Let’s Bring Tennessee Common Sense To DC
Beth Harwell is running for U.S. Congress in the 5th District of Tennessee.
Beth has called Tennessee home since moving to Nashville to attend Lipscomb University for college. Following graduation, she moved on to Vanderbilt University for her PhD. Beth currently serves as a Distinguished Visiting Professor at Middle Tennessee State University. After having fallen in love with Nashville and her husband, Sam, Beth started her own family, raising three children: Allie, Sam, and Tucker.
She began as an assistant professor of political science at Belmont University in 1986, but because of her love for service and her community, Beth made the decision to run for the 56th legislative district. While she lost her first run, she came back again two years later to win the seat.
In her time as the State Representative of the 56th District, Beth worked her way up from the Chairwoman of the House Commerce Committee to House Republican Caucus Whip, eventually becoming the first woman to serve as Speaker of the House in Tennessee and the entire Southeast.
Under her leadership, Tennessee cut more taxes in her eight-year tenure than any other time in Tennessee history including the eliminating the Hall Income Tax, repealing the Death Tax, and reducing the state sales tax on food. She also led the fight to reform the state pension program which brought Tennessee into the Top 5 states to fund state pensions.
Beth has impacted Tennessee’s education system in numerous ways, always maintaining a legislative focus on innovative education policy. In 2009, she passed landmark education reform legislation by making charter schools accessible to families all over the state. In addition, she pushed passage of legislation to direct additional funds for improvement of training for daycare workers.
In 2019, Beth was appointed by President Donald Trump to serve on the board of the Tennessee Valley Authority, which covers Tennessee and surrounding states, it is a federally owned electric utility corporation.
Beth served as chair of the state Republican Party from 2001 to 2004. During that time, she was instrumental in the Republicans taking control of the State Senate for the first time in 105 years.
Former Speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives Beth Harwell Announces Candidacy for GOP Nomination in TN-5 Congressional District Race
Former Speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives Beth Harwell announced Thursday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy, her candidacy for the Republican nomination for Tennessee’s Fifth Congressional district.
A Tennessee resident for more than thirty years, Harwell was the first woman to serve as the Speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives.
Speaker Harwell has a history of supporting Republican candidates for office financially, including President Trump. She says that she voted for Trump in 2016 and 2020. Harwell is also currently a member of the Tennessee Valley Authority’s board of directors, appointed by President Trump.
Speaker Harwell spoke exclusively to The Tennessee Star about her candidacy in the days leading up to Thursday’s announcement. The veteran lawmaker talked about why she’s running, her ties to Middle Tennessee, passion for education, and her experience as Speaker of the Tennessee House.
“I know Middle Tennessee,” Harwell said. “My husband has lived here all his life. I’ve lived here 38 years. I love this area and this state. As Speaker of the House of Representatives, I rebuilt the economy by not only reducing taxes, but eliminating many taxes. I promoted school choice and gave parents more options within our public school system. During my tenure as Speaker, I am proud to say that we had a balanced budget all eight years.”
Professionally, Beth Harwell is an educator. After graduating from Lipscomb University, she went on to earn a master’s degree from Peabody University. She continued on to Vanderbilt University where, in 1982, she earned a Ph.D. in social science education.
During the pursuit of her doctorate degree, she worked as a research analyst for the State Board of Regents. Subsequently, she served as a trainer at the University of Tennessee Center for Labor Management and then in 1986, Harwell accepted a tenure track position as a professor of political science at Belmont University.
Voters first met Beth Harwell when she ran for office in 1986. She lost to liberal Jan Bushing in the Democrat-majority Davidson County state house district, but then ran again in 1988 and won. In the course of her incumbency over the next 15 terms, Harwell served as the Chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party, played a role in the defeat of then-Governor Don Sundquist’s state income tax proposal, and worked to build Republican majorities in the General Assembly for the first time since the end of the Civil War. In 2011, she was elected Speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives – a position she held until leaving office eight years later.
After her bid for governor fell short in 2018, Harwell was named a Distinguished Visiting Professor in political science at Middle Tennessee State University.
“For a long time, I’ve had a career in education. I’m currently teaching at the college level. It’s an honor to teach American history, so that the next generation has a love for this country and the constitution.
“I believe in education and want to give the next generation a fighting chance. I’m running to be TN-5’s U.S. Representative to fix America by bringing Tennessee commonsense to Congress.”
The Star asked Harwell what her decision-making process looked like.
She answered, “Unlike some folks who just found out what the fifth district was going to be and jumped in the race, I spent two months talking to voters and getting to know what they want from their U.S. Representative. It was a process of talking to people and listening.”
Speaker Harwell is the only publicly announced candidate with a record of elected office, something she places an emphasis on when talking about her place in the TN-5 Republican field.
“I think I’m the only person in the field that has a proven record of success with a conservative fiscal record,” Harwell told The Star. “I’m the only candidate who’s given parents the ability to have more of a voice in their children’s education. As Speaker, I eliminated taxes and balancing our budgets. We can all agree that those qualities are desperately needed in Washington, D.C.”
Harwell said the key federal issues she plans on highlighting in her campaign for TN-5 are securing the southern border, debt and inflation.
“I think most people are concerned about our border. I’m very concerned about our border and that would be a top priority for me. If you don’t have borders, you don’t have a country,” she said.
Harwell added, “Debt and inflation are issues that concern me. The liberal policies that are going on in Washington are simply not working. I believe the Republicans will take the House this year, and they will need people who can get things done. I bring that to the table.”
During her tenure representing Middle Tennessee in the Tennessee General Assembly, Harwell noted, she worked on issues that affect everyday Tennesseans. Were she to represent the people of the 5th district in Congress, she said she would focus on reducing the size of the federal department of education and get the government out of the way.
The former speaker said, “As far as local issues, this is a well educated district. Every county in the district is growing and they have education needs. I would love to see a reduction in size of the federal department of education. Tennessee counties need to get that money back.
“Everyone in Middle Tennessee is experiencing cost of living increases as a result of failed policy at the federal level – that’s causing inflation. We have everything going for us in Middle Tennessee if the federal government would just get out of our way.”
Harwell said, “It would be an honor to represent Davidson, Wilson, Williamson, Marshall, Maury, and Lewis counties as their U.S. Representative to Washington, D.C.”
On what she thinks it will take to win, the congressional hopeful said, “We’re going to raise the money we need to win right here in Tennessee, at least during the primary. We’ll have the right people on the campaign.”
Harwell said, “The most important thing is to be out with the people, listening and learning. I am doing that.”
The Star asks every candidate in the TN-5 GOP field that speaks with if they have satisfied TNGOP bylaws by voting in 3 of the last 4 GOP statewide primaries, and Harwell responded, “Absolutely.”
Speaker Harwell joins Tennessee newcomer and former Trump administration State Department spokesman Morgan Ortagus, California native and music video director Robby Starbuck, businessman Baxter Lee, former Brig. Gen. Kurt Winstead, and Natisha Brooks in the Republican primary for Tennessee’s 5th Congressional district. Several other individuals are collecting qualifying petitions in the race as well.
Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles is said to be still thinking about entering the race.