Candidates Debate

Ferguson stresses record, Hurley likens incumbent to D.C. liberals

By Damon Lawrence

Julia Hurley is running against Dennis Ferguson for the 32nd District seat in the State House of Representatives.

However, the Republican had more to say about national politicians and legislation coming out of Washington, D.C., than she did about Ferguson during her opening comments at a forum last week.   

“The Obamas, Nancy Pelosis, Harry Reids and liberals across the state of Tennessee have had enough time with their hands in our back pockets, and it’s time for them to go,” she said.    

Ferguson, the Democrat incumbent, urged the crowd to not fall for Hurley’s attempt to paint him as a Washington liberal.

“Folks, I don’t want you to go away today thinking one bit that Dennis Ferguson is a liberal Washington Democrat,” he said. “I’m not. You all know that. I’m a Roane County boy. I’ve always been that way, and I have nothing to do with what they do in Washington.”

The Thursday forum was at Luminary United Methodist Church in Ten Mile gave each candidate the chance to make opening and closing statements. They also fielded questions from the audience.

“I’ve been your state representative for 18 years,” Ferguson said. “And during that time as your state representative, I’ve never missed a day. I’ve got a 100-percent attendance record. I’m proud of that.”

Ferguson said he’s also proud of what’s been accomplished during his tenure.

“I put a extra $250,000 this year into long-term care and for the meals on wheels, which is a great program,” he said. “That $250,000 will feed another 147 people in Tennessee. You say that’s not a lot. That’s 147 more people that’s going to be able to get fed, in addition to what we’re already feeding.”

Hurley read from note cards during her opening and closing comments.

“I’m new at this, so bear with me,” she told the crowd.  

Republicans currently have the majority in the state Senate and House, and Hurley said the party will likely control the governor’s mansion after November’s election. She cited that as a reason why voters should send her to Nashville.

“We need someone who can go and be with the majority party,” Hurley said. “Who can vote in Nashville to get things done. Who will be listened to. Who belongs to the majority party and can get it done.”

Ferguson said he can work with both parties to get things done.

“I run as a Democrat, but that doesn’t matter to me,” he said. “You have to work with both sides. Democrats, Republicans, everybody’s got to work together.”

One man in the audience said he’s been out of work for two years and asked the candidates to talk about jobs.

“I’m sorry I don’t have a job for you tomorrow,” Hurley said. “But, hopefully in 2011, these small business start-up plans, the people that are willing to put their personal and private money to start a private industry will get you one quickly.”

The candidates were also asked about this year’s property reappraisal, which made a lot of people upset. Property values throughout the county increased, despite an economic downturn and major environmental disaster.  

“It is an absolute tragedy that some properties are 300 percent tax hike right now,” Hurley said. “I think that the performance by the county and the local officials, and the state officials as well, could have been quicker.”

Ferguson said he understands the pain many property owners are feeling.

“My property tax went up, just like your property tax went up,” he said.

Ferguson said he and state Sen. Ken Yager tried to help locals by urging Tennessee Comptroller Justin Wilson to provide some relief.

“We said we’ve got to do something to try to get some relief to those people up there on their property tax,” he said.  

Hurley reverted to her talking points about national politicians in closing comments.

“I will continue to fight off Obamacare and the tax-and-spend liberal attitudes coming from Washington,” she said. “ ... If you don’t like what’s going on in Washington, don’t vote for the same old, same old.”

Ferguson played the hometown card in his closing comments.

“I’ve went to school with your kids and your grandkids,” he said. “I know your neighbors. You know my family. I know your family. I’ve lived here my entire life. There’s nowhere else I’d want to live except Roane County.”

Election Day is Nov. 2. Early voting starts Oct. 13 and ends Oct. 28.

Foot Note: Julia Hurley is from and a resident of Lenoir City. The 32nd district is mostly Roane county but also includes Lenoir City.