Left: Jim Dodson (Photo: JimDodson.net); Rep. John Ragan (Photo: Tennessee General Assembly)
In East Tennessee’s State House District 33, incumbent John Ragan, R-Oak Ridge, is facing two-term Oak Ridge City Council member and middle school art teacher Jim Dodson, the Democratic nominee.
The district includes much of Oak Ridge, nicknamed the “secret city” for its role in enriching uranium for nuclear weapons.
Both candidates have spoken in favor of nuclear energy and attracting business to Oak Ridge. They differ on hot buttons including abortion and TennCare expansion.
“It is a critical choice about vision and direction for our state and our nation,” Ragan said at a League of Women Voters forum October 18, contrasting Republicans and Democrats.
“I believe our community is ready for a change in representation in Nashville. Many of the people I have been speaking to as I do door to door and hold community listening sessions are upset about Nashville’s recent expansion of power into our local community and personal lives,” Dodson told the Tennessee Lookout. He strongly favors local control of schools.
In an interview with Lookout, Ragan touted his 12 years in state government, and his experience in the military, business and as an adjunct professor and substitute teacher. Dodson said his own experience attracting business and housing to Oak Ridge will help him be a successful representative of the area.
“I also believe my leadership style is very different from my opponent’s as I have a reputation of being respectful and responsive to my constituents with a focus on building collaboration and consensus,” Dodson said.
At a League of Women Voters debate at Roane State Community College’s Oak Ridge campus, Ragan framed the race in terms of national politics, bringing up immigration, inflation and the national debt. He associated Dodson with President Joe Biden, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.
He said the National Education Association, of which Dodson is a member, “This group wants children addressed with factually and grammatically incorrect names and pronouns.”
Ragan sponsored House Bill 2835 which would limit puberty blockers for teenagers under 18. Dodson’s website states he “will oppose laws designed to discriminate against the youth and adults in our state’s LGBTQ community.”
Dodson did not address Ragan’s partisan comments during the forum but did in a later email.
“I am running as a moderate Democrat who leans fiscally responsible while supporting a social agenda that focuses on minimal government interference in personal decision making. I believe the majority of residents of District 33 have similar views. My opponent’s tactic of aligning me with federal Democratic leadership is not appropriate,” he said, adding his values were “aligned with many of my neighbors in my community.”
During the forum, Ragan said he was against federally-funded TennCare expansion and Dodson for it.
“We have a good system that’s in place right now. It has its faults. All of them do, but it works,” Ragan said.
Dodson, however, said he’s taught students whose families couldn’t provide healthcare coverage for them.
“It’s not a handout. It’s something that some people definitely need in our communities,” he said regarding the expansion.
On the current abortion ban, the two also disagreed.
“That individual in the womb has committed no crime and deserves nothing to be executed over,” Ragan said.
“If you deny that opportunity, that right if you will, to that female, it’s going to happen anyway,” Dodson said at the forum, adding illegal abortions would jeopardize women’s lives.
Ragan told Lookout he sat on all the state’s education committees except for one.
“It’s a passion. One that I am thoroughly involved in,” he said of education. He’s also co-chair of the House Government Operations Committee.
“That is, some argue the most important committee in the legislature,” he said, explaining it can dissolve executive boards and committees.
Dodson, however, stated he would like to serve on Ragan’s education committees if he wins.
“As a teacher, I bring an informed perspective to the challenges in the classroom. A majority of the committees my opponent serves on are education focused and I believe I am a more experienced and qualified leader to serve on these committees,” he stated. As per his website, he opposes spending taxpayer money on vouchers and opposes holding back third graders who don’t pass school reading tests.
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