MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Tennessee gubernatorial candidate Randy Boyd says his position in favor of lower taxes, smaller government, the Second Amendment and against abortion are proof of his conservatism as a Republican, despite charges to the contrary from a rival for the governorship.
Boyd, a Knoxville businessman and former state commissioner of economic and community development under Republican Gov. Bill Haslam, is one of a handful of candidates seeking to succeed the term-limited leader.
Other Republican candidates include U.S. Rep. Diane Black, former state Sen. Mae Beavers, state House Speaker Beth Harwell and businessman Bill Lee.
Black is chair of the House Budget Committee in Washington. Late last month, her campaign criticized Boyd for failing to support Donald Trump before he became the Republican presidential nominee. It also blasted him for making a $250,000 donation to a group that works with immigrants regardless of their visa status, a campaign donation to a Democratic member of the state Supreme Court running in a nonpartisan race, and his past support of Common Core education standards.
“With a conservative record almost as short as his shorts, it’s no surprise Randy Boyd is trying to run from his record,” Black spokesman Chris Hartline said. “He’ll have to run further West than Memphis to hide the truth from Tennesseans.”
Boyd dismissed the criticism Tuesday, saying he is a “conservative Republican, by definition.”
“If you believe in lower taxes, you believe in smaller government, you believe in the Second Amendment, you’re pro-life, almost everyone’s definition would make you a conservative,” Boyd told The Associated Press after completing a nearly 540-mile (870-kilometer), cross-state run promoting his campaign . “I think sometimes people spend too much time trying to define their version of a particular label. I’m just going to be who I am, which I think by history’s judgment would be a conservative.”
Boyd also discussed the ongoing debate over whether to remove statues of Confederate leaders Jefferson Davis and Nathan Bedford Forrest from two separate public parks in Memphis. Activists have staged protests calling for their removal, saying they honor racism and bigotry. Davis was president of the Confederate states of America and Forrest was a general who had been a slave trader before the Civil War and became a leader of the early Ku Klux Klan afterward.
Supporters of the statues say they are reminders of an important part of history and should remain in place. Forrest and his wife are buried beneath his statue at Health Sciences Park.
City leaders have expressed their desire to move or cover up the statues. But their efforts have been blocked by the Tennessee Historical Commission, under a state law that limits the removal or changing of historical memorials on public property.
Boyd said a balance needs to be struck between “preserving our history and not offending anyone.”
“We can learn from good parts of our history and bad parts of our history,” Boyd said. “At the same time, if the particular location of a particular monument is offensive to people, we need to get together to try to find a place where we can preserve our history in a way that doesn’t offend people.”
Boyd, who ran the New York City Marathon over the weekend, said he hoped his long run would call attention to health issues affecting Tennesseans, including obesity and the dangers of smoking.