This billboard, located near the intersection of John Exum Parkway and West Market Street, is one of several ads placed by State Rep. Matthew Hill's campaign team. (Nathan Baker/Johnson City Press)
Tennessee House Rep. Matthew Hill, R-7th, is blasting Republican opponent Phil Carriger with an aggressive advertising campaign, labeling the former Johnson City commissioner as nothing less than a liberal-leaning threat to basic conservatism.
The incumbent’s campaign team, “Friends of Matthew Hill,” is in full swing, using newspapers, billboards and household mailings just days before early voting begins Friday and about three weeks ahead of the Aug. 7 state Republican primary.
Last week, Hill ran a rather vivid ad in the Jonesborough Herald & Tribune, which could be described as morose with a twist of science fiction. Pictured at the top are a man and his wife standing in front of their property. Their house and a large barn sit lifeless in the background. The sky is dark, dreary, gray. A large sign in front of the house reads, “Property Annexed by the Government.”
The couple is depicted as distraught and bemoaning an apparent foreclosure notice that has arrived by mail. The large caption below reads: “Why did Phil Carriger repeatedly vote in favor of Forced Annexation, which Doubles Your Taxes and allows city and town governments to take control of your property and land Against Your Will?”
The ad states Carriger “voted again and again and again against you and your family ... ,” while the last statement proclaims Hill stood by people, protecting them and their homes.
“This just shows me he’s a man running out of ideas,” Carriger said Monday. “This is what turns people off about politics. I think there were four instances regarding annexation that were not owner initiated. I had to recuse myself in two cases. I did vote for two annexations on state highway 75, and it seemed to me those were set for commercial development.”
Hill said it is not merely his contention that Carriger voted for “forced” annexations.
“It’s fact,” he said. “He voted for forced annexations — not several times, but dozens of times.”
Hill said the number of votes accumulates, considering annexation by ordinance requires three readings by city commissioners.
In March, state legislators passed a consolidated bill that ended municipal annexation by ordinance, halted annexation of farmland and requires a referendum for any annexation, whether requested by municipalities or property owners.
The Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations recommended that legislators extend the moratorium on annexation and requested further study of the ancillary issues regarding the state’s annexation laws, especially with regard to how to deal with corporate and business interests within areas to be annexed that are not residents but do own property within the area to be annexed.
“The only fault I have with the new law is that if someone owns property, but does not live here, they cannot vote on whether their own property will be annexed,” Carriger said. “Otherwise, I favor letting people decide for themselves.”
Meanwhile, Hill also is distributing a colorful flyer to households in the area. The front features, from left to right: Democratic President Barack Obama, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., U.S. House Minority Leader, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Carriger.
Underneath the rather unflattering photos of the Democratic leaders, and the black and white image of Hill’s opponent, the flyer reads: “Why do liberals love Phil Carriger?”
The reverse side states Carriger has accepted $37,000 in campaign donations from “liberal Democrats who support Obama’s policies ... ” It mentions Obamacare, says Obama “took over our schools” through Common Core, and “liberal policies that hurt veterans.” This one side is set with a black background with the headline: “They have their candidate.” The other, features a smiling family of four with sunshine and trees in the background. This headline reads: “We have ours.”
“I’ve had a lot of people call me and tell me they were very upset about the flyer,” Carriger said. “I’ve tried to run a facts-based race. This is the kind of campaign that reveals your character. Trying to scare people is not the kind of standard we should strive for. Folks are allowed to contribute; it’s their choice. Do you think he (Hill) called any of these people to see if they support Obamacare?”
Hill maintains that he is the only proven conservative in the race.
“The bulk of his support comes from people who support Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton,” Hill said. “Notice — he did not contend that he did not take money from liberals. He hasn’t denied anything I’ve said. There is a huge difference between he and I.”
Recognizable contributors to Carriger’s campaign include Ralph Van Brocklin, Johnson City mayor; Art Powers, retired Johnson City Press publisher; Dan Schumaier, Johnson City audiologist and Tweetsie Trail Task Force chairman; Tom McKee, Johnson City Power Board attorney; Lewis Wexler, Free Service Tire owner; Marvin Carter, local builder/developer; and Scott Niswonger, Landair Transport Inc. chairman, according to state campaign finance records.
Hill also has an ad on a mechanical billboard at the corner of West Market Street and John Exum Parkway, which reads: “Phil Carriger as a city commissioner voted to ban guns in Johnson City. Phil Carriger is not a friend of the 2nd Amendment.”
“On July 2, 2009, he seconded a motion and voted to ban guns in Johnson City,” Hill said.
Carriger did vote to ban guns in school playgrounds and city parks, but he did not vote to ban guns citywide.
“A few weeks ago, we had a well-attended skeet shoot at the Unaka Rod and Gun Club,” Carriger said. “It was in support of the 2nd Amendment. The proceeds went to benefit local disabled American veterans. And if people think that’s evil, I’ll just have to live with it.”
Todd Franklin, the third Republican candidate in the hunt for the District 7 seat, said Hill has not mentioned his name in any advertisement that he’s aware of.
“I’ve seen the ads against Mr. Carriger,” Franklin said. “Mr. Hill’s unfortunately gone after him, but he is not providing information about what he plans to do in the future. He had that opportunity when the Press invited him to a public forum and to respond to questions recently. I hope there is no more of this to come.”
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