By Jeff Hartline
While running for office in 2010 and assisting campaigns since then, I have learned that campaigning is a full-contact endeavor. No candidate, especially in a statewide election, should be naïve to believe that, once traction has been gained, he or she will escape the “slings and arrows” of outrage.
Such is the case in this year’s gubernatorial race. Diane Black, Randy Boyd, Beth Harwell and Bill Lee have ponied up millions making their case to Tennessee voters. The first three “experienced” politicians, upon learning the results of early polling, brought in the opposition research information and started raining down fire and brimstone on their supposed closest competitors.
Black and Boyd jumped out of the blocks, spending millions telling us elevated tales about their own resumes and, in the main, legitimate reports of their opponents’ less-than-desirable actions and behavior.
Boyd bashing Black. Black bashing Boyd, ad nauseum. At first, nobody spent any money bashing Harwell or Lee.
Harwell has gained little statewide traction and has drawn little fire from the supposed “frontrunners”.
While Boyd and Black have rushed to buy up massive amounts of mudslinging radio and TV, Bill Lee has plodded along the roads of all 95 counties, plottng a zigzag course from Memphis to Mountain City, stopping at large and small locales along the way, telling one person at a time who he is and what he stands for.
Lee knew that his name ID was lower than his competitors, but he committed early on to making his campaign about who he was and the principles that have guided his life and work. All the political experts would have demanded that he do his own opposition research and start chopping Boyd and Black down to size.
But that is not who Bill Lee is.
Tennessee voters are sick and tired of all the public fighting at the national level and they sure are having their fill of it at the state level. As a result, many undecided are moving to Bill Lee. Thus, the barrage of new attack ads against Bill Lee by Black and Boyd. Here are just a few:
“Bill Lee gave money to Democrats, so he and Randy Boyd are Moderates.”
“Bill Lee wants boys to go into girl’s bathrooms, because someone asked him about it a year ago when he first started running and he didn’t have a definitive answer.”
“Bill Lee thinks gay marriage is fine because he said that the Supreme Court had ruled on it.”
Bill Lee did give .7% of total campaign contributions given in his lifetime to three Democrats. Randy Boyd contributed to Progressive Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero. Diane Black gave money to a Democrat State Senator when she led the Republican Senate Caucus, actually more than Bill Lee gave.
As for the remarks about “The Bathroom Bill” and “Homosexual Marriage,” Bill Lee supports neither. He was asked back in 2017 what he would do about them as Governor. Indicative of someone who is at the early stages of getting familiar with the current legislative wars, he gave answers before he had full understanding of the issues, kind of like Randy Boyd giving $250,000 to a group supported by la Raza and kind of like Diane Black going to the Never-Trumper rally in South Georgia and telling the MSM personality that Trump’s wall can’t be built. I’m sure they would all want those decisions back. But you won’t hear Bill Lee chastising either one of them for it.
In a recent editorial on this page, a “conservative” states her support for Diane Black because “she can hit the ground running” and “her experience and record of achievement”. Perhaps this conservative can delineate all her achievements, especially her administrative ones and identify specifically what she has “gotten done”. Fact is, Randy Boyd actually has more of a record of administrative achievement than Diane Black. She should also remind herself that being Governor is an “Executive” position and that Black has never run anything in her life, except these smear campaigns. Besides, numerous incidents of dishonesty and lack of “core conservative principles” further illustrate that Black is not prepared or qualified to be Governor.
Here’s why I have eliminated the three politicians and chosen to support Bill Lee for Governor.
Bill Lee is a principled conservative. His refusal to attack his opponents and focus on telling voters who he is belies his commitment to keeping his message on the high road and validating his statements about himself where his faith is central to his life. He has put his money and time where his principles are over and over, mentoring disadvantaged high school students, going overseas to serve others, funded numerous not-for-profit efforts that serve those in need and made time to serve men leaving prison. Rather than wait for government to build education facilities to train workers, he built his own school on his own dime.
Bill Lee is a constitutionalist. He loves America and its Founders and is on a journey to understand better our American uniqueness. He confesses that in the course of building a business, creating jobs, raising a family, dealing with personal tragedy and trying to make a difference, he has missed many of the public policy fights. However, when confronted with specific issues, he always looks to our Founding documents and his solid principles to take a position. He has, no doubt, stumbled through some difficult questions early on, but as he has immersed himself in his campaign, he has solidified his commitment to pursuing public policy in the shadow of the Constitution.
Bill Lee is honest. It has been said that you really know someone when you work alongside them. Well, the turnover at his company is negligible. When people are fortunate enough to go to work for Lee Company, they almost never leave. His organization bespeaks the very core of the man.
Bill Lee answers to his own values and principles. His refusal to join the sniping and continue on the high road is first-line evidence of that. He has been overt in his demonstration of how those values and principles inform his understanding of public policy. Has he had missteps? Yes. But the complicated nature of many issues demands constant information gathering. As the information is solidified in his mind, he is able to apply principles and values appropriately. Tennesseans can be sure that Bill Lee will lead our state being led by the highest ethics.
Bill Lee is a successful executive. With over 1200 employees and growing, he has built a team of people who have seen his vision and moved Lee Company into the forefront of Middle Tennessee Service Organizations. This experience properly positions him to build a team around him as Governor.
Bill Lee is a multi-faceted individual. Cattleman. Master Plumber. Mission-minded. Philanthropist. Team-builder. All these and more make Bill Lee sensitive to the complexity of the Tennessee economy and people.
Bill Lee knows where his strength is found. He has refused to shrink from the importance of his faith and reliance on his God and his confession of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Such faith was built from his youth and nurtured over the years through good times and tragic times. Such a foundation is well within the tradition of the Nation’s Founders.
Bill Lee has the proper demeanor to lead Tennessee. Bill’s calm voice and strong sense of purpose translates well in one-on-one situations and in front of thousands. His leadership at Lee Company through difficult financial times was unquestioned as he was able to make difficult decisions and encourage his team by his very presence.
Bill Lee is an outsider. Much like Donald Trump, he brings a completely fresh perspective to government, refusing to assume the status quo must be continued.
Bill Lee looks for solutions. In growing his business to multiple service lines, Bill has been called upon to constantly adjust to a growing market and to the pushes and pulls within his own organization. He has been called upon to make difficult decisions. He has prevailed in a very competitive environment. He is a winner.
Bill Lee is easy to follow. Anyone who has spent five minutes in his presence knows right away he is not a “my way of the highway” sort of person. He oozes confidence and his soft tone begs one to listen carefully and join him in his efforts.
Tennesseans can trust Bill Lee. In finality, trust for elected officials is earned based upon a lifetime of decision-making. Bill Lee’s decision-making is solid. He is a man of high moral character and God-directed principles. He has demonstrated his ability to lead, to organize, to adapt, and to understand the needs of multiple demographic sectors of our state. I challenge you to find a better person to be tasked with leading the Volunteer State.
Bill Lee for Tennessee.
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Jeff Hartline is a long time conservative activist in Tennessee and ran for the Republican nomination for Congress in the 5th Congressional District in 2010. He provided the Tennessee Star with the following disclaimer:
The writer does not work for the Bill Lee for Governor Campaign, nor Lee Company, nor any other entity owned by Bill Lee or overseen as a Board Member by Bill Lee. He does not owe Bill Lee any money. Though requested in the past, Lee has never financially supported any not-for-profit or advocacy group. He held a fundraiser at his offices in 2010 for my congressional race along with Scott DesJarlais. He did not write me a check. I have purchased goods and services from Lee Company in the past, all at retail prices. Everyone in my family fits into the above categories.