Read Governor Bill Lee’s Almanac of American Politics profile – TNJTNJ



Governor Bill Lee addresses reporters after his speech at a joint General Assembly convention on January 19, 2021 (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The latest edition of Almanac of American Politics includes an updated profile of Governor Bill Lee’s first term.

People from Almanac have graciously given the TNJ: on the hill The blog’s permission to post this sneak peak of the profile below (a major addition since the text was finalized was former President Donald Trump’s approval of Lee’s re-election bid last week):

Businessman Bill Lee easily won the governorship of Tennessee in 2018, becoming the first Tennessee Republican to succeed a Republican governor since 1869. Lee’s victory shattered another long-standing model in Tennessee: since the 1960s, partisan control of the governor’s office had changed with each new governor. . This electoral habit finally ended when Tennessee became one of the most Republican states in the Union.

Lee, a seventh generation Tennessian from Williamson County south of Nashville, graduated in mechanical engineering from Auburn University, then returned home to join Lee Co., a company founded by his grandfather. in 1944 who specializes in HVAC, electrical and plumbing work. From 1992, Lee was president and chief executive officer; at the time of his governorship, the company employed 1,200 people and had annual sales of more than $ 220 million. The company collected $ 13.8 million in state contracts between 2012 and 2018, but it stopped signing new state contracts during its campaign and Lee placed its holdings in a blind trust. In addition, Lee helped operate the Triple L Ranch, a 1,000-acre farm founded by his grandparents with 300 head of Hereford cattle. Carol Ann, Lee’s wife and mother of four, died in a horseback riding accident in 2000. Lee eventually became close to a third-grade teacher for one of her children, and in 2008 , they got married. Bill and Maria Lee attend a conservative, charismatic church, and Lee sits on the board
member of the Prison Ministry for Men of Valor.

Lee was one of several Republicans to enter the race to succeed two-term Governor Bill Haslam. A leading business figure in the state, Haslam came to governor after serving as mayor of Knoxville. It matched the tradition of pragmatic republicanism in eastern Tennessee, producing achievements in education and transportation policy. Haslam often fought with the more conservative members of his own party in the GOP-controlled state legislature and said he would not vote for Donald Trump in 2016, even if Trump was on the point to win the state by 26 points.

In addition to Lee, the main Republican field seeking to succeed Haslam included Rep. Diane Black, State House Speaker Beth Harwell and Knoxville businessman Randy Boyd. Black entered the race as a favorite, winning backing from Vice President Mike Pence and the National Rifle Association. Boyd, who spent $ 21 million on his candidacy, was closest to following Haslam’s more pragmatic approach, but Republican primary voters appeared to be in the mood for a more conservative choice, and he veered right. in response. As Boyd and Black battle each other, Lee introduced himself as an outsider, campaigning from an RV and tractor and refraining from all negativity. The low-key approach has seen Lee climb the polls. He finished first at 37%, followed by Boyd at 24%, Black at 23% and Harwell at 15%. The Tennessean called Lee’s victory “arguably the greatest Cinderella story in Tennessee Republican politics in decades.” On the Democratic side, former Nashville mayor Karl Dean easily won the primary with 75% of the vote. But Dean failed in his efforts to woo moderate Republicans. Lee won 60% -39%.

After taking office, Lee signed executive orders to increase ethics and transparency in state government. He signed a bill to create education savings accounts to provide private school tuition fees to eligible public school students, but in 2020 the law was overturned by the courts. He also signed a bill that would apply criminal penalties to voter registration groups if they submit incomplete forms; this law was also ordered by a federal court in 2019. For several months, Lee grappled with an ongoing controversy over the commemoration of the state’s Confederate history. Lee gained national attention when he signed a proclamation declaring July 13 as Nathan Bedford Forrest Day, in honor of the Confederate general and the figure of the Ku Klux Klan. Lee said he had no choice but to sign it, given the state’s long-standing law. (To complicate matters, USA Today earlier uncovered a 1980 photograph from Lee Auburn’s era in which he posed in a Confederate uniform.) In 2020, after racial justice protests erupted across the country National, Lee signed a law that eliminated the requirement that the governor denounce the commemoration, although the law disappointed critics who noted that the measure did not completely eliminate Nathan Bedford Forrest Day. Meanwhile, the State Capitol Commission approved the removal of Forrest’s bust from the capital, reversing the panel vote in 2017 to keep the bust where it was.

In 2020, Lee proposed a $ 117 million pay rise for K-12 teachers, but the proposal was dropped after the coronavirus pandemic hit. Lee, like other Republican governors in the Red States, began opening up Tennessee’s economy relatively early during the pandemic; in July, he pushed back on a suggestion by Dr Deborah Birx to close bars and tighten indoor dining rules, and he resisted calls for a statewide mask mandate. In August, Lee signed legislation to protect businesses, schools and nursing homes from coronavirus lawsuits. However, Lee largely left it up to local authorities to impose their own stricter rules. Cases increased in the fall and winter, as they did nationally; by March, the case rate had dropped significantly, but Tennessee remained in the top third of states for cases per capita. Even beyond the coronavirus, 2020 has been a difficult year for the state, with a cluster of large tornadoes hitting Nashville and a Christmas Day bombing in the city’s downtown core.

Lee was criticized by some in his own party for continuing to accept refugees, but he pleased the Tories by signing several bills in 2020. One protected adoption and fostering agencies with religious objections to same-sex adoptive parents; another was a bill banning abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, unless the mother’s life is in danger. Lee outraged the Liberals by signing a bill targeting protesters camping on state property; the measure increased the potential charges for the crimes, meaning that defendants could be stripped of their right to vote if convicted. Lee has announced that he will run for a second term in 2022. Until he has a GOP main challenger, he should be in good shape for re-election.


The 2022 Almanac of American Policy 50e The commemorative edition will be released in August 2021 and can be purchased online at or by calling 1-888-265-0600. Use the code “15AAP2022” for a 15% discount during checkout.



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