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No one can accuse Julia Hurley of having an uneventful term in the Tennessee House of Representatives.
That was a problem for some of her critics.
“I have friends in Chicago and other parts of the country, and the only thing they heard about Roane County was some antic of our state representative,” Roane County Commissioner Randy Ellis said.
“Whether it was carving her initials in a desk or bringing her dog in the courthouse, it was constantly something that was going on that brought a negative light to Roane County.”
Other incidents that put Hurley, a former Hooters waitress, in the spotlight included a videotaped encounter with a state trooper and a video posted on her YouTube channel that showed her dog being dangled out of a moving car.
Hurley may continue to capture headlines, but soon it won’t be as a state representative in the 32nd District, which includes parts of Roane and Loudon counties.
She lost to Kent Calfee in the Republican Primary in August. Calfee, Democrat Jack McNew and Independent Allen Cole are vying for the seat in the Nov. 6 election.
Since losing the primary, Hurley has traveled to the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., and spent time working on other political campaigns.
While candidates for her post were in the midst of last-minute stumping last week, Hurley packed up items from her district office in Harriman’s Temperance Building.
The Lenoir City Republican also took some time to share her thoughts on a variety of topics with the Roane County News, including the primary, Calfee, Ellis and her future plans.
Has losing the primary been tough on you emotionally?
Yes and no. I would have rather lost the campaign knowing that I lost based on Democrats voting in the Republican Primary than lost knowing that my own party voted me out. Had Democrats not crossed over, I don’t believe I would have lost the election. I’m sure that he’s (Calfee) happy to have the nomination, but I would have rather lost the way I did than had to win the way he did.
Do you regret not filing any legislation to close the primaries?
Not at all. I wasn’t concerned about that. I wasn’t concerned about me. I didn’t go there as my main focus to get re-elected. My main focus was the people, jobs, industry, bringing business. Had I focused on closed primaries, I suppose you could say that would have been focusing on my re-election and not the people. I chose to focus on the people.
Were you disappointed that Roane County Administrator of Elections Charles Holiway, a Republican appointee, didn’t challenge Democrats who crossed over?
No. There wasn’t anything he could have done about that situation.
Isn’t it customary for the loser of a primary to support the winner once it’s over?
It is customary. If they’re part of the same party; that’s correct.
Have you done any campaigning on behalf of Mr. Calfee?
Do you plan to?
I do not.
He’s not a conservative.
Do you think the primaries should be closed in the future?
At this point, I do. Ten years ago, I would have said no. It’s time to adapt the voting criteria to people who are willing to stand for their convictions and say this is who I am.
I think by closing the primaries, we’ll find out real quick if we really have a Republican majority in Tennessee or not. Maybe that’s something that the party is discouraged on finding out.
How do you feel about the way you were covered by the local media?
When I was in Tampa, I ran into quite a few people who wanted to talk to me, and they wanted my opinion on things.
They didn’t care that I was a Hooters Girl and they didn’t care that my dog likes to be outside because it’s a dog that likes to be outside with the wind in her hair.
They didn’t care that I put my initials in my desk and they didn’t care that I paid out of my back pocket to fix it.
They didn’t care that I disagreed with a cop who pulled me over and said, “I know who you are.” They didn’t care.
It was nice to be appreciated for the work I had done and be recognized for that.
What are your thoughts about the local media?
They have to sell newspapers. That’s their primary job, and my job as a politician or someone in politics is to have thick skin, deal with it, and move on.
Do you think the coverage has been fair?
No. Not at all. I think some of the legislation that I passed should have been covered because it deserved it. Not that I deserved it; the legislation itself deserved the recognition.
That would have been fair. Not to me, but to the legislation itself.
It saddened me some to know that the actual lawmaking was not the main focus, but you learn.
What made you post the video on YouTube of your dog being dangled out of a car?
Sometimes, you just want to share funny moments with people, and apparently a politician is not allowed to share anything. They need to be completely private at all times. Everybody says, “I want somebody that I can relate to, that’s transparent, open and honest and I can see who they are,” but I don’t really believe people want that.
As you look back on your two years as a legislator, do you have any regrets?
Yes and no. I worked almost every night in my office until 9 or 10 o’clock. I regret doing that, simply because I don’t think that was even important to the voters. I don’t think they even bothered to ask me where I was at 9 o’clock at night. I think they just assumed that I was out drinking like a lot of other people.
How was your relationship with the Roane County Commission?
There was no relationship with the Roane County Commission. They chose not to have one with me. Ron Berry, I have a lot of respect for. Nick Forrester, a huge Democrat, but easy to work with. Stanley Moore, he was very easy to work with. Randy Ellis, who was in charge of the Legislative Liaison Committee, he never liaised anything with me, and I was there for two years.
Randy Ellis’ main concern was getting him a license plate that said he was a county commissioner because he’s just as important as the state representatives and wanted his own license plate. That was his main worry for Roane County.
You had a child when you were 15. Were you disappointed you didn’t get the endorsement of the Tennessee Right to Life PAC for the primary?
Not at all. I’m pro-life. Period. I’ve proven that, so anyone that wants to say that I’m not, I would love for them to put themselves in my shoes at 15 and see what decision they make. I know I made the right one. I love her, and she’s the best decision I’ve made.
Could you have done more to keep Roane County in one House district during redistricting?
That was not my choice. Something I find interesting and something a lot of people have commented on is, “She should have done this, or she should have done that.” Then I hear, “Well, she didn’t do enough of this and she didn’t do enough of that.”
Either I was the most powerful person in Nashville because I could have stopped it, or I wasn’t powerful at all because I didn’t do enough for you. Which is it?
Now, on the actual day of voting, I pressed no that I didn’t agree with the lines and caucus leader (Debra) Maggart turned around and looked at me and said, “You better change your vote right now to yes because the people in your new district are going to think you don’t want them,” so I changed my vote.
Do you know why some people were saying you wanted the district split up and you were responsible for the plan?
I’m sure it came from the same ones that accused me of being pro-choice and the same ones that accused me of voting with Planned Parenthood. There was always outrage against me.
Where’s the outrage with Kent Calfee being a Republican all of a sudden? I was not a Democrat. I’m not a moderate at all. I’m overly conservative.
I’m single, and I’m a female. That’s a problem for some people, so I’m constantly picked on.
What are your future plans?
I don’t know. I see myself doing whatever I’m supposed to do. Right now, I’m really enjoying this time. I’ve lost some weight. I’m at home with my child. I’m having a good time with my family, which is something I haven’t been able to do for quite some time.
Do you plan to run for public office again?
In some way, everything is political, so I’m keeping my contacts that I have made throughout my lifetime close, but I’m not necessarily looking to run for an office.
I still have quite a bit of money left in my campaign finances, so I don’t know yet. I may or may not.
As you look back on your time as a state legislator, what is the biggest lesson you’ve learned?
I hate to say it, but I guess if you’re going to be in politics, you need to be a little less honest with people. I would say that’s the biggest lesson learned here.
I may disagree with you, but I don’t necessarily need to tell you about it.
During Kent Calfee’s victory party the night he won the primary, Randy Ellis told the crowd that honor had finally been restored to the 32nd District. Any comments on that?
I think that’s precious. That’s a beautiful statement. I’ll pray for him.
Was it tough to go to Nashville and clean out your office?
No. It was fine. I earned that position and I worked very hard for it, so I’m not angry or sad.
I’m just grateful that I had the opportunity to do it. How many people can say that? That’s amazing. That’s a pretty big honor when you look back on it, so I’m just happy I had the experience.
What are some of your thoughts about the race in the 32nd District?
I really hope that people take a serious, serious, look at who they’re voting for.
Jack McNew is an honest man. He’s never lied about being a Democrat. He’s been very honest with the people of Roane County.
Allen Cole, he stood in front of a crowd of people and said, “I’m here because we need jobs and that’s what I want to focus on.” That may be just one issue, but that’s his issue, and he was willing to stand up and talk about it. He’s honest with you and I appreciate that and respect that.
And I want the voters to remember Kent Calfee, who stood in front of the Roane County Tea Party and said he was a liberal.