Van Hilleary announces candidacy for governor in Elizabethton stopover

By Megan R. Harrell

Star Staff

   Congressman Van Hilleary was at Hyder's Feed Store Friday morning to announce his candidacy for governor of Tennessee. His stop in Elizabethton is part of a non-traditional announcement tour in family homes and businesses across the state.
   Hilleary started his campaign last week in his hometown of Spring City at a pot luck supper at a fellowship hall his home church. His wife, Meredith, has taken a leave of absence from her job as a second grade school teacher in order to campaign with her husband.
   Sen. Ralph Crowe (R-Johnson City) is endorsing Hilleary in his campaign for governor. "People do not realize how hard Van is working in the gubernatorial race, but he is used to it because most congressional districts are 10 districts, but Van has 22 counties," Sen. Crowe said. "He is kinda like an old Tennessee plow horse, he knows how to get things done without stepping on people's feelings. He is a straight shooter."
   Hilleary's focus is on K-12 and higher education in the state of Tennessee. He believes that improving these two areas would brighten the state's economic future as well as its standard of living. He hopes his administration will bring about major changes in the state's education program by making principals more accountable for their students' success.
   President Bush's Leave No Child Behind education reform has put billions of dollars toward education, however Hilleary believes it will take more than just money to solve Tennessee's education problems. "We could always use more money but in K-12 we have to reform the way we do business. The chief is the principal; give them the responsibility and the authority to raise that school up have to insist on high expectations," Hilleary said. Hilleary also believes that it is the state's responsibility to make sure principals meet the goals set for them, and to provide proper training for its teachers.
   Hilleary stated that there are islands of good education in the state, but it needs to be spread out equally across Tennessee. "Every child has to have access to a quality education when we go out to get industry we can tell them that we have people, roads, good water and good electricity but we can't tell them that our education system compares favorably with those in states around us," Hilleary said.
   K-12 education is not the only place where Tennessee's education is hurting. "Higher education is the place in the state budget that has really been hurt the most by the explosive growth of TennCare, we have to restructure TennCare and replenish higher education," Hilleary said.
   TennCare is another area Hilleary promises to reform. He stated that nothing can be done to change Tennessee's weak economy if TennCare is not reformed. He pointed out that TennCare payments have increased more than 50 percent in the past three years. The rate of increase is not one that the state can economically survive. The governor is the only one who can go about seeking TennCare reform. "We have had blue ribbon panel after commission and they all come up with the same things that we have to change it, but we just have to have a governor who will have the guts to change it."
   Hilleary also stated that he is adamantly against any increases in income taxes. He noted that 65-70 percent of the public is against the income tax and that it is not the answer to the state's revenue problems. "Some Republicans and a lot of Democrats would have you believe that we need a state income tax to recreate the stability and progress we need in the state," Hilleary said.
   Van Hilleary is a member of the U.S. Air Force Reserve and flew 24 missions over the Persian Gulf. He first ran for State Senate in 1992 and for Congress two years later. He received a bachelors degree in Business Administration from UT-Knoxville and a law degree from Samford University.