A Sumner County physician hoping to become Tennessee’s next governor made a stop in Hartsville last week as part of a statewide tour.
Dr. Jason Martin, a critical care physician at Sumner Regional Medical Center in Gallatin, stopped by the Trousdale County Archives on Oct. 4 and met with local officials. Martin announced in August that he would seek the Democratic nomination for governor to face incumbent Republican Bill Lee in 2022.
As a doctor, Martin stated that Tennessee’s tepid response to the COVID-19 pandemic was the biggest factor in his decision to seek public office but also noted concerns about the state’s education system, access to health care and economic development in rural areas.
“People have asked me why would you take a full life and put that on hold to go into politics? I did it because I perceived a lack of leadership when it came to COVID,” Martin said. “I’ve had to say goodbye to 300-plus patients… It led me down a patch of advocacy, and that morphed into meeting people and eventually running for office.”
Martin noted that there have been over 14,000 deaths in Tennessee due to COVID-19 and said that with “honest messaging” and “truth telling” a number of those could have been saved.
“The governor and legislature have shown time and time again have been willing to put politics over people when it comes to managing the pandemic, health care, education. Their politics are hurtful to people,” he said. “I think we have opportunities to do better.”
Medicaid expansion was another area Martin said he would like to see Tennessee get on board, noting that the state has turned roughly $1.4 billion annually in federal funding to expand health care access for lower-income Tennesseans.
“One-fifth of the counties in this state don’t have an emergency room,” he said. “Since 2012, we’ve had 14 hospitals close in Tennessee, mostly in underserved counties. It’s affordable health insurance for hard-working folks, it’s a way for them to have access to health care.”
Martin also decried Tennessee’s education system, which he said ranked among the lowest in the nation in terms of funding.
“We’re bringing thousands of new jobs to the state, billions of dollars are being invested and we’re sitting on billions in a rainy-day fund. And we rank 47th when it comes to funding our public schools. I think we can do better,” Martin said. “We are dramatically underfunding our schools. Kids need to be able to come out with the skills to go out and be successful.”
Martin’s wife, Jennifer, is a dermatologist in Nashville and the couple has three children, aged 14, 12 and 10. He did his residency at Vanderbilt and worked at Meharry Medical College and Nashville General Hospital before coming to SRMC.
“Where I grew up, we learned about hard work, community and taking care of one another. That’s the kind of Tennessee people are willing to fight for and that’s why I’m getting into this race.”
Reach Chris Gregory at 615-450-5756 or [email protected].
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