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Room C of Kingston Community Center was packed full of folks from both sides of the political spectrum as candidates for Tennessee House of Representatives sounded off Thursday during a Roane County Tea Party forum.
Members of the group were concerned about each of the candidates’ stands on the issues — and they were ready with opinions of their own.
Kent Calfee is running against incumbent Julia Hurley on the Republican ticket. Both Allen Cole, a Rockwood Independent, and Harriman Democrat Jack McNew are running unopposed in the August primary.
Hurley sponsored one of the last bills passed in the most recent session of the Tennessee General Assembly.
The law making drug testing mandatory for welfare recipients will take affect in 2014. It was controversial while on the House and Senate floors, and it attracted a share of attention during the forum.
An audience member wondered if Hurley supports drug testing for state officials.
“Absolutely,” she replied.
When the audience member tried to get more clarification on the matter, she interjected.
“No, I said I would not take a drug test in my office is what I said, sir,” Hurley said.
“You are very incorrect,” she added, “What I said was the bill that I passed is specifically tailored for welfare recipients only. You can only pass one bill for one problem each.
“The bill that I started to work on 24 months ago, the day I was elected by the way, was the bill that passed,” Hurley continued. “It took two years to get to the House floor. That was a significant piece of legislation. And when I’m re-elected, I would be more than happy to sit and speak with you.”
McNew then approached the podium.
“First one with a pie, I will duck,” he said to the audience. “I am running as a Democrat. I am a progressive Democrat. I make no apologies for it.”
McNew said that he hasn’t been pleased with what he’s seen happen in Nashville and would like to see change.
Someone spoke up to ask how he felt about teachers’ workloads, which she said focuses a lot of time on evaluations.
“Are you saying we should have educators run the school systems?” he asked, seemingly in jest.
Calfee, a former Roane County Commissioner, offered his input in response to Morgan County Commissioner Tommy Francis’ dissent about whether they should talk to the commission before a vote in order to stay in touch with what residents want.
An example Francis related was about a Morgan County Commission’s 17-1 vote on tax increases.
Francis cast the only vote against the proposition he felt the nearly 200 people who showed up at that meeting were predominately against as well.
“I, too, have no problem being the only yes vote or no vote while I was on the county commission,” Calfee said. “I certainly wouldn’t let the county commission take me down the wrong road, but I would like their input, as well as the school board input and the city.”
Hurley also commented on Francis’ statement.
“Just because I haven’t shown up to every county commission meeting on a Monday night when I’m in session doesn’t say I’m not working with the county commission,” she said. “I really appreciate you saying that, because sometimes I get out of touch and I have to come back and I have to do things and sometimes, you’re right, the county commission does as well. But we all work together, and that’s why we’re sitting here.”
Cole said he’s uncertain how everything will turn out as a result of the forum.
“I don’t know. We’ll see,” he said. “I felt pretty good. It seemed like I would have nobody’s support, but they liked what I said.”