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Hank Hayes • Sep 12, 2008 at 12:00 AM

Tennessee 4th Senatorial District GOP challenger Mike Faulk said Friday he has “deep regrets” about his connection to Rogersville teacher Kelli Walker, but would not confirm whether or not he had an extramarital affair with her.

The Associated Press broke the story about Faulk’s relationship with Walker based on a letter she composed in late August.

In that letter, which has since been posted on the Internet, she tendered her resignation as the chair of the Hawkins County Young Republicans, saying her job has been “tainted due to my inappropriate, extramarital relationship with state Senate candidate Mike Faulk.”

Faulk said in a prepared statement that Walker is going through some serious personal problems.

“I have deep regrets for whatever part her association with me and my campaign may have played in those problems,” Faulk told the Times-News. “I wish her nothing but the best. She is a very special person to me. The chairman of the Hawkins County Young Republicans has not resigned, and I have the continued support of both that organization and her.”

When asked if the affair happened, Faulk responded: “My statement is as I just read it.”

In the letter, Walker said she couldn’t ask her group to support Faulk “who ... refuses to take responsibility for his part in the tragedy I now find myself.”

Faulk, a 55-year-old Church Hill attorney, is in an election battle with independent incumbent state Sen. Mike Williams of Maynardville for the seat that could tilt an evenly divided Senate toward the Republicans. No Democrat is seeking the seat in the Nov. 4 general election.

Faulk, who is single and has been divorced for nearly three years, said he has not talked to Walker since the Associated Press story was published.

Walker expressed remorse and asked for forgiveness for her actions.

“I believe that God’s punishment is swift and just when we willfully disobey his word,” she said in the letter. “The consequences of my behavior have been just that. It has cost me my marriage, my children’s security in the family unit I promised to provide for them, my reputation in the small town I have called home for 18 years, and my credibility as an educational professional in my community.”

Despite the unwanted publicity surrounding Walker, Faulk moved forward with his campaign Friday by announcing a $75,000 TV political ad purchase in the Knoxville and Tri-Cities media markets.

In the ad, Faulk points out that lawmakers passed a $200 million tax increase in 2007 when the state had a surplus. He says his father told him that a family shouldn’t spend more than it takes in, and “that should apply to government, too.”

What Faulk’s ad didn’t say was that tax increase last year was a cigarette tax hike to finance education funding reform in the state.

Faulk touts himself as an avid hunter, outdoorsman and conservationist. In his law practice, he sues drunk drivers. He is also a former Hawkins County commissioner.

“I believe what really matters in this campaign is whether we can improve the representation that we have in Nashville,” Faulk said. “I believe the people in the 4th Senate District are concerned about the issues that are important to them and their pocketbooks and their jobs and the significant problems we have in our state rather than someone’s personal problems.”

One of Faulk’s biggest supporters has been Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, who is seeking to build a working GOP majority in the state Senate.

Ramsey, a Blountville Republican, said he didn’t think Faulk’s past situation with Walker will make a significant difference in the campaign.

“People really do want to hear about the issues, and Mike has the money to run a good campaign,” Ramsey said. “This is a little bump in the road you may wish didn’t happen because it diverts you from your message, but you keep plowing forward and keep the campaign on the issues, not about gossip.”

The 4th Senatorial District covers Claiborne, Grainger, Hancock, Hawkins, Jefferson and Union counties in Northeast Tennessee.

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