State House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh (D-Ripley) has officially thrown his hat in the ring in the race for Tennessee governor.
A native of rural West Tennessee, where he still makes his home, Fitzhugh has represented Lauderdale, Crockett and Haywood counties in the state legislature for more than two decades. He was first elected to the District 82 seat in 1994.
Fitzhugh is a graduate of the University of Tennessee-Knoxville and the University of Tennessee College of Law. He served four years in the Air Force as a captain in the Judge’s Advocate General (JAG) Corps, and then returned to Ripley to practice law. He joined the Bank of Ripley in 1992 and today is its chairman and CEO.
While Dean is considered the front-runner for the Democratic nomination, Fitzhugh offers a contrast with his emphasis on rural communities and his support for public schools. He has been cautious about charter schools, while Dean has been a strong supporter.
“Memo to Tennessee Democrats: Craig Fitzhugh supports public schools, students and teachers. Karl Dean really, really hates public education,” tweeted Metro Nashville school board member Will Pinkston on Sunday.
Fitzhugh also is an advocate for Medicaid expansion. In June, he said on Facebook that Republican-led efforts in the U.S. Senate to scale back Medicaid, among other related conservative measures, were “truly frightening” and “a disaster.” He continued:
I have fought for healthcare access since my first day in the legislature. A healthy workforce and healthy families makes for a healthy economy and society. My office in Nashville has a daily tally of how much we have lost as a state since we didn’t expand Medicaid, at a cost of $2.5 million dollars a day. Tennesseans have lost billions of dollars–of our money–because we did not take steps to protect our state. If we had expanded Medicaid, the hospitals that have closed in Tennessee would still be open.
Fitzhugh’s quirky campaign logo, featuring an outline of a map of Tennessee filled in with colored dots, is already attracting sarcastic remarks:
— Tony Niknejad (@TNik1985) August 6, 2017
Craig Fitzhugh for governor of logos pic.twitter.com/QezdrI3uxU
— Matt Anderson (@mandersonville) August 6, 2017
Candidates for the Republican nomination for governor include state Sen. Mae Beavers (R-Mt. Juliet), House Speaker Beth Harwell (R-Nashville), U.S. Rep. Diane Black (R-TN-6), businessman Randy Boyd of Knoxville and Williamson County businessman Bill Lee.
Republican Gov. Bill Haslam is completing his second term in office and is unable to run for re-election because of term limits.