to the attentive audience, but the other two announced candidates were no shows.
Speaker of the Tennessee House Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) apparently cancelled prior to the event, and Knoxville businessman Randy Boyd did not attend.
“They were all invited,” Reedy said of the four announced candidates (Beavers, Boyd, Harwell, and Lee) and one unannounced candidate (Black).
“It was probably four days ago, her campaign manager Holt Rich had called earlier in the week and said that Beth Harwell would be the there and was excited to come. I think it was Wednesday night one of our committee members said she was not coming, and I don’t why,” Reedy told The Star.
“Randy Boyd was asked but he declined. He was the very first one of the candidates we asked three months ago,” Reedy noted.
“With Diane Black it was undecided. She did not come, but she sent a letter. Somebody read the letter she wrote to the crowd,” he added.
Beavers tweeted out her victory on her official Twitter account late Saturday:
Won the Rural Tennessee Speaks straw poll tonight.
— Mae Beavers (@MaeBeavers) July 30, 2017
“Our grass roots focus is already bearing fruit across the state,” Beavers told The Star.
“And unlike campaign teams that are buying tables at straw poll events to boost their numbers, we will continue to rely on a consistent message and a conservative track record to win support,” Beavers added.
“As we are travelling the state, speaking at forums with the other candidates, I am pleased at how many of them are starting to embrace my issues, and speak the same language that I have been using for years,” she continued.
“I am confident that conservatives in Tennessee will back an authentic conservative with actions to back up their words rather than those who might adopt the message but who have nothing to back it up,” Beavers concluded.
Beavers’ supporters were understandably elated with the results.
“We won a straw poll against a millionaire in neutral territory!” one Beavers supporter said.
The Star asked the Lee campaign for comment on the straw poll results, but has not yet received a response.
Earlier this month, Lee easily won a straw poll at the Williamson County Republican Party Annual Barbecue. Beavers finished second in that poll.
Last week, Lee announced his Roadmap for Rural Tennessee initiative, which is “organized around four major calls to action: (1) Promote the dignity of work and economic independence, (2) Support innovation and technology to improve economic, health and educational opportunities, (3) Attack the epidemic of opioid abuse and addiction, and (4) Strengthen our state’s commitment to faith, community, and family.”
Saturday’s event, held at the Stewart County Visitors Center, was “[t]he kickoff celebration event of the newly-created Rural Tennessee Speaks,” a political action committee.
“Rural Tennessee Speaks is an organized group of Christian Conservative Tennesseans who actively endorse and support local and state candidates that share our views, who believe the government is made up of We The People,” according to its website:
This being our duty to serve God and Country, we will make Tennessee a shining example to other states to follow as well as living our Tennessee State Slogan, 1965: “Tennessee – America at Its Best.”
We believe in American exceptionalism. We believe the United States of America is unlike any other nation on earth. We believe America is exceptional because of our historic role — first as refuge, then as defender, and now as exemplar of liberty for the world to see. We affirm — as did the Declaration of Independence: that all are created equal, endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We believe in the Constitution as our founding document. We believe the Constitution was written not as a flexible document, but as our enduring covenant. We believe our constitutional system — limited government, separation of powers, federalism, and the rights of the people — must be preserved uncompromised for future generations.
Overall, the launch of Rural Tennessee Speaks was a great success, Rural Tennessee Speaks President Reedy told The Star.
“What was interesting was the enthusiasm for the crowd. It was just amazing, the response,” Reedy said.
“Our mission is to support local and state candidates, only in the state of Tennessee. That goes for school board members, county commissioners, all of that,” the Rural Tennessee Speaks president said.
“We are talking about having another event with conservative folks in Tullahoma in October or November. Our ambition is to work with the Republican Party in rurual areas in Tennessee, work with those groups. If we bring our name along with our speakers, we can get rural Tennessee activated,” Reedy concluded.