The candidate for the Republican nomination for governor said he was pleased with the large turnout of citizens at the Carter County Republican Party Headquarters in the Ritz Mini Mall downtown.
It was the second good-sized gathering to show up for Lee in Elizabethton in the past two months. The Middle Tennessee businessman emphasized his rural roots as he gave a short speech and answered questions in what was billed as a Tennessee Town Hall, one of 90 he said he has held during the campaign. He has five more scheduled before election day Thursday.
Lee once again reminded his Elizabethton audience that he is a seventh-generation Tennessean and a third-generation cattle farmer in Williamson County. He emphasized his devout Christian beliefs and his conservative political views and said East Tennessee was the most conservative part of the state.
During his visit to Elizabethton last month, most polls had placed Lee in third place, behind Diane Black and Randy Boyd. This week, a poll released by JMC Analytics and Polling showed Lee in first place, at 26 percent; Boyd at 20 percent; and Black at 19 percent.
Lee said his rising poll numbers in recent weeks may have been the reason for the increase in negative television commercials and mailers by his opponents, especially those attack ads targeting him. He assured his audience that he was not going negative.
Lee said those negative ads were “deceptive” and “dishonest” and he thought “Tennesseans are smarter than that.” He said the ads reflect more about the candidate doing the ad than it did about the person attacked in the ad.
“It is everything that is wrong in politics,” Lee said. “Don’t do unto other people what you don’t want done to you.”
Lee emphasized that he is an outside to politics, just as President Donald Trump is an outsider. He said he is a strong supporter of Trump in such areas as “securing our borders and global security.” He said moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem was “critically important.”
In answering questions from the audience, Lee said Trump has proven to be “powerfully effective.” When asked if he had any disagreements with the way Trump has operated, Lee said that even in areas like tariffs where Trump has first faced criticism, his viewpoint as an outsider makes more sense as time goes on. He said he would not presume to criticize the president.
Lee spoke about several areas he would work to change if he becomes governor.
• In education, he would work to put more emphasis on technical and vocational courses in high schools. He said his Lee Company hires about 1,200 employees, mostly in the skilled trades. So he knows what a shortage there is in those workers. He said he would not make this change in direction by spending more money and building more buildings but by forming partnerships with businesses.
He said he was in favor of school choice, saying that when parents have choices, the whole system improves.
• Lee said he would oppose “sanctuary cities” in Tennessee. He said America was a country based on the rule of law, while sanctuary cities were “the definition of lawlessness.”
Lee thanked his Carter County supporters and said he hoped to return to the county as the Republican nominee for governor.