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Debate: Ketron, Matthews talk about restaurant, immigration

Friday, October 22, 2010

The restaurant at Henry Horton State Park has not generated sufficient revenue to pay its operating costs and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation almost closed it for financial reasons, and both candidates who want to represent Marshall County in the state Senate say they favor continued operations of a restaurant at the park.

And while state Sen. Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro) has traveled to Arizona to gain insights on that state's law to control illegal immigration, Columbia Councilwoman Debbie Matthews, a Democrat, says Ketron has had eight years to resolve Tennessee's problem with immigration, so voters should select her to succeed the incumbent.

Those are just two of the issues debated Monday by Matthews and Ketron in the Marshall County High School Lecture Hall where the Marshall County Tribune and three students asked questions and almost 60 people observed for nearly 90 minutes.

County Mayor Joe Boyd Liggett brought the restaurant issue to Ketron who said he realized closing the restaurant would result in lost tax revenue to the county and leave more than a dozen park employees without jobs. Ketron obtained cooperation from design students at Middle Tennessee State University to find a way to make the restaurant appealing, and he's suggested other ways to make the park facility more attractive.

Matthews said, "How goes Maury, so goes Marshall, and how goes Marshall, goes Maury." Beyond interdependence of the counties, Matthews said, "I believe there's got to be a restaurant there.

"But they are competing," she said, noting that other nearby restaurants are not subsidized by the state.

To gather information on the issue of illegal immigration, Ketron flew to Arizona at his own expense, he said, and he spoke with state officials there. Arizona is having the same problems as Tennessee, he continued. An Interstate highway that goes through Arizona goes through Tennessee. The Arizona law does not profile people, he said. But if police stop a driver, then they must show an identification card.

He welcomes "whoever comes to this country, but I ask you do it legally," Ketron said. And he's helped a man from Nicaragua come here legally.

Matthews said, "I think everyone here agrees that if the federal government doesn't do the job, the state must." She said he supported a measure for drivers licenses that made the problem worse, in her opinion. Illegal immigration cost the state $458 million, she said. Her brother works at Centerstone and deals with illegals and children of illegals. "My opponent has been in office eight years. During that time immigration got worst. I'd love people coming here, but they need to be here legally."

Islamic mosques will prove to be the 21st century test of American's tolerance for other kinds of religions, Matthews said.

Defending the Constitution is hard when people come different backgrounds, she said. "But a true faith not tested is not a true faith... I believe in the First Amendment, and the Second Amendment."

Similar issues appear likely at the state House debate on Thursday in Cornersville High School.

Marshall County Tribune news staffers Karen Hall, Dean Fox and Clint Confehr contributed to this story.