A new billboard appearing at several strategic locations in Middle Tennessee and East Tennessee claims that Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Lee is “afraid to take a stand” on the issue of transgender bathrooms.
“I’m not advocating for or against a transgender bathroom bill,’ — Bill Lee, November 14, 2017,” the billboard reads.
The billboard is paid for by Jobs4TNNow, an independent expenditure group.
With less than two weeks until the August 2 primary, and with early voting underway, the Republican gubernatorial race has become a fluid three-way battle between Lee, Knoxville businessman Randy Boyd, and Rep. Diane Black (R-TN-06), where each campaign–and a number of independent expenditure groups–are fighting furiously for each and every available vote.
A website launched on Thursday, www.billleespeaks.com, which appears to be part of the Jobs4TNNow communication effort, features a YouTube video published in February 2018 of Lee responding to a question about his position on state action on the transgender bathrooms. (Note: Other sources have reported that Lee made these comments at a November 14 meeting of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga College Republicans.)
You can watch the video here:
“Why do you not believe in a ban of –or support–transgender bathrooms?” a woman in the audience asks Lee.
“Because I believe that a statewide policy on an issue like that is not in the best interest of Tennesseans,” Lee responded.
“It’s divisive and destructive and…that’s government intervention into areas of life that I don’t think we ought to intervene,” he continued.
“I think that those are best decided locally. Those decisions are best decided locally. And that we’ve handled personal decisions locally like that in the past, and that’s why I’m not advocating for or against a transgender bathroom bill,” Lee noted. (emphasis added)
“I’m a very conservative guy who has very conservative principles who thinks that we often times create divisive subjects that play into the hands of more chaotic policy than if we allow local authority to make decisions on things,” he added.
“Just like in education, I’m generally an advocate of pushing those decisions out,” Lee concluded.
A radio ad on the same topic, paid for by JobsforTNNow, began airing on radio stations across Tennessee on Thursday.
“Bill Lee didn’t give one dime to Donald Trump. Hey, Bill Lee, what’s your problem with Donald Trump?” a woman narrating the ad asks.
“Bill Lee–money to liberal Democrats and RINO Republicans, but nothing to Donald Trump,” the woman ads.
“Bill Lee talks about being a conservative except when he talks about the issues that matter, like when he says transgender bathrooms and keeping men out of little girls’ bathrooms and locker rooms would be ‘divisive and destructive’,” a male narrator says.
“How can Bill Lee stand up for our values when he won’t even pick a side when it comes to transgender bathrooms?” the narrator asks.
“Bill Lee. A politician in transition,” the narrator concludes.
You can hear the ad here:
The Tennessee Star contacted the Bill Lee campaign for comment on the transgender bathroom issue and the billboard campaign that highlights it, but has not received a response.