Candidates focus on jobs, Democratic gubernatorial hopefuls speak at forum

Hugh G. Willett

Kim McMillan
Kim McMillan
Ward Cammack
Ward Cammack
Jobs, education and health care were at the top of the agenda for Democratic gubernatorial candidates speaking at a forum in Lenoir City on Monday night.

Candidates Kim McMillan and Ward Cammack, joined by a representative for state Sen. Roy Herron, answered prepared questions at the forum sponsored by the Loudon County Democratic Party.

Dixie Damm, chair of the Loudon County Democrats, told the candidates, "You need East Tennessee to win the governor's race."

McMillan, quickly reminded the crowd of about 60 local Democrats that she's a native of Knoxville, then got to the issues.

"Jobs are clearly the issue that any gubernatorial candidate has to focus on," she said.

She endorsed private industry and education partnerships, such as the one that brought solar technology maker Hemlock Semiconductor to Middle Tennessee. The company was encouraged to locate to the area through a solar technology program sponsored by Austin Peay University, she said.

Cammack said he supports green technology as a way to bring new jobs to the state and to promote energy independence. The state currently sends too much of its money for energy to out-of-state suppliers, he said.

"We can be a solar leader of the U.S. and the world," he said. "Other countries can send us their money."

Jim Logan, a representative for Herron, pointed to solar technology projects, such as those announced by Hemlock and Wacker Chemie, and the Volkswagen plant near Chattanooga, as examples of the kind of projects Herron would continue to promote.

Health care also ranked high on all three candidates' lists of priorities.

Cammack, known to participate in triathlons, endorsed early diagnosis and a healthier lifestyle as a way to reduce long-term health care costs.

McMillan said she would like alternative options, citing CoverTN and CoverKids as examples the state could use to supplement federally funded programs.

On the issue of education, Cammack said it should be supported through programs that align schools with potential job opportunities. McMillan said she favored full funding for the Basic Education Program and pointed to taxes on such things as cigarettes as a way to achieve increased revenue.

All three positioned the gun control debate as a "manufactured issue" that is distracting the state from focusing on more important issues. Cammack said he was concerned that publicity of such issues could hurt tourism in the state.

McMillan said that she held a gun carry permit and endorsed the gun carry bill passed when she was in the Legislature.