Kingsport Times-News: Kingsport mayoral race heats up day before early voting
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Kingsport mayoral race heats up day before early voting

Matthew Lane • May 10, 2019 at 8:30 AM

KINGSPORT — Two mayoral candidates are crying foul over a political mailer sent out this week by Vice-Mayor Mike McIntire that claims a property tax increase would happen under their administrations.

However, McIntire said the claim is based on statements made by his opponents during the campaign, specifically in regard to comments made about the repeal of the city’s sanitation fee.

Early voting for the city election began on Thursday at the Kingsport Civic Auditorium. In the race for mayor, five candidates are vying for the job: McIntire, Joe Carr, Dennis Mabb, Pat Shull, and Nathan Vaughn.

ABOUT THE MAILER

Voters began receiving a mailer this week from McIntire’s campaign, just before early voting began. The mailer asks, “Would you like to have a property tax increase this year?” and claims that would happen if they vote for Shull or Vaughn.

The mailer continues by saying the proposed policies of Shull and Vaughn would raise property taxes by as much as 50 cents per hundred. “Can you stand a $188 tax increase?” the mailer asks.

Shull issued a statement Wednesday morning denouncing the mailer, calling it “unprecedented and unethical.” Speaking with the Times-News on Thursday, Vaughn said the mailer has no place in the campaign.

SWIFT RESPONSE

“Kingsport has a time-honored tradition of clean campaigning, and it’s sad to see it broken so desperately and dishonestly,” Shull said in his statement. “This kind of campaigning is unprecedented and unethical and totally out of character for Kingsport.”

Shull continued by saying in more than 10 years of public service he has never voted for a property tax increase, nor would he propose one if elected mayor of Kingsport.

“We’ve put forward positive policy proposals, and they’re clearly resonating, or we wouldn’t be seeing these last-ditch negative tactics,” Shull said. “The people of Kingsport expect better of their leaders, and these attacks will probably backfire just like they did in the governor’s race.”

Vaughn said there are no policies in his agenda that would result in a property tax increase, nor is he interested in doing anything that would raise taxes on Kingsport residents.

“(The mailer) is designed to scare people and that is tragic. To make those claims is mean-spirited, evil and has no relation to the truth,” Vaughn said.

DEFENDING THE CLAIM

McIntire said the claim made in the mailer is based on two things Shull and Vaughn have talked about during the campaign: the repeal of the sanitation fee and how more should be done about the condition of Kingsport’s streets.

The sanitation fee generates about $2.7 million each year, and if it is repealed, McIntire said, that money has to come from somewhere.

“All of that money is not just sitting there. If it’s repealed, it’s got to be replaced, and the only way I see how you can replace it is by raising taxes,” McIntire said.

The second part of the claim comes from Shull and Vaughn talking about the need to spend more to repair the streets of Kingsport, McIntire said.

“If you say let’s spend two or three times what we’re spending now to fix our streets, that could be another 13 to 26 cents on the property tax rate,” McIntire said. “If you say you’re going to do it, the only place to get the money is from a tax increase.”

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