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On the campaign trail
Bill Lee for governor
James Clark photo Bill Lee, a Republican candidate for Tennessee Governor, chats with Jana Wilson-Ringemann outside Praters BBQ following a town hall meeting Wednesday night. Early voting begins July 13.

Bill Lee is quick to point out he’s not a politician.

Lee is a businessman who has helped grow his family business, Lee Company, to employ more than 1,200 people and earn more than $200 million in annual revenue.

Now Lee is asking for your vote in the Republican Primary as he runs for Governor of Tennessee.

“Our state needs an executive leader, someone who will cast a vision of where we want our state to go, where we want our state to be in 20 years,” said Lee during a town hall meeting Wednesday night at Prater’s BBQ in Morrison. “Then we have to plan and determine what we can do this year to accomplish that goal to be where we want to be in 20 years.”

Lee answered over a dozen questions that were submitted by members of the audience on a wide range of political topics. Many questions addressed education. There was talk about healthcare. And Lee was asked his thoughts about sanctuary cities.

“By its very definition, a sanctuary city is lawlessness,” said Lee in a concise response. “So I’m against them and I would do whatever it takes as governor to prevent them in Tennessee.”

Lee was asked about TN Ready, the state’s standardized test which has failed three years straight. He says he remains committed to standardized testing.

“You can’t improve what you don’t measure,” said Lee in stating the need to keep the tests.

When asked about technical schools, Lee said industries should join in the responsibility of training workers instead of expecting the state to provide that service.

“I don’t believe we need to invest state dollars, tax dollars, in building programs to put trade schools all over the state,” said Lee. “We started a vocational training school 10 years ago at my company and we’ve educated over 1,000 people in trades. If industry is going to be the beneficiary of receiving skilled labor, then industry needs to be a partner in strengthening the training.”

On the daunting question of healthcare, Lee admits he doesn’t have all the answers. But he says the first step is admitting our current system is fundamentally flawed.

“At Lee Company, our health insurance went up 29 percent two years ago and it went up 19 percent last year,” said Lee. “That’s an unsustainable path. We have to sit down and address the fact we fundamentally have a system that’s broken.”

One inherent problem in healthcare is a lack of transparency. He says patients have no idea how much doctors charge or how much a hospital visit costs.

When asked about his current spot in the polls, Lee said he is happy with his current standing of No. 3.

“When you want to be first in the polls is about a week before the election,” said Lee.