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October 8, 2009

Coffee with the Candidate: Mike McWherter

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mike McWherter is making a noticeable effort to involve bloggers and other non-traditional media types in getting his message out. (This is not an endorsement, but an observation, of which I invite other campaigns to take note.) To that end, his Nashville headquarters contacted me and asked if, since Mike was going to be in Chattanooga for other visits, I would like an interview opportunity. "Of course," I replied.

We met at a local Starbucks last Wednesday. Campaign aide Jed "Meat and Three" Brewer was along for the ride. (Full disclosure: none of us actually had coffee. I enjoyed a white tea, while my two guests drank bottled water.)

Even though I have a fairly good grasp of the Volunteer State's political demography, I sometimes still wonder aloud, as I did then, that almost all of the Democratic candidates for governor come from West Tennessee, and that the Republicans, by contrast, hail from East Tennessee. Mike McWherter calibrated my knowledge by stating that it is rural Middle Tennessee that historically holds the deepest Democratic Party support.

I started the "official" part of the meeting with a question about jobs (as no reasonable candidate fails to mention job creation as a top priority). I asked whether McWherter's focus would be on attracting more new businesses to the state, or working to create and/or sustain homegrown operations. He said that he would be committed to maintaining businesses that have already either started or moved here, by assessing what they need and working to provide it. He echoed comments I noted earlier about broadband internet being today's infrastructure equivalent of what roads were "twenty years ago."

We talked for a moment about the "smart grid" technology being rolled out in the Chattanooga area by EPB, and Brewer reminded me that McWherter is a board member of Jackson, Tennessee's public utility (JEA), which has its own similar (including broadband) initiative. McWherter says that it is a combination of programs like these with existing providers (such as AT&T and Comcast) that will deliver the widespread access needed to support business growth in the state.

I then asked if, as a pro-business candidate and a CEO himself, he anticipates any friction with organized labor, which is one of his party's bastions of support. He stated that he has met with labor leaders across the state about how they can work together. He went on to emphasize that he supports Tennessee's "Right to Work" law, and feels that it (along with the absence of a state income tax) is a major advantage toward attracting employers. He said that labor organizations, such as the Tennessee Education Association, are great policy communication vehicles, and in that regard, he views them as a positive influence.

I had asked TennesseeTicket readers to submit questions for this interview. The following are excerpted from the questions submitted.

Do you support a proposed ban on unmarried (including gay) couples adopting children?

McWherter does support the ban, and feels that having parents of the opposite sex is better for a child. He says that the Department of Children's Services reports to the governor, so as governor, he would be responsible for children in need of this service. I followed up by asking if he felt that foster care by an opposite-sex couple was better than adoption by a same-sex couple, and he said that he did.

Are you more like Al Gore or Phil Bredesen?

(Emphatically) "Phil Bredesen."

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TN Gubernatorial Elections | By joe lance | 4:01 PM


It's a shame when a candidate allows religious prejudice to override legitimate research to deny orphaned children a loving home. If a candidate allows personal prejudice to influence his policy, regardless of what's right for the people, how can he lead a state?

And this isn't a gay or straight issue... what happens when it's an issue of healthcare and, regardless of scientific data, he decides to not allow state funding for a treatment because he personally doesn't agree with it?

Posted by: Chris at October 9, 2009 3:17 PM

McWherter's campaign is the most overrated of all the Democratic candidates. Mr. Brewer would be wise to abandon ship now rather than work for another Mike Padgett 2.0

Posted by: Interested Citizen at October 10, 2009 2:01 AM

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