Thank you, everyone, for granting me the honor of being the Republican nominee for State Representative in District 17. I would also like to offer a special thank you to the great folks that took their personal time to work the polls on August 2nd and to go door-to-door with me on many long, hot days this summer and worked diligently putting out signs around both counties.  There is no way that this campaign would have been as successful as it has been, without your dedication and support.

We had a spirited campaign for the Republican nomination during this primary season but, as Republicans, we must now join together to prepare for the November 6th general election.

My commitment remains the same that I will not forget who the fine folks are that elect me and, as such, to consistently be "YOUR VOICE from your house to the statehouse."

Follow the campaign on the Facebook page by clicking "LIKE" and/or follow us on Twitter. You can also keep up with the campaign on Pinterest. Again, thank you all!

I am honored to  announce that the constables of Sevier County have endorsed the candidacy of  Andrew Farmer for State Representative.

At  their meeting this evening, the elected constables of Sevier County have placed  their support behind the Andrew Farmer for State Representative campaign for TN  House District 17, serving portions of Jefferson and Sevier  Counties.

Within less than one week's time, the  endorsement of the Sevier County constables marks the third law enforcement  organization in the 17th House District to place their support squarely behind  the campaign to represent the needs of law enforcement officers. The Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #61 in Jefferson County on July 19th and the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #31 in Sevier County on July 23rd endorsed the Farmer for State Representative campaign.

"The groundswell of support from the district's law enforcement community is humbling,' confides Farmer. "The officers of these professional organizations know firsthand the issues they face. I look forward to the opportunity to work with them to provide the training and tools they need to protect and serve the citizens of our district."

Sevier County Constables (left to right): Roger Floyd, Penny Campbell, George Lawson, Billy Seagle, Andrew Farmer, Sammy Scott, Jim Maples, Jackie Galyon, and David Huffaker. Not pictured: Ronnie Sutton and Sam Ayers.
Sevier FOP Announcement
Smoky Mountain Lodge #31 of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) in Sevier County has endorsed Andrew Farmer for state representative.

At their meeting on July 23rd Lodge #31 endorsed the candidacy of Andrew Farmer for State Representative in the District 17 race, serving portions of Jefferson and Sevier Counties, in the August 2nd primary.

“I am honored and humbled by the confidence and support the local law enforcement professionals of Sevier County have placed in me,” states Farmer. “No one understands the needs of our law enforcement community and the issues they face on a daily basis like the officers on the front lines protecting and serving our citizens.” FOP Lodge #31 is a professional organization representing city, county, state and federal law enforcement professional in Sevier County.

On July 19th, FOP Lodge #61 in Jefferson County also endorsed the Andrew Farmer for State Representative

JC FOP Announcement
I am honored to receive the endorsement and support of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) Lodge #61 in Jefferson County for the TN House District 17 race. Lodge #61 is comprised of city, county, state and federal law enforcement officers in Jefferson County.

As the local voice of the men and women who have dedicated their lives to protecting and serving the citizens of Jefferson County, the members of FOP Lodge #61 know from experience the issues and needs of the law enforcement community. I am humbled to receive the support of these dedicated folks that are willing to put it all on the line for us and look forward to working with them to continually improve the tools and training they need to do their job in our communities.

Yes, as a lot of good folks have noticed, the TN House District 17 campaign has taken some very ugly turns. I have received numerous calls from folks in both counties as of late regarding the mudslinging. My opponent had assured everyone a few months ago that he intended "to run a very respectful campaign.” Regrettably, that has not turned out to be the case.

I had essentially written the hit piece mailer off as a very poor campaign decision by my opponent. However, it seems that things are just going downhill from there. I have received phone calls from lifelong friends that my opponent's campaign is insinuating to folks in Sevier County that I have no family values and cite an outright fabrication of me having been previously married as proof. 

If my opponent's campaign is saying such things to folks that have known me most or all of my life and know that both are total fabrications, I can only imagine the possible stories my opponent's campaign is concocting in other areas of the district.

Honestly, I had expected better of an opponent that has, on more than one occassion, referred to himself as a pastor and an elder at his church. However, it is the home stretch of the Republican primary for August 2012 and our campaign is experiencing a lot of success from the hard work of our supporters, like you. So, I probably should not be too shocked.

Ronald Reagan reminded us with his words and his actions of the 11th Commandment: "Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican." Likewise, my intentions are to continue taking the high road in this campaign and not stoop to desperate levels with our campaign strategies, as we have seen from some of the opposition. As I've noted before, "Desperation is a precursor to many forms of bad behavior. A true characteristic of leadership and wisdom is 'not' doing desperate things."  Experience is proving that statement to be quite true. We have been doing a lot of door-to-door campaigning today and are receiving a fantastic response from the folks we're visiting.

I sincerely appreciate everyone's continued support as we're entering this home stretch to the August primary. Your words of encouragement and hard work make it all worthwhile. Keep spreading the word about the Farmer for State Representative campaign. Honestly, there is no way this campaign would be as successful as it is, without the dedication and support I have gotten from all of the wonderful folks in Jefferson and Sevier counties!

For some time now, especially over the course of the last three months of campaign season, I have heard a lot of folks playing fast and loose with education numbers. You have probably heard that Tennessee ranks 46 out of 50 in education nationally, right?

The problem is, they are giving you that quick blurb with no depth for the meaning of it or any of the subsequent data.

"...Tim Haywood, a research associate who worked on the study, said it isn’t just based on student achievement, though that is a piece of it. Three indicators look at educational outputs — school finance, K-12 achievement and a student’s chance of success, he said. The other indicators look at state policy, such as standards and assessments, policies regarding the teaching profession and a state’s alignment in policy and curriculum.

'We track state policies that experts believe will lead to future improvement,' Haywood said. 'The indicators that we look at are kind of a mix of how states are currently doing and what they’re setting themselves up to do — how well they’re going to do in the future based on current policy.'

Georgia scored at or above average in all categories, while Tennessee showed mixed results..."

Just listening to the dire number of 46 out of 50 and thinking Tennessee students are performing just a few places from last place is frightening for the casual listener. However, as indicated in the excerpt above, that number is not just student performance but many other factors taken into consideration. The other statistic that we do not hear any of today's other candidates touting is that Tennessee is ranked 21st in overall education quality

We do have 65 schools performing in the bottom five percent 5% in Tennessee. 58 of those 65 schools are located in Memphis/Shelby County, not in the 17th House District.  About one third (1/3) of the schools in Tennessee are rural schools, like here in the 17th House District with Jefferson and Sevier Counties. The remaining roughly two thirds (2/3) are urban/suburban school districts. Rural districts, like the 17th district, have a lot less in common than they have in common with areas like Memphis/Shelby County. Comparing our students, teachers and systems to theirs is like comparing apples to oranges. Memphis/Shelby County produces terribly low education outcomes that observers are using to cast a shadow over the rest of the state, while also producing crime rates so serious that they were ranked 6th in the nation. Neither of those things are indicative of our district.

One candidate recently held Florida's education system up as a model we should emulate, speaking of the great gains Florida had made after recent changes there. Yes. It is laughable. Florida is the very state that lowered their standards, because too many students were not making high enough scores to pass. Their answer was to lower the score required to pass from a 4 to a 3 on a 6 point scale.  Does that sound like a model for success? It does not sound like anything to emulate to me.

Other politicians sensationalize my point of discounting the Memphis/Shelby County outcomes as ignoring that area's students and educational needs. That, simply, is not the case. You have to make distinctions to understand where the needs lie on the issue of education. 58 of 65 schools scoring in the bottom 5% in Memphis/Shelby? That's a substantial number resting in the far Southwest corner of our state. How can you lump our teachers in with that, when East Tennessee schools are receiving national recognition? Jefferson and Sevier are not Shelby, Metro-Davidson or other high-density population counties in our state. As a distinct point of contrast, we have a Sevier County school that received a bronze ranking from U.S News & World Report for its academic excellence. It's a different culture and population here.

I've noted previously that, just this past school year, Keegan Tucker brought home a national championship for the Jefferson County High School Forensics team in the individual event of Storytelling from the National Individual Events Tournament of Champions (NIETOC). Do you know how many other Tennessee students have ever accomplished that? None. Keegan is the first student in our state to produce a national championship in that venue and he is a product of our local public education system in the 17th district.

We cannot honestly cast one huge net over the education system in the entire state and say, "This is how we're going to fix it." To do so is completely disingenuous. Control does not need to be centralized in either Washington, D.C. or Nashville. Control for education decisions needs to be coming from the local level, where people understand the culture, the people, the needs, etc.

I, like you, have heard so many politicians profess their desire to "help our teachers" and "treat them like professionals." At this point in our state's education efforts, teachers feel like the scapegoat for anything wrong in education or perceived to be wrong in education. I have talked to teachers that are strongly considering leaving the teaching profession, some with decades of service and some with only a few years. They are now discouraging their own children from following their ambitions to enter the teaching field. Why? They "feel berated". They "do not receive support from parents". They "do not receive backing from administrators". Contrary to critics of public education, what is not being trumpeted to me is "I want more money." Yes. I am sure they would appreciate better pay but, fortunately, the pay gap has been slowly closing some over the past few years.

I am a product of the 17th House District's public education system from Kindergarten to college. My wife and I have a child still in this district's public education system. Of the three candidates in the August 2nd Republican primary, I am the only candidate that has a child in our public schools. When someone speaks to me about needs and issues in our public schools, I understand them from my own experience of having our child in the very schools about which we are talking.  What frame of reference does someone have that does not have a child in our public schools, yet feels they know what our schools need?

Mariah and I support our child's teachers and we support our child in school. There is a huge disconnect between home and school far too often anymore. It is our responsibility, as parents, to engage in our child's education. When we send them off to school of the morning, we are not simply suspending our parental responsibility, until they return home in the afternoon. Administrators must support teachers in obtaining quality continuing on-going professional development opportunities, as well as dealing with student disciplinary issues in a teacher's classroom where a student(s) is disrupting the learning environment for other students attempting to engage in learning activities.

Accountability is fine. Our teachers are professionals and are continually looking for ways to hone their craft. But, make no mistake, teachers are not the only stakeholder that needs to bear responsibility for education outcomes. There are plenty of people that should be actively engaged in public education: Students, parents, teachers and administrators.
So, let's roll up our sleeves, work together and make Tennessee #1 in the nation in education.  Success will come from working together, not casting stones or ignoring vital issues.




June promises to be a very busy month for the campaign. In addition to all of the community events taking place around the district, we have the door to door campaign taking place. Now, add to that the three (3) debates/forums taking place this month and we have a heaping helping of things to get done. But, that's okay. A little hard work never hurt anyone, right? We're in this for the long haul and I'm committed to working as hard as I have to to be able to provide you with the voice in Nashville that you want.

The following are the debate/forum appearances for June:

- 6/15/12 at Jefferson County Rescue Squad building in Dandridge for the Republican Women's groups primary debate
- 6/26/12 at the Civic Center in Sevierville for a debate hosted by the Sevier County GOP and the Mouintain Press
- 6/28/12 at the historic Jefferson County courthouse in Dandridge for a candidate forum hosted by the League of Women Voters

Come out and join us at one or all of these events. We'd love to have you there.
The Republican Women of the Future and the Jefferson County Republican Women will host two separate debates at the Jefferson County Rescue Squad building in June between candidates vying for the Republican nominations to offices in the Tennessee Legislature representing all or portions of Jefferson County. Following the 2010 census, Jefferson County has seen its districting lines for state-level and local-level representation shift significantly. While giving Republican primary voters an opportunity to meet  the candidates vying for their votes in the August 2nd Republican primary, the Republican Women’s groups aim to help voters better understand how district boundaries have been redrawn.
The first debate will take place on June 15th between candidates for the 11th and 17th Tennessee House districts. The 11th district is comprised of roughly 45% Jefferson County voters and 55% Cocke County voters. Candidates for the 11th district race include, in alphabetical order: Rep. Jeremy Faison (incumbent) and Phil Morgan, both small business owners/operators. The 17th district is comprised of about 55% Jefferson County voters and 45% Sevier County voters. Candidates for the 17th district race include, in alphabetical order: Larry Boggs, a retired businessman; Andrew Farmer, an area attorney;
and Roger Griffith, an engineer.

The second debate will take place the following week on June 22nd between candidates for the 8th Tennessee Senate district, formerly Tennessee’s 4th Senate district. Four candidates, in alphabetical order, have qualified to run in the Republican primary for the 8th Senate district: Jeff Brantley (Union County); Cynthia Jackson (Hawkins County); Frank Niceley (Jefferson County); and Hobart Rice (Jefferson County).

Doors will open on both nights on June 15th and 22nd at 6:00pm to give attendees an opportunity to meet with candidates prior to the debate beginning at 7:00pm. Candidates will be given three minutes to introduce him/herself and make an opening statement to the crowd. Questions may be submitted from the audience in written form beginning at 6:30pm and will be accepted until 7:30pm on the evening of the event. Questions may be submitted in advance to
bettyfain@charter.net or hokesue@aol.com. A vetting committee will review submissions, prior to them being forwarded to the debate moderator on the evening of the event. Similar questions may be consolidated to streamline the debate process. Questions should be relatively short and to the point and must be in written form.  Questions must be directed toward all candidates. Qestions perceived by the vetting committee to be a personal attack on any candidate will not be forwarded to the moderator. A  different candidate will go first with each new question presented to prevent the same candidate from answering first each time and, thus, provide a fair
rotation amongst the participants. Candidates will have two minutes to answer each question. If one candidate mentions another candidate in his or her response, the candidate about whom the reference was made will be allotted an additional 60 seconds to respond. At 8:15pm, the moderator will cease questions and allow the candidates to make a three minute closing statement or summation to the crowd. Time limits will be enforced.
While these scheduled debates are solely for the Republican candidates for the identified races on June 15th and 22nd, Republican candidates for other offices representing all or a portion of Jefferson County are welcome and encouraged to attend and meet with the voters gathered prior to and following the events on both nights. 2012 is a huge election year in our county, our state and our nation. 

It’s your Republican primary. It’s your vote. The Republican Women of the Future and the Jefferson County Republican Women encourage all registered Republican voters to join them in meeting each of these candidates in June and finding out the one for whom they would like to vote in the upcoming Republican primary. A vote not cast is a vote wasted.

Information on the events is also available at
www.JCGOP-TN.com and on the Jefferson County Republican Party (TN) group on Facebook.

* SOURCE: Press Release from the Jefferson County Republican Women and Republican Women of the Future