ROGERSVILLE — A record number of Republicans turned out Friday night to hear Church Hill attorney Mike Faulk declare his candidacy for Tennessee’s 4th Senatorial District seat.
“You all have your favorite lawyer jokes. Here’s mine: Do you know what you call a lawyer gone bad? Senator!” Faulk joked as about 400 Northeast Tennessee Republicans packed the National Guard Armory during the Hawkins County GOP Lincoln Day Dinner.
Faulk is seeking the state Senate seat held by independent Mike Williams, a Maynardville incumbent who hasn’t said whether he will seek re-election for the district, which represents Claiborne, Grainger, Hancock, Hawkins, Jefferson and Union counties.
Faulk, whose law practice makes money off suing drunk drivers, told Republican Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey of Blountville that “help is on the way” if Republicans are serious about getting tough on drunk drivers.
Faulk also noted “it’s a shame” that Tennessee has a sales tax on groceries.
“I can’t imagine building a multimillion dollar banquet hall for the governor’s mansion when our people can’t put food on the supper table without having to pay nearly 10 percent in sales tax,” he said.
Ramsey encouraged Republicans to get behind Faulk to take the seat held by Williams, who has cast key votes in the Senate speaker and lieutenant governor’s election in 2005 and 2007.
Williams voted for Democratic Lt. Gov. John Wilder in 2005, but Wilder’s 35-year tenure in the position ended last year when Williams supported Ramsey, who became the first Republican to hold the job since Reconstruction.
“I had him in my office about an hour before the vote, and three times ... I asked him to vote for me for speaker, and never did he say that he would,” Ramsey said of Williams’ decision last year. “He ended up voting for me because he can count, and his last name starts with a ‘W.’”
Since Williams left the Republican Party last year to become an independent, the Senate is equally divided between Republicans and Democrats.
“If you don’t think it’s difficult governing in Nashville at 16 (Democrats), 16 (Republicans) and one (independent), I want you to come to Nashville with me for a week or two and try it,” Ramsey told the crowd. “It’s no fun. We need a good Republican representing this district in the state Senate. ... I need (Faulk’s) help. Without your help, I may not be speaker, and it may go back to the Democrats next time and last another 140 years. ... This is the number one (election) target in the state of Tennessee, and I make no bones about that.”
The dinner’s keynote speaker, U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, asked Republicans to get behind GOP presidential nominee John McCain.
Corker said McCain, the Arizona U.S. senator, campaigned for him at the end of his successful election bid in 2006 and offers a “stark contrast” to either Democratic presidential candidates Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton.
But Corker noted he has clashed with McCain on political positions.
“John and I have disagreed on a number of issues and in a very passionate way. ... We’ve had strong words ... over the issue of immigration, and it happened on the Senate floor,” Corker explained. “I didn’t agree with his vote and sponsorship of McCain-Feingold (a campaign finance reform law). As a matter of fact, that bill almost cost me the Senate race. ... He wasn’t my first choice in this (GOP presidential) primary ... but I plan to support him with every ounce of energy I have.”
The dinner’s first speaker was Johnson City Mayor Phil Roe, a Republican who will oppose incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. David Davis in the 1st Congressional District primary in August.
Roe repeated that he won’t take special interest money in his campaign.
“America is at a crossroads,” Roe said. “There is a choice between going along with the way we have always done things or starting a new direction, a direction that stares down special interests and doesn’t back down. ... Last year the oil companies had record, record profits. Last year, Exxon Mobil cleared over $40 billion. ... I guess they need the money to pay the lobbyists to go to Capitol Hill to try to buy the votes. Unlike my opponent, when big oil comes calling, I won’t take one dime.”
He also indicated Davis has been sending out direct mail pieces at taxpayer expense.
“It’s time to say ‘Return to sender,’” Roe said of the mail pieces.
Two of those mailers highlighted Davis’ positions on illegal immigration and energy. Davis was not able to attend Friday night’s dinner due to a death in the family.
For more about the Hawkins County Republican Party go to www.hawkinsgop.blogspot.com.