The forum drew the two candidates together as they look to gain the Senate seat vacated by Mae Beavers when she decided to focus on her run for Tennessee governor.
Early voting has already started in the election, while the General Election will take place Dec. 19.
Wilson County attorney Mary Alice Carfi is the Democrat candidate and said it’s time for some “common sense” in the Senate.
Mark Pody, an insurance agency owner and current state representative, is the Republican candidate and listed his top priorities as conservative fiscal policies and bringing high-paying jobs to the district.
Each candidate led with an opening statement before they answered a series of questions designed to reveal where they stand on the top issues affecting District 17 and the state.
“Right now, people are struggling in Tennessee. They are struggling to pay their mortgage. They’re struggling to put food on the table, and they’re struggling to pay for their health care. These are things legislators need to focus on,” Carfi said. “We have to make peoples’ lives better in the state of Tennessee. Instead of being so divided and voting down party lines, we’ve got to focus on these issues and do things that are going to make peoples’ lives better.”
Pody recited the Tennessee Republican Party’s platform in his opening statement, which included principles that marriage is between a man and woman, the right to bear arms, freedom to use individual abilities to pursue personal gain as long as it doesn’t infringe on the rights of others and more.
“I’m a Republican, and I’m running for the job as your next state senator,” Pody said.
Question: What are some key issues you want to influence as a member of the state Senate?
Pody: “I believe that education and jobs are important, but I don’t believe that government is where jobs are created. I believe that we have to have jobs that are coming here from our current small businesses based on our economic environment that we’ve created,” said Pody, who said the state should also focus on a fair tax structure and continuing to better education.
Carfi: “We’ve got to give people access to healthcare. We had an opportunity to expand Medicaid and our legislature did not do that, so we left $3.6 billion sitting on the table that went to other states,” said Carfi, who said the state should also continue to focus on education and healthcare.
Question: Can you name a current tax that you would revise, enact or eliminate?
Pody: “The first one is the Hall income tax. We are, right now, in the process of having it phased out. I would eliminate it right now. Last year, we had a surplus in the budget to do it, and I would’ve gotten rid of it.”
Carfi: “I would get rid of the tax on food. That seems like a no-brainer to me. The Hall income tax only applies mostly to the top 5 percent most wealthiest Tennesseans,” she said. “I would cut the tax on food because the people who have a low income pay more tax, percentage-wise, than people with a higher income.”
Question: What do you think of the IMPROVE Act? Was it a good thing for the state or how would you improve the IMPROVE Act?
Carfi: “I do think it was a good thing. I would’ve voted for it,” she said. “It’s a step in the right direction and I would have voted for it. Absolutely.”
Pody: “I voted against it. It was not a good bill. We needed $300 million to go to roads. I wanted that $300 million to go to roads, but I wanted to do it in a much different way,” said Pody, who said the plan has too many moving pieces.
Question: How can Tennessee’s legislature ensure everyone in the state has access to affordable healthcare?
Pody: “There’s a way to do it through block grants. I’ve been fighting for it before and I’ll fight for it again.”
Carfi: “We’ve got to expand Medicaid. That’s kind of a no-brainer. Like I said before, we had $3.6 billion that we could have brought to our state to expand Medicaid.”
Question: How much influence should state government have on local school districts?
Carfi: “The problem with having state standards is every school is not the same. Every child is not the same. They all learn differently and the teachers are trained to know how that works,” said Carfi, who noted standards do play an important role, but local districts should have more control.
Pody: “I don’t think we should have a federal branch in the government – a federal agency – in education. I don’t think we need in Tennessee, Nashville telling Wilson County or any other county what they should or shouldn’t be doing to teach their students.”
Questions: What would you do to change state testing?
Pody: “We’ve got to support our teachers. I think it’s important to let the teachers be the ones doing the education and not all the testing that’s going on that’s Nashville’s putting down.”
Carfi: “TN Ready over the last couple of years has been a mess,” she said. “They spent so much time getting ready for these tests and learning how to fill in these little bubbles and take the computer tests, and we got no results from that whatsoever. That’s absolutely unacceptable. We do need to figure out a way to test our students in a way to show where they are. The way we are doing it right now hasn’t been working.”
For the complete forum, watch the video at lebanondemocrat.com or on The Democrat’s Facebook page @wilsonconews.
Early voting for the general election will run through Dec. 14 at the Wilson County Election Commission office at 203 E. Main St. in Lebanon and the Mt. Juliet Community Center at 1075 Charlie Daniels Pkwy. in Mt. Juliet.
Early voting will be available at three additional locations from Dec. 4-9, including the Watertown Community Center at 8630 Sparta Pike in Watertown, Lighthouse Church at 6141 Saundersville Rd. in Mt. Juliet and the Gladeville Community Center at 95 McCreary Road in Gladeville.
Early voting for the general election runs Mondays through Fridays from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. and Saturdays from 8 a.m. until 1 p.m. The Lighthouse Christian location closes at 5 p.m. each weekday.
Residents voting early or on election days should remember to bring valid photo identification. A driver’s license or photo identification issued by the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security, as well as photo identification issued by Tennessee state government or the federal government, are acceptable even if they are expired. College student identification will not be accepted.
Visit wilsoncountyvotes.com for more information.