Beavers repeated the refrain “Tennessee first” in a speech to kick off her gubernatorial run.
Beavers, one of the most outspoken and controversial members of the Tennessee legislature, has been extremely unreceptive to criticism, once suggesting the enforcement of a state law that allows the imprisonment of anyone who “disrespects a legislator.”
Beavers announced her candidacy for governor in front of hometown supporters, saying she has “consistently championed the same conservative values and principles.”
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“I have not wavered one inch,” Beavers said.
The event was attended both by the lawmaker’s supporters and detractors.
Chris McCarthy, who was among those protesting, told the Chattanooga Times Free Press that Beavers would not represent all Tennesseans. “We think she’s the epitome of what is wrong with the Tennessee Legislature with divisive [speech], polarization, and her inability to listen to her constituents,” McCarthy said.
Beavers was an early supporter of Trump, and, like the president, she has made many inflammatory statements and dubious claims. Beavers, like Trump, promoted the “birther” conspiracy theory created to delegitimize President Obama.
Muslims have long been one of Beavers’ targets, and she supported Trump’s call for a ban on all Muslim immigrants. She has claimed that Muslims are “infiltrating churches,” later admitting the information was not “entirely accurate.”
Beavers said in a statement before her announcement that she would make the “terrorist threat from radical Islam” a focus of her campaign, claiming in her announcement that Tennessee “communities have been made unsafe” because of “unvetted refugees.” Tennessee was the first state to file a lawsuit attempting to block the federal government from resettling refugees in the state.
“Terrorism is a threat right here at home,” Beavers said. “I intend to make safety and security a centerpiece of my campaign.”
Beavers pledged during her announcement that she would promote the same policies she championed during her 23 years as a state legislator.
Beavers has sponsored legislation to characterize pornography as a “public health crisis,” sponsored bills to reject the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision legalizing same-sex marriage, sought to impose an unconstitutional ban on abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, pushed to require pregnant people to complete a 48-hour waiting period before an abortion, and backed a measure to force people to undergo an ultrasound prior to abortion care.
She also wants to restrict the rights of transgender people to use the bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity. “That safety and security extends to making sure that men are not allowed into the bathrooms and locker rooms of little girls,” Beavers said.
Beavers sponsored a bill in the 2017 legislative session that would require students in public schools and public colleges to use restrooms and locker rooms that are assigned to people of the sex indicated on the students’ original birth certificates. The bill failed to pass.
Two other Republican candidates have entered the gubernatorial race: former state Economic and Development Commissioner Randy Boyd and business owner Bill Lee, reported the Tennessean.