JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – The son of a former state house representative knocked off a four-term incumbent in August’s 6th House District primary.
With early voting starting Wednesday, Tim Hicks now faces Democrat Brad Batt — a self-described pro-business Democrat who runs a software company — in the general election.
Batt, who was unopposed in the Democratic primary, sat down with News Channel 11 Monday for a similar issue-oriented Q and A to one Hicks conducted in July. The 47-year-old, like Hicks, is making his first run for political office.
Once a member of the college Republicans at Louisiana Tech — where he earned an electrical engineering degree — Batt said what he called “the ridiculous antics” of Republican 6th District Rep. Micah Van Huss motivated a deeper involvement in politics for him.
Batt said he thought Van Huss’s legislative style was divisive and didn’t focus on representing the people of the 6th District, which generally covers the east half of Washington County.
“I don’t understand being in a position to make a difference and not doing it,” Batt said.
The one-time president of Louisiana Tech’s College Republicans started BlueZebra Sports more than a decade ago. The software company provides scheduling, payroll and other back end data logistics for college basketball conferences in their contractual relationships with referees.
“I very much believe in business and the ability to forge your own path, but I realize there are impediments there,” Batt said. He added that the state legislature can help remove some of those, citing health insurance as an example.
“I see entrepreneurs that want to start their own business, but they can’t afford to give up their health insurance that’s tied to their job.”
Batt said Tennessee’s current legislature has “sat on” a $1 billion rainy day fund, some of which he believes should deployed to help small businesspeople and others struggling in the COVID-impacted economy.
In the 6th even before the pandemic, Batt said, “45 percent of our households could not afford their routine monthly bills and of course COVID exacerbated that.”
He mentioned a $20 million bill voted down earlier this year that would have helped workers who lost wages.
“Maybe they weren’t unemployed, like your restaurant workers, bartenders, things like that, but we voted it down, and $20 million in the scheme of a state budget is not very much,” Batt said.
“So the first thing we have to do is make a commitment that we’re going to help the hardworking taxpayers of Tennessee and give them the help they need through this crisis. We’ve got to help workers, we’ve got to help small businesses, and that’s the first job.
“Then beyond that we can talk about economic development in this area and how we can spur some of that, and not just attract companies into this area but help the small businesses that build this area and businesses we’ve seen shut down.”
A native of New Orleans, Batt is married to Jenny Batt and has a daughter in third grade who attends public school in Johnson City.
He spent seven years as a Division I referee himself and said his business is an example of the kind of entrepreneurism that many Tennesseans desire to pursue for themselves.
“I’m kind of amazed it’s a business too sometimes.”