Sullivan County mayor Richard Venable is a former member of the Tennessee House of Representatives, serving Sullivan and Johnson Counties from 1990-1996. While in the legislature, Mayor Venable served as House Republican Caucus Whip.

Mayor Venable has been very active in Republican politics, serving as County Chairman for the Bush-Cheney reelection effort (problem number 1), regional and county chairman in two campaigns for then Governor Lamar Alexander (and problem number 2), and Chairman of the Sullivan County Republican Party.

Mayor Venable has been involved with a number of civic groups, including Optimist, Rotary, and Ruritan clubs. He is also involved in a number of businesses and government related organizations as well, including the First Tennessee Development District, Workforce Investment Board, Kingsport Area Chamber of Commerce, Chairman of the Tennessee Trucking Association, and First Tennessee Human Resource Agency.

Mayor Venable has served in the Virginia Army National Guard and a member and trustee of Kendrick’s Creek United Methodist Church.

Note problems 1 and 2 above – support for President Bush and former Governor Lamar Alexander are rather strong indications that Venable is a middle-of-the-road conservative (aka, a “moderate”).

Question 1: With a great deal of publicity lately, do you believe the Fair Tax is superior to the present tax code?

Venable says he’s “willing to debate” the Fair Tax. That’s code for “I can tell you want me to say I support it, but I either don’t understand it, or I’m opposed to it and don’t want to tell you.” Venable talked about the need for tax reform.

Question 2: Should abortion be a Federal or States Rights issue?

Venable says that the Federal Government must take the moral lead. He says that he supports a Constitutional Amendment making abortion illegal. Venable says that he generally supports state’s rights, but there are times when the Federal Government must take the reigns.

Question 3: Do you believe it is the Federal Government’s responsibility to bail out individual states after every natural disaster?

Venable says that, no, the Federal Government isn’t required to help those who don’t help themselves, but “we’re compassionate.” Yes, the Feds should help because they’re nice people. Venable believes that there should be market-driven insurance, so those of us in East Tennessee don’t have to suffer high premiums because of those who live in more dangerous areas.

So, even though it’s contrary to the Constitution, the Federal Government should help “because they’re nice people?” Give me a break…

Question 4: Do you believe the Federal Government should play a role and mandate the oil companies on a universal scale, to use the EA85 version of ethanol?

Venable believes that energy is a free-market issue, but that the Federal Government should be working on a comprehensive energy policy and funding research. He says that the Federal Government should “encourage production” (whatever that means) and that we should tap our own energy resources.

Question 5: Why is the health care insurance industry guaranteed a profit by the Federal Government in a free market system?

Venable says that he is “unsure” how the Federal Government guarantees a profit to the insurance companies (Peggy Barnett explained this in her answer). Venable says that we should return to a free market and that we need tort reform. Agrees that state-funded healthcare is a bad idea, and cites the failure of TennCare as evidence.

Pardon my sarcasm, but shouldn’t we provide healthcare for everyone because we’re “nice people?” If it works for bailing people out of natural disasters, why not with healthcare?

Question 6: Title 6 states that “No Person shall be discriminated against on the basis of race, color, or national origin.” The Supreme Court has held that undocumented aliens are considered “Persons” under the equal protection and due process clauses of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. Therefore the assumption has been applied by the Courts, Congress, and State Governments that undocumented aliens have the same rights to all Federal assistance programs as citizens do. What would you do about amending Title 6 to restrict services to citizens only?

Venable says that we should change the wording from “No person” to “No citizen” (see Dan Smith’s response to this question for why this answer doesn’t work.) Venable says the entire law needs to be changed to avoid court challenges.

Overall, I found Venable to be quite unimpressive. He danced around the questions, and showed himself to be the middle-of-the-road conservative (aka, “moderate”) that I suspected he would be.