Republican Beth Harwell has the most political experience of anyone running for Tennessee governor this year but she’s trailing in the polls and far behind in fundraising. We asked Harwell about how she plans to separate herself from the field of well-financed rivals in the GOP primary.
She spoke about her legislative experience with WPLN's Emily Siner, who talks about the conversation with her colleague Jason Moon Wilkins in this episode of The Tri-Star State.
Listen to the audio above, or scroll down to see interview highlights. We'll have interviews with all of the gubernatorial candidates in the coming days, and you can find more information about where the candidates stand on various issues at wpln.org/nextgovernor.
On the value of political experience:
"I'm almost amused at the people running for governor saying, 'Here's what I'm going to do when I'm governor.' The bottom line is, they're not going to do anything that the Tennessee General Assembly doesn't allow them to do. And I think I have a working knowledge of the legislature and state government in order to be ready day one."
On distancing herself from lawmakers in Congress:
"When you look at Washington, D.C., it is a dismal failure. The state of Tennessee is an astonishing success. We balanced our budget. We're the third lowest tax state in the nation. And here's the statistic I love the best for my children and your grandchildren: We're the lowest debt state in the nation, and that doesn't happen by accident. The state of Tennessee is in great financial condition, and hopefully I've been a part of that."
On overseeing the sexual harassment investigation in former state Rep. Jeremy Durham:
"At the end of the day, it's always easy to be critical. But when you're in the arena, and you're trying to make the tough decisions, which I have tried to do as speaker, I feel very good about where we are.
"I do not hire any member of the General Assembly, and I don't fire any member of the General Assembly. That's up to the public. But I will tell you this: When I found out of some sort of wrongdoing, I called for an attorney general's investigation. I made that investigation public knowledge. So it was released to the public, and we took swift and certain action and removed someone from the General Assembly, and that has not happened in decades in our state."