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What I Want in a Governor

The 2018 race for governor is taking off, with four declared candidates and another two or three looking to join the race in another month or two, so it’s not surprising that I got a call from a friend asking me about the names that are circulating and what I would suggest he look for in a gubernatorial candidate.

Barring some out-of-the-blue candidate whose name has not yet surfaced, I personally know all the candidates running for office, except for one. I have served in office with a number of them and even worked with them on specific pieces of legislation. I also personally like all of them that I know and believe all those I know to be Christians.

My point to this friend was that none of those things would make me choose one gubernatorial candidate over another. And that conclusion is based on two overarching observations.

First, culture is changing at an accelerating rate for the worse. Four years ago, I would have never thought we’d be talking about whether a junior high boy could use the girls’ locker room because he thinks he’s a girl.

Second, unprecedented legal issues are threatening our very form of government. Too many judges (federal and state) think they are gods whose powers allow them to transcend the limitations of federalism and violate the separation of powers. Tennessee has cities that think they should be autonomous, having forgotten that their powers come from the state. And Congress is inept, seemingly incapable of addressing any problem but proving more than capable of creating problems for our states.

Those two observations tell me that I don’t need to be voting for someone just because he or she has been successful in business or because I personally like him or her. Those observations also tell me that it’s not going to be enough that the person has been a great deacon, elder, or Bible study leader.

Given what is taking place in our country, what, then, will I be looking for in a gubernatorial candidate?

First, I will be looking to see who best understands and can articulate how our form of government is supposed to work. I’d like to see if there is a candidate for governor who can explain on even a basic level why the Supreme Court’s same-sex “marriage” decision was unconstitutional (not just immoral). That case touches on a number of constitutional issues related to our form of government with implications for the states. If a candidate can’t do that or blows off the question because the decision “is the law of the land,” then I’m not sure that candidate understands our form of government, understands what is going on constitutionally, and is up to the challenges that lie ahead.

Second, I will be looking for a candidate who (a) believes that there is a God-ordained moral order to the universe, a God-ordained structure to the family, and a God-ordained limit to the purpose and jurisdiction of civil government, and (b) is willing to defend those beliefs publicly when asked about them and govern on the basis of them.

To help flesh this out, one thing I will want to know is the reasons a candidate will or will not support legislation that tells a junior high girl that no biological male should be in her school locker room. That will tell me a lot about the worldview issues I just mentioned, and if a candidate does not even understand why this is such a telling issue, then that convinces me he or she isn’t ready to confront the issues ahead.

In my opinion, we can no longer afford to vote for a gubernatorial candidate so that we can brag about knowing a governor or because he or she has been successful in the private sector or because he or she has been faithful to and active in the local church. Those things are great, and I’d love to be able to say those things about our next governor, but they do not, by themselves, mean that that person is qualified to be governor in view of the challenges that lie ahead.

I’m looking for someone who knows how to govern under God and in accordance with our Constitution. Who are you looking for?


David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. Read David’s complete bio.

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