FRANKLIN, Tennessee–An overflow crowd of more than three hundred Republicans attended the annual Williamson County Reagan Day Dinner at the Marriott in Cool Springs on Friday night.
The evening featured a gubernatorial forum in which the four leading Republican candidates for governor–Knoxville businessman Randy Boyd, Rep. Diane Black (R-TN-06), Williamson County businessman Bill Lee, and Tennessee Speaker of the House Beth Harwell (R-Nashville)–all participated.
In addition, U.S. Senate candidate Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN-07) and 7th Congressional District candidate State Senator Mark Green (R-Clarksville) both spoke, and two Williamson County Republicans, retiring State Rep. Charles Sargent (R-Franklin), and Williamson County Republican Committee Vice Chairman Stephen Siao, were honored.
Sargent was presented a lifetime achievement award for his tenure in the State House, marked by his leadership role in maintaining and improving the state’s sound credit rating, by three members of the Tennessee General Assembly delegation who represent Williamson County, State Senator Jack Johnson (R-Franklin), State Rep. Glen Casada (R-Franklin), and State Rep. Sam Whitson (R-Franklin).
Siao received the Republican of the Year award for his tireless work behind the scenes to assist first time political candidates and help in party activities.
Nationally syndicated talk radio host and Williamson County resident Phil Valentine, whose home station is 99.7 FM WTN here in Nashville, served as master of ceremonies and kept the audience in stitches with more than a few jokes at the expense of embattled Nashville Davidson County Mayor Megan Barry.
Valentine prefaced his introduction of Blackburn by noting the critical role she played in stopping the introduction of an income tax to the state of Tennessee back in 2000.
I got a call from her on a Saturday morning and she said they’re going to pass a state income tax today, you’ve got to do something. So I called the program director. We need to set up across from the capital starting at noon. I got down there about 11:30.
We were going on the air about noon. I called Steve Gill, and he came down.
And so we started broadcasting at 12:06.
And I said, so here’s the deal. If you can’t stay, just come on down here and blow your horn.
“By about 12:15 or so we saw people start trickling in. By about 12:30 there was a steady flow,” Valentine noted.
Within the hour, it was constant traffic.
Those people stopped the income tax.
And it’s all because of Marsha Blackburn, she got it started.
Blackburn began her speech by acknowledging the hard work of Williamson County Republican Chairman Debbie Deaver for organizing the event, noting that as a former Williamson County Republican Chairman herself, she knew how hard putting such an event together was.
“I was proud to support President Trump on tax reform, and not be the only no vote,” Blackburn said, to strong applause from the audience.
“A few weeks ago President Trump asked us to support a budget that would support and fund the military. I was honored to stand with President Trump and support the military,” she added.
“I know that you want a Senator who will stand with the President when he says let’s build that wall,” she continued.
“You cannot send people to the U.S. Senate who have broken it to try and fix it,” Blackburn added.
The gubernatorial forum that followed was largely uneventful. Each candidate made their case in a one minute pitch, then answered questions on a series of topics, ranging from states’ rights to growth.
Beth Harwell’s opening statement:
Randy Boyd’s opening statement:
Diane Black’s opening statement:
Bill Lee’s opening statement:
Two gubernatorial candidates made minor news.
Bill Lee said that he opposed the direct election of the state’s attorney general, a proposal championed by former gubernatorial candidate and former State Sen. Mae Beavers (R-Mt. Juliet).
Diane Black said she wanted the state of Tennessee to take back control of the federal refugee resettlement program.
The evening ended with a straw poll of the gubernatorial candidates in which almost all attendees cast a ballot.
Williamson County Chairman Debbie Deaver announced that Bill Lee won the straw poll, and Diane Black finished in second place.