WGNS radio in Murfreesboro hosted a listener-run debate between former State Rep. Joe Carr (R-Lascassas) and Murfreesboro businessman Shane Reeves on Friday.
The two men are competing for the Republican nomination in the special election primary for the 14th State Senate District scheduled for next Thursday, January 25. The seat opened up in November when former State Senator Jim Tracy (R-Shelbyville) resigned in November to take a job with the Trump administration’s Department of Agriculture.
Radio host Bart Walker laid out the ground rules for the debate, stating that all of the questions would be provided by the listeners, either via text or phone call, and that the candidates were not required to speak on every issue. “If you think to yourself, ‘Man, I just don’t want to answer that question,’ just be quiet. You don’t have to say a thing,” he said.
One of the first questions, submitted by a listener via text, dealt with the gubernatorial race: “Who are you supporting for Governor?”
Joe Carr answered first, and said he is supporting Mae Beavers for Tennessee’s next top executive.
After Reeves did not offer an answer, moderator Walker began to ask the next question, but Carr interrupted, saying “Well wait a minute, Bart. Shane, who are you supporting for Governor?”
Reeves remained silent as Walker interjected, “Now, I said that if you don’t want to answer, just don’t say anything.”
Carr responded, “Okay – I just didn’t think you gave him enough time to answer; I just didn’t know you didn’t answer.”
As Reeves sat silent, Bart said, “I’m a radio guy. Silence is bad on the radio.
Reeves was not silent about his support for GOP gubernatorial candidate Randy Boyd in 2017 after the Knoxville businessman announced his candidacy.
“In July 2016 Randy Boyd, then-commissioner of TECD, approved a $1 million “Fast Track Economic Development Fund” grant for Murfreesboro based TwelveStone Health Partners, whose founder and and CEO Shane Reeves is a candidate for the Republican nomination in the 14th District State Senate special election prompted by the resignation of State Senator Jim Tracy (R-Shelbyville),” The Tennessee Star reported in November.
“Soon after Boyd left his state position to run for governor, the Reeves Family PAC, which lists Shane Reeves as the sole officer, donated $5,000 in April, 2017 to the Randy Boyd gubernatorial campaign. Reeves also personally endorsed Boyd during a campaign stop in Murfreesboro that same month,” The Star noted.
The debate began with a two-minute opening statement by the two candidates.
First up Carr, who, after some initial niceties, settled in to share with the listening audience why he was running:
… I started to work in the Tennessee General Assembly in 2008 when I was elected State Representative, and I want to finish that work. When I left in 2014, I subsequently found in years hence that many in the Tennessee General Assembly were trying to dismantle some of the things that I had accomplished – bills specifically that I had written and put into place, like Tennessee’s illegal immigration laws.
Not exclusively, Tennessee has the first no sanctuary cities law, we’ve got e-verify, I helped write and pass Tennessee’s repeal of the inheritance tax to help farmers and small businesses, I helped write and repeal the estate gift tax in Tennessee, and reduced the sales tax.
So in the six years I was in the Tennessee General Assembly, I demonstrated a work ethic and a list of accomplishments – along with my colleagues, because nobody goes up there and does the work by themselves. There are a lot of people that are involved in the process of making Tennessee a better place.
Of all the things endeavored to try to do as a state legislator, did indeed, having owned two engineering companies, having been raised in Middle Tennessee – in Rutherford County – my parents are from here. I’ve got longs-standing roots that go way back – back before the Civil War. And so the values I carry with me, I have brought to the Tennessee General Assembly as a State Representative and I think they would serve the district well as a state senator from the 14th district, and I would ask for your vote.
Reeves then took the mic. Before beginning his political remarks, he first made an appeal “as a pharmacist” to the listening audience to “wash your hands, Rutherford County” due to a particularly virulent strain of flu this year:
So why I am choosing to do this: I am also a lifelong resident of Rutherford County and my family has been here for seven generations as well. My family has been in the practice of pharmacy for over a hundred years, with a number of those years right here on the Square – right around the corner from the radio station, where we practice pharmacy.
I’m married to Amanda, I’ve got three great kids, and am plugged into a number of things here in the community.
And Bart, I can not tell you how many people have stopped me in the last 60 days since I’ve been doing this, saying, ‘Shane, why in the world are you throwing your hat in the public sector when you have been so blessed in the private sector?’ And I have been.
My business, Reeves Sain Drugs Store, this year, after year after year, has had an opportunity to so many good things for so many people.
[I] Sold part of that a few years ago, started a new pharmaceutical company called TwelveStone Health Partners which we’re excited about, I’ve got tremendous plans this year for that as well as the company. So why in the world do you want to do this when I don’t need something to do; I’ve got plenty to do.
It has 100 percent – nothing more, nothing less – than I love Rutherford County, I love this entire district, but I really love Rutherford County and I want to serve. I want to give back. I’m turning 50 in a week or so and I’d like to use the capabilities and the skills and my background to try to make a difference in the state Senate. So just want to serve.
“What’s everybody’s stance on in-state tuition for illegal immigrants?” one caller caller asked.
Reeves answered, “If they’re illegal, they wouldn’t get in-state tuition.” He added, “That wouldn’t make any sense.”
“That’s not entirely correct,” Carr interjected, adding:
There’s been an initiative in the Tennessee General Assembly the last three years to repeal a law that I wrote and passed in 2012 which was the SAVE Act – the Systematic Alien Verification Entitlement Act – that removed the ability for illegal immigrants in Tennessee to recieve taxpayer-funded benefits.
One of those taxpayer-funded benefits was in-state tuition because, in-state tuition is subsidized by the taxpayer. We have found out that since 2014 there have been three or four initiatives to repeal that part of the SAVE Act so that illegals could receive in-state tuition. So much so, that last year, the Senate Education Committee voted by a seven-to-two vote grant in-state tuition to illegal immigrants, and they even – over and above that, Bart – expanded it to include in-state tuition for those students who were outside Tennessee.
So, again, this is a part of the reason why I’m running: to make sure the Tennessee General Assembly does not repeal or roll back some of the initiative we put forth and passed in the previous six years.
Another question came from a caller who asked the candidates to explain exactly what their plan is to “try and help out with this opioid crisis to make it go away.”
Carr joked, “We’ll let the pharmacist go first.”
Reeves responded, “Well, we didn’t get into this situation with the opioid crisis overnight and we’re not going to get out of overnight, is my first thought on that,” adding much more detail:
When I first starting practicing pharmacy, Bart, in 1994, we didn’t have drugs in the marketplace like Oxycontin. That didn’t exist. We had some short-acting narcotics that people would take. So we didn’t quite have problem with addiction.
Then the Big Pharma companies came forth with some drugs like Oxycontin, which, and at the time, was a great blessing for many patients – your hospice patients, your cancer patients, your chronic back pain – those Oxycontin drugs were a fabulous product in the early nineties and it helped a lot.
What’s happened over a period of time is they started getting dispensed for everything. People were having wisdom teeth pulled, they were having knee surgery done, a number of things – and not only was it getting dispensed for those things, people were getting 60 tablets when they might could’ve gotten by the ten.
You do that over a number if years, and then you couple that with some illegal opiates being but into the marketplace as well, and over time, we have a real problem.
The solution – there’s not a silver bullet to fix it – but there’s a number of players in the continuum that are all going to have to take some ownership in it.
From the Pharma companies, that came up with the original product, we need to come up with some long-acting narcotics that are not quite so addictive. The physicians are going to have to play some kind of role in what they can and can’t dispense. The pharmacists that are dispensing the medications are going to have to play a role in how its dispensed, how its tracked, making sure that we are not consistently dispensing too much to the same people. Patients have a role to play – some type of responsibility. And then the last part of this is mental health.
The mental health institutions – we don’t need to criminalize these individuals who have addictive problems. They’re not criminals, they have an addiction to opiates. So the mental health group has a role to play as well.
So I think we need to get everybody together, put some metrics in place that everybody needs to focus on in those different areas, and let’s move the dial back in the right direction.
I can assure you: day one, I’m starting on that one – if I get elected.
Another question, coming in via text was, ‘What is your stance on Obamacare Medicaid Expansion?’
Carr responded first:
No to expansion. I voted consistently in the Tennessee General Assembly, with regard to Obamacare and Medicaid expansion – and I’m still opposed to it.
We don’t need to expand the Medicaid program; but we do need to take into consideration the impact that it has on our rural hospitals.
If we take too much away from the Medicaid program, it will be devastating for some of our rural hospitals. So we’ve got to make sure that we are sure to take care of our most marginalized citizens – and many of them depend so much – 1.4 million Tennesseans do depend on it – so we’ve just got to take into consideration the benefit it does have and not strip it.
Carr followed up:
Nobody in the state is talking about stripping it. We’re talking about expanding Medicaid. So, what we have in place is the result of Obamacare expanding Medicaid, so nobody’s even talking about rolling that back. We’re talking about expanding that over and above what Obamacare did and the Obama Administration did in the last eight years – just to be clear.
Early voting has begun for the primary, but, as The Star has reported, turnout so far is low.
The winner of the Republican primary between Reeves and Carr will face Democrat Gayle Jordan, who is unopposed in the Democratic primary, in the March 13 general election.
Editors Note: Both the Shane Reeves for State Senate Campaign and the Joe Carr for State Senate Campaign are Tennessee Star advertisers.