Incumbent state Rep. Dale Ford, R-Jonesborough is seeking a fourth term in the Tennessee General Assembly this year, and he faces James Van Huss, a fellow Republican throwing his hat in the political ring for the first time in August for the right to run as the GOP candidate for the state’s 6th House District seat.
Democrat Michael Clark is running unopposed and will face the Republican winner.
Jonesborough’s Ford, 70, was first elected in 2006. He is chairman of the House Agriculture Committee’s subcommittee. He also serves as a member of the Ethics, Joint Veterans Affairs, Corrections Oversight and Transportation subcommittees.
He supports significant decreases in gasoline and sales taxes but strongly favors increasing taxes on alcohol and cigarette sales. He generally favors capping campaign contributions from political parties, corporations and political action committees.
Ford said jobs and the economy are his top concerns and his efforts to improve infrastructure show he working to provide for these concerns. He has been successful in securing funds for the Interstate 26 Exit 13 improvements and other road and water projects throughout the district.
“Jobs and the economy are key, and our unemployment needs to be addressed,” he said. “I think better leadership is key. Tennessee is in much better shape than many other states. We cut the budget and balanced the budget. As far as infrastructure, if you have a small business, and you have delays, it runs into thousands of dollars and that is job related. We also have 200 miles of roads in Washington County without access to water.”
When asked how many terms he would serve, Ford replied only that he would like to stay around long enough to see some of the major projects completed.
“I feel like I’d let a lot of people down if I didn’t,” he said. “I’m not a person that goes to Nashville to write a lot of bills. My job is to help people.”
He also said both the state and federal governments are too big and people need less government in their lives.
“I think I have people skills, and I stand very strongly on my record,” he added.
Van Huss, a 33-year-old Marine Corps veteran from Jonesborough, served as a sniper during three tours in Iraq and one tour in Afghanistan. He has never run for public office before but says he is ready to apply his leadership abilities in the General Assembly.
“Seven years of leading as a Marine has taught me that we all bleed the same color,” he said. “I have no political experience. Some may consider that a good thing; others may consider it a bad thing. I learned that leadership is best done by example — from the front, not the rear. And if I did ever show arrogance, I would expect not to be re-elected.”
While his conservative stand on many issues mirrors that of Ford, he did say 6th District constituents deserved “more consistency, especially in regards to ‘ghost voting.’ ”
Ford has come under scrutiny for voting in the House chamber when he was not seated, and for voting for other members. Ford said he would never use the method unless the rules were suspended.
Van Huss refused further comment on this topic.
Ford said if “ghost voting” was the only “dirt” on him he had to deal with, he felt he was in pretty good shape.
The challenger said his top priority, if elected, would be lowering taxes to encourage entrepreneurship. He also said he would fight to reduce, and eventually end, the sales tax on food.
“I also don’t believe you can plug gaps in a state budget with federal bailouts,” he said. “ObamaCare is the biggest tax increase in the history of the world. If I’m elected, I’ll work hard to make sure Tennessee is living within its means.”