Chattanooga Times Free Press



Fac­ing vot­ers ev­ery two years is a daunt­ing, ex­pen­sive and time-con­sum­ing task for Ten­nessee state rep­re­sen­ta­tives, but it forces them to be re­spon­sive to their con­stituents.

In the Hamil­ton County del­e­ga­tion this year, two of the five House mem­bers — both serv­ing their first term — have op­po­si­tion.

In Dis­trict 26, Rep. Robin Smith, R-Hix­son, faces Joan Far­rell. In Dis­trict 30, Rep. Es­ther Hel­ton, R-East Ridge, takes on Joseph Udeaja. Reps. Patsy Ha­zle­wood, R-Sig­nal Moun­tain, Mike Carter, R-Oolte­wah, and Yusuf Ha­keem, D-Chat­tanooga, are run­ning un­op­posed.

DIS­TRICT 26: Robin Smith, a for­mer nurse and for­mer state Repub­li­can Party chair­woman who ran in the 2010 Repub­li­can con­gres­sional pri­mary, says she ap­pre­ci­ates the ti­tle “rep­re­sen­ta­tive” and be­lieves it’s the “ideal model for cit­i­zen/ leg­is­la­tor” be­cause of the “things you’re able to do.”

For the state, she helped pass a telemedici­ne bill al­low­ing pa­tients to see their par­tic­i­pat­ing doc­tors elec­tron­i­cally and for their doc­tors to be re­im­bursed by in­sur­ance com­pa­nies for such vis­its, and she helped push a med­i­cal right-to-shop mea­sure, al­low­ing pa­tients to shop by prices for pro­ce­dures and ser­vices they might need.

Lo­cally, she sought fo­cus on au­to­mo­bile traf­fic at her dis­trict’s five ma­jor rail­road cross­ings, helped ex­pe­dite the re­pair of Lake Re­sort Drive, pushed to get ques­tions an­swered about the cleanup of the for­mer Dixie Yarns plant near Lup­ton City and stood with Ha­zle­wood for the pas­sage of a sec­ond sales-tax hol­i­day.

Far­rell, prompted to run when the U.S. Se­nate failed to con­vict Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump on his im­peach­ment last Fe­bru­ary, ad­vo­cates for a rise in the min­i­mum wage, start­ing at $11 an hour and in­creas­ing to $15 an hour and be­yond. She also would like to see an ex­pan­sion of unions and in­creased sup­port for Planned Par­ent­hood, which she says has been “de­mo­nized” and should be the go-to choice for fam­ily plan­ning.

We be­lieve Smith is a bet­ter rep­re­sen­ta­tive for her con­stituents and strongly de­serves re-elec­tion.

DIS­TRICT 30: Es­ther Hel­ton said her elec­tion in 2018 al­lows her to “solve prob­lems of con­stituents,” such as help­ing di­rect calls con­cern­ing in­sur­ance and con­trac­tors fol­low­ing the Easter tor­nado ear­lier this year.

Also a mem­ber of the East Ridge City Coun­cil, she says she has been an ad­vo­cate for her city in the leg­is­la­ture, help­ing it “move for­ward.”

If re-elected, she says, she would push a stalled bill that up­dates a fed­eral pro­gram that en­ables el­i­gi­ble health care providers and or­ga­ni­za­tions to pur­chase out­pa­tient drugs at dis­counted rates. She also wants to ac­cel­er­ate the process for vo­ca­tion­ally trained nurses like her to move into li­censed pro­fes­sional nurse pro­grams.

Udeaja, a na­tive of Nige­ria, has been in the U.S. for 41 years and has worked as a phar­ma­cist, in higher ed­u­ca­tion and in the health care in­dus­try. He says Hel­ton “has done noth­ing” and that he would push for an in­crease in the min­i­mum wage, an ex­pan­sion of Med­i­caid ac­cess and more money for pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion.

We be­lieve Hel­ton is apt to be more in line with her dis­trict and ad­vo­cate her re-elec­tion.

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