roads

Read Gov. Bill Lee’s victory speech here

Bill Lee speaks to supporters at his headquarters launch in Franklin on Feb. 12, 2018. (Erik Schelzig/Tennessee Journal)

Gov. Bill Lee won re-election on Tuesday over Democratic challenger Jason Martin. Here’s some of what Lee had to say to supporters after the Associated Press called the race:

I want to thank you and the people of Tennessee for giving me and Maria, the opportunity to serve again. Thank you.

In a republic, the people decide what happens by choosing leaders whose ideas they like the best. And tonight, and evidently, all across the country, the people have spoken clearly. And we are expecting to win by large margin. And while that feels good, it’s important, because what it means is that our ideas have resonated with people from one end of the state to the other. The people are trusting us to improve the economy. They’re trusting us to fight crime. They’re trusting us to have safe schools and schools that are successful. And we better not disappoint them. And we won’t disappoint them over the next four years.

Before I want to get into all of what I want to say tonight, I will say this: political people cringe when I say this, and when I decided — or was thinking about running a few years ago, the political experts said to me, you know, you can’t win a campaign without running negative ads. And I just have to say that our positive-only campaigns are now 2 and 0. Others will do the same across this country, our country could use it.

Thank you for your vote and for your confidence. And to those who did not vote for me, I want people to know that I take it very seriously the responsibility that I have to be the governor for all of Tennessee. Because we all do want the same thing. I’ve said a hundred times before, people want a good job and a good school for their kid in a safe neighborhood. And I wake up every day thinking about that. We’ve gotten a whole lot done in the last four years. But I decided to run again because I think we have a lot more work to do. And I thank you for giving me the chance.

You know, our economy remains very strong in this state in spite of the headwind, the national headwinds that have made it more difficult for Tennessee businesses and Tennessee families to be successful. But we have the leading economy of all states in America, and we’ve done so with the lowest tax burden on our citizens of any state in America. We’ve expanded our workforce — 75,000 jobs have been added since we came into office. We are at the lowest unemployment rate in our state’s history, we have lowered the number of rural distressed counties from 15 to 10. And we’re not done.

We brought more vocational and technical and agricultural education into our schools and all of these things equate to one thing. And that is more opportunity for all Tennesseans. I’m very proud of the fact that we have made historic investments in our public education system, and we have passed teacher pay raises every year since we’ve been here. I’m also proud of the fact that we have given more school choices for parents who want something a little different for their kid. And I’ll remind you for the next four years —  and remind people all across the state — that those two ideas are not in conflict with each other. We can fund public schools and provide alternative opportunities for children at the same time if we are committed to funding students and not systems.

And as I watched these elections across the country, politicians from all stripes all across this country if they learn one thing from this election, it’s this: You pay a steep political price if you don’t pay attention to parents. And in this state, we have paid attention to parents, and we’ll continue to pay attention to parents going forward.

We’re also going to keep fighting crime, especially violent crime. While many cities in our country and states across this country have debated in the last couple of years whether to even fund their police departments, in Tennessee we’ve made a commitment to law enforcement. Tennessee has invested $100 million in local law enforcement agencies, we have doubled down on officer recruitment and training so that we can really fight crime at its source. And it’s starting to pay off. We have state troopers and patrol officers from all over the country come into this state. Because they understand that we are committed, and that we have their back.

As I think about our priorities over the next four years, I want us to talk about one other thing: We have got to tackle the issue of infrastructure. I hear about this every day, whether it’s at a political event, a campaign event, or at a meeting in my office. Or sitting around your dinner table, I bet you talk about the fact that there is too much congestion, too much traffic, and too many potholes. We are simply not building enough and maintaining enough roads in this state to keep up with the incredible growth that’s happening from one end of the state to the other. And it’s not just a big city problem, it affects everyone. Because investing in solving big city congestion drains funding away from rural communities. This is a problem that we are studying and we’re looking at ideas on how to solve this problem, you’re going to be hearing a lot more about that starting tomorrow even. But I’ll tell you this, we have a very strong budget in this state. And I commit to you that we will diligently work, tirelessly work to figure out a way to invest in our roads and bridges in this state without raising your taxes and without going into debt.

So we won’t continue to talk about what we’re going to do because tonight is really about celebrating. Thank you. Thank you for being here with us to celebrate, it’s about celebrating. It’s about thanking people. First I want to thank my campaign staff. You know who you are. Each one of you. You worked relentlessly over the past months. County captains, field staff, our volunteers. If you wrote a check to this campaign. If you put out a yard sign. If you came here tonight or came to an event. You made it look easy for us to win this campaign. But I know it wasn’t easy. So to all of you who worked so hard on on this campaign, and especially my campaign staff, I want to say thank you.

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