State Sen. Raymond Finney is enjoying his job and wants to serve another four years in Nashville. The retired physician and first-term senator is announcing more than a year before the Republican primary that he will run for re-election.
"I guess Im doing something a little unusual," Finney said. "Im announcing early, about 13 months before the primary, for two reasons," he said. "One, Im inviting people to watch the way I represent them in Nashville so they can decide through my actions how I represent them."
The second reason is to try to get more people involved in the election process and fight voter apathy.
"The second thing is I think all people in political office should get people involved in campaigns. We have voter apathy.
People have poor regard for politicians. We need to try to get people involved and energetic about their government, whether for me or my opponent."
Finney said he recorded his votes on a website at www.finneyvotes.com, although he said he is a few weeks behind getting this sessions votes recorded because he has been swamped. He expects to get his votes recorded by the end of July.
In announcing early, Sen. Raymond Finney had a question for his constituents. "They need to decide: Am I doing what they want me to in Nashville?" he said of voters. "Im going to ask a simple question. Are you satisfied? If youre not, you need to vote for my opponent."
Finney is creating a group he calls Team Finney. He said he sent out an exploratory letter to a small number of constituents before the session started in November to ask if they would be willing to be part of this grass roots effort by contacting neighbors and friends. "I was pleasantly surprised by the large number of positive responses I got," he said. "Ive tried to build on that by getting people to call friends and neighbors."
The senator said he was not going to make special promises other than he was going to continue to do as he has done but continue to improve. "You always get better as you progress, and if the voters dont like my progress, they should vote for my opponent," he said.
When asked who his opponent might be, the senator said that while he had heard rumors, he didnt want to comment.
Finney said campaigning for office is getting extremely expensive. "I think we all should be alarmed about how much it costs to campaign for any office, and Im trying to set a tone and spend significantly less. I still have to raise a couple hundred thousand dollars. I want to spend less than I ordinarily would have to without this grassroots effort," he said.
The senator said conventional wisdom is a candidate ought to have $400,000 to $500,000 for a contested raise.
"I might get by on $250,000," he said. "Thats just the realistic view. Im trying to cut down on that."
Finney said he retired as a physician in 1999 after 35 years in medical practice. He credits his faith in God and strong relationships with others as positive influences in his life.
"I have deep faith in God, and I would never knowingly do anything that would dishonor God. Thats been my guiding principle in life. I try to do the right thing," he said. "Its difficult in politics to always do the right thing, because you dont always know what the right thing is. In some issues, we have to decide. Theres not a clear answer. You have to do the best you can."
Finney said that in a second term he believes Tennessee lawmakers should strive to keep the cost of government as low as they can.
"I was disappointed this time in how easily we passed the cigarette tax and toll road authority when we had record tax revenues. Tennessee has hundred of millions of dollars more in tax revenues than we anticipated, and we still passed two taxing bills," he said.
Finney said that when lawmakers created a toll road authority, that opened to door for another tax, a toll road. The senator also talked about the 42 cent per pack cigarette tax recently approved by lawmakers.
"Im a non-smoker, and people should stop," he said, "but 42 cents per pack is money out of peoples pockets, and it wasnt necessary. We could have easily run government without increasing taxes," said Finney, who voted against the cigarette tax. "If were willing to make hundreds of millions in tax increases at a time when weve got this much in revenues, it doesnt look good. We need to keep that down."
The senator said it should be lawmakers goal to grow the tax base by bringing in new and better paying jobs. Finney said healthcare is also an issue facing many families.
"There are people who are hurting quite a bit now because they cant afford health care services. The government discharged a number of recipients from TennCare. We dont have a good way of providing health care insurance for the entire populace," he said. "Insurance companies, hospitals and government need to come to the table and talk about what can we do to reduce costs and provide more access and more affordable healthcare for people. I dont have the answer, but we need to get serious."
Finney said another issue that deserves attention is taking care of the environment and working for better air quality.
"Right now were in non attainment status from the EPA. Were starting to nibble at the edge of this through state government action. Were starting to encourage and facilitate production of alternative fuels such as Ethanol from corn and switch grass and biodiesel from soybeans."
Finney education will remain a high priority if he is re-elected. "We must have the best educated children possible because of the challenges the next generation will face," he said. "The next generation will face much greater challenges competing in a world economy than my generation did."
The governors new Basic Education Plan reduced the amount of money school systems in Blount County get. The big cities and counties gained. "Shelby, Davidson, Knox and Hamilton counties are big winners. Those are where the votes are, too," he said. "I cant go to Shelby County and make a convincing argument that they need to give up $6 million in funds to come to Blount County."
Finney said that when he ran in the 2004 primary against then-incumbent Sen. Bill Clabough, he realized he was running against a very popular man. "He was well liked. Even my friends told me, You cant beat Bill. They said, You dont have a chance. I couldnt attract much campaign money. I just started walking and knocking on doors. I won. It wasnt a large margin, 400 or 500 votes," he said. "At the time, the local party was not hostile toward me, but they didnt support me, and they liked Bill and many supported him, and I understood that. After the primary was over, they all campaigned and worked for me. They were cordial and polite and worked for me."
Senator Finney websites:
Informational website with bio, community outreach, speaking engagements, listing of state office phone numbers and student opportunities.
Records Senators votes for 2006 and 2007 legislative sessions
On-line "Town Hall" meeting with 2006 survey results, new 2007 survey, legislative requests from Blount and Sevier counties
On-line diary with blogs on a variety of issues