In pinch-hit speaking appearance, Harwell pledges she'll keep state's financial house in order

Hank Hayes • Dec 4, 2017 at 8:00 PM

KINGSPORT — Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell got to make an unscheduled pitch for her 2018 gubernatorial campaign on Monday.

Harwell, the pinch-hit speaker for U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, told a Greater Kingsport Republican Women’s luncheon that state finances and the opioid crisis would be her top priorities if elected governor.

“We keep the financial house in order,” Harwell, R-Nashville, said of GOP supermajority rule in the Tennessee General Assembly.

She reiterated her three guiding policy questions have been: Does it increase the size of government? Does it make it easier for business to operate? Does it move Tennessee forward in education reform?

“You may know that I’m running for governor, and if I am blessed to be the governor of the state, those three questions will go with me to the governor’s office,” she pledged. “First, I will tell you that the next governor, without a doubt, can’t take their eyes off the fiscal condition of the state. That’s the number one goal. It’s not very glamorous, but if you don’t have your financial house in order, nothing else is going to matter.”

As for the opioid crisis, Harwell said measures have been put in place to limit pharmacists and physicians.

“Since 2012, the peak in prescriptions for opioids in this state, our prescription rate is actually down 7 percent,” she announced. “Here’s the bad news. The number of children born addicted to opioids in 2012 to present has increased 6 percent. … After studying this for some time, we’re not going to incarcerate our way out of this. … Some things we have run as a pilot program are recovery courts. … President Trump was right calling it a crisis for our entire nation.”

Harwell is up against Williamson County businessman Bill Lee, former state Sen. Mae Beavers, U.S. Rep. Diane Black and former State Economic Development Commissioner Randy Boyd in the 2018 August GOP primary.

State Rep. Timothy Hill, in introducing Harwell, said she’s always listened to him.

“Her door has always been open,” Hill, R-Blountville, said of Harwell. “She cares about state government and how it is run. … For the last two years, she’s presided over a body that was rated by the American Conservative Union as the most conservative legislature in the entire country. That’s a huge deal.”


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