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Black musters local endorsements to bolster governor campaign

Nathan Baker • Jul 6, 2018 at 4:00 AM

Governor hopeful Diane Black and the cadre of politicians at a campaign event Thursday in downtown Johnson City stuck to the social issues that resonate well with Tennessee voters.

“I’ve had many constituents here in Washington County come to me, and they say ‘Why can’t you pass this bill, or why can’t you pass that bill?’” state Rep. Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough, said in a speech endorsing Black. “Well, I know that with governor Diane Black, we will be able to continue to pass pro-life legislation, there will be no more roadblocks when it comes to the children and which bathrooms you go to and all this nonsense that you hear about all the time.”

Last year, Hill successfully passed legislation putting some of the nation’s strictest requirements on abortions, requiring physicians to first determine whether a fetus is viable after 20 weeks of gestation and forbidding abortion if it’s determined the fetus could potentially live outside the mother.

Many of the other politicians on hand to lend Black their endorsements, including former Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey; Rep. Micah Van Huss, R-Jonesborough; Rep. Timothy Hill, R-Blountville; and U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-Johnson City; and touted the sitting U.S. House member’s favor with Tennessee Right to Life, a state group opposing abortion rights, and the National Rifle Association, the latter of which endorsed her last month in the August Republican primary.

Ramsey, who helped usher in the Republican supermajorities in the state House and Senate, attributed some of the party’s gains to Black in his full-throated endorsement.

“This is a tough race folks, and we’ve got some very reputable, very good candidates — let’s be honest, they’re all good people,” Ramsey said of Black’s challengers in the upcoming primary. … “But nobody has the qualifications, believes right on the issues, whether it’s pro-life, whether it’s Second Amendment or event on the budgetary issues, and realize we can make a difference in this state except Diane Black. And that’s the reason I’m supporting her.”

In a stump speech, Black encouraged the voters in attendance to spread her message by word of mouth, asking them to “talk about me wherever you go, and say ‘I’ve met her, she’s a good lady.’”

Polling data released Thursday by political consulting firm Data Orbital showed Black with a 1-point lead among likely Republican voters over her closest primary challenger, Knoxville businessman Randy Boyd. Analysts said the poll’s 3.7-percent margin of error and the 20 percent of respondents who said they were still undecided means the race could be anyone’s game.

A poll last week conducted by Triton Polling & Research on behalf of conservative website the Tennessee Star showed Boyd leading Black by 5 percentage points.

Asked about the most recent poll Thursday, Black said each poll is only as good as the pollster, but said her campaign will continue its forward momentum.

In both polls, Franklin businessman Bill Lee and state House Speaker Beth Harwell were shown trailing the two frontrunners.

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