The race for the Tennessee governor’s mansion is heating up in what promises to be the most contentious mid-term election in recent history.
Historically, Tennessee has alternated between parties, generally tracking opposite the White House, although these are far from typical times in American politics.
The two front-runners in terms of name recognition, and cash on hand, are emerging as 6th district congresswoman Diane Black and former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean.
Karl Dean certainly has healthcare in his sights, and has a track record to prove his support. As mayor of Nashville he favored many initiatives supporting healthy lifestyles, critical in a state with epidemic levels of childhood obesity. Dean has expressed support for the Medicaid expansion, as laid out in the ACA, and the $2.5 million per day in federal money that would come with it to insure all Tennesseans have access to good healthcare. These funds would disproportionally help rural Tennesseans, the same ones with diminishing access. 9 rural Tennessee hospitals have closed in the past decade. Only Texas, at 11, has closed more. These federal dollars would help prevent this trend, a move opposed by Black and most of her GOP colleagues, which makes it unclear how she would fund her supposed plan to keep these hospitals open, and the student loan assistance she proposes to lure healthcare workers to these rural areas. The federal funds available could accomplish part of this goal without shifting any additional tax burden to Tennesseans or the businesses we want to move here. Why would anyone oppose this move? The answer can only be if a candidate places politics over the health and well-being of his or her constituents, if ideology is more important than overall benefit.
The other major health crisis in our state is that of opioid abuse. While there are no easy answers in this horrible epidemic, medical marijuana could potentially help. Studies have indicated that medical marijuana, prescribed for chronic pain, can reduce opioid overdoses by 25%, with a more recent study published by the American Journal of Public Health, showing that recreational marijuana reduces deaths by a further 6%, meaning a third of the 1600 overdose victims in Tennessee could be saved. 74% of Tennesseans support medical marijuana. Unfortunately, probable opponent Diane Black does not, once again, placing ideology over evidence. Although this is no surprise considering much of her estimated $74 million fortune comes from Aegis Sciences, a drug testing company founded by her husband.
Another advantage for Dean is his history of working closely with our state’s corporate citizens. A pro-business platform is something we can all agree on and Dean has a powerful track record. Under his leadership Nashville’s GDP saw consistent double-digit growth, reaching 40% of the GDP on the entire state. He negotiated the relocation of Bridgestone’s headquarters to downtown Nashville among dozens of other economic development projects leading Davidson to have the lowest unemployment in the state, tied with adjacent Williamson.
While most major candidates pay lip service to these issues, Karl Dean is the only one with a clear plan for financing our healthcare and using evidence based solutions to the problems confronting our state.