Cochran beats Cole ... again

By Megan R. Harrell
STAR STAFF
mharrell@starhq.com

  
Seldom is a candidate required to beat a member of his own political party twice in the same election in order to take office. However, that is precisely what Jerome Cochran did in order to become the next 4th District state representative. Cochran defeated write-in candidate, Ralph Cole in a land slide victory for the seat in yesterday's general election.
   Cochran, a newcomer to state government, will go to Nashville confident his district is behind him. He received nearly 75 percent more votes than Cole in the election.
   The local lawyer was optimistic about election results but was still taken back by the large slant in his favor. "I was hoping for a resounding win tonight," Cochran said. "I am honored that the people of Carter County have once again put their confidence and trust in me to represent them in Nashville. I look forward to going down there and working with our East Tennessee delegation to work on the projects that effect Carter County's future."
   Cochran was at the Pine Room at Franklin Fitness Center with supporters as votes were tallied last night. He voiced his appreciation to Carter Countians for their help in the campaign.
   "I am just overwhelmed by what they have done. You always hope in the back of your mind that you can do this, but you don't take anything for granted, and we didn't, we worked hard. We worked tirelessly for the last three weeks," Cochran said.
   Cochran upset Cole by over 350 votes in August's primary. As the only name on the ballot for the general election, Cochran was able to relax in the race until Cole mounted a write-in campaign a little over a month ago.
   Cole's return to the race made it necessary for Cochran to put his campaign in full swing right up until election day. After a month of hard campaigning, Cochran was visibly relieved by the final results. "I feel like I have run for re-election already," Cochran said.
   During his campaign, Cochran has strongly opposed a state income tax and voiced criticism of what he sees as Nashville's eagerness to raise taxes on the public. After his victory, Cochran stated he will hold true to his promise not to support taxes and that he will get busy working to solve some of Carter County's already existing problems.
   The lack of water in Little Milligan will get Cochran's attention first. He stated he was shocked to discover the situation in the community and will begin working to find a long term solution immediately.
   Cochran highlighted local teacher's pay as another area that needs to be addressed. He said legislatures need to come to the aid of Carter County teachers because he believes they are currently underpaid.
   Cochran will also be taking over the road projects Cole has been working on in the county, and he stated he will look into each one individually. "We are going to evaluate each road project. In a tight budget like this we just cannot spend money freely like we used to," Cochran said.
   He is looking toward an Okolona Rd. expansion and taking advantage of Interstate 26 when it comes through Carter County. Cochran added he plans to re-evaluate the northern connector and Gap Creek Road projects to see where they currently stand with funding.
   As a new state representative, Cochran will have to establish a relationship with Phil Bredesen, the newly elected democratic governor, in order to get projects completed for Carter Countians. Cochran voiced some of his concerns about working under the new governor.
   "A democratic governor may not be as receptive to Carter County and upper East Tennessee, but we'll do our best to work with the new governor," Cochran said. "My biggest fear with Phil Bredesen as governor is that the rural counties are going to be the biggest losers. I hope that he realizes that East Tennessee does not end in Knoxville, and we'll try to remind him of that daily."