Gubernatorial candidate Hilleary visits Elizabethton

By Megan R. Harrell
Star Staff

In the waning days of his campaign for governor, Congressman Van Hilleary took time out of his busy schedule to talk to patrons at the Southern Cafe, 408 E. Elk Ave., Elizabethton. About 75 people showed up Saturday morning to talk with the Republican gubernatorial candidate about his plans for Tennessee.
   Saturday's stop at the Southern Cafe marked the second time Hilleary has visited Elizabethton during his campaign. Hilleary announced his candidacy for governor at Hyder's Feed Store, 110 Elk Ave., in February.
   Recently the campaign for governor has become an issue of whether or not candidates are avoiding debates. Both Hilleary and Democratic candidate Phil Bredesen have accused their opponent of dodging scheduled debates across Tennessee.
   Hilleary, in response to the accusation that he is avoiding debates, stated that he has offered several debate dates to Bredesen that were declined. "Mr. Bredesen is running kind of a juvenile campaign every time that he says I am dodging debates. He just dodged a debate in Chattanooga that was set," Hilleary said. "He needs to talk about the issues. That is the reason I have come up even with him in the polls."
   Hilleary referenced a recent poll that showed him only two points behind Bredesen in the campaign for governor. Hilleary said that the candidate's differences of opinion over the income tax has helped him gain votes. He stated Bredesen may consider putting in an income tax in his second term. "Bredesen needs to listen to people on this issue and stop worrying about this juvenile debate over debates," Hilleary said.
   Jennifer Cox, Hilleary's press secretary, went on to explain that many of the debates Bredesen is accusing Hilleary of dodging are actually forums where the candidates do not speak at the same time. "He is calling these forums debates and saying that Van is ducking them and not showing up, which is absolutely false," Cox said. "I think because there has been so much movement in the polls, and we have spent 1.5 million dollars less then Bredesen, and he is loosing so much ground that he is getting desperate."
   Hilleary headed to the Regional Headquarters of the Republican Victory 2002 Campaign in Blountville after his stop in Elizabethton. He stated that he enjoys returning to East Tennessee whenever possible, and that he had picked Roan Mountain as a nice place to visit when he was a navigator with the U.S. Air Force. "I love Carter County and if people want to vote for an East Tennessean who is against an income tax and who is going to fix TennCare, hopefully they will vote for me," Hilleary said.
   Local residents were impressed with the fact Hilleary took time out of his campaign to stop in Elizabethton. Eston Treadway is a staunch Republican and already had his mind made up before Hilleary's visit, but thinks the stop was a good way to appeal to East Tennesseans. "I think that it is good that he has come out to our county this time of the year," Treadway said.
   Angela Milhorn has not decided who will get her vote in November, but thinks the stopover in Elizabethton was a good publicity move on Hilleary's part. She stated that she will vote for the candidate that supports education and is interested in the needs of the area.