State Rep. Julia Hurley, R-Lenoir City, tells Hugh G. Willett , “I know I’m controversial but I’m also conservative.”
And several other things, including that she has sponsored 29 bills and that publicity has been both a blessing and a curse.
Mentioned are the former Hooters waitress’ modeling photos, the carving of initials on her state House desk, her grumbling on video camera at a Highway Patrol officer who stopped her for speeding, a flap over her plans to buy an expensive auto and an accident caused by a drunken driver that has inspired her to introduce legislation
Most recently, Hurley came under fire on local blogs for showing off a 2005 Maserati on Facebook. Some bloggers suggested that she was “out of touch” with her rural district.
“They thought it was for my personal use,” she said.
Hurley said she actually planned on buying the sports car and selling it for a quick profit but decided against it after her Facebook post drew a negative response.
Some legislators drive $70,000 pickup trucks and are not accused of being out of touch, she said.
She feels she is actually very much in touch with her district, which has just been realigned to include more of Loudon County and less of Roane County.
Local bills she has sponsored include one that authorizes the city of Rockwood to set criteria for awarding contracts by ordinance and another that allows Harriman to raise its occupancy tax.
“I agreed to sponsor that bill after every hotel owner in Harriman sent me a personal letter,” she said.
She also has a personal connection to HB2197, a “financial responsibility law” that requires a person with two or more driving under the influence convictions to maintain double the amount of liability insurance.
Last April, Hurley was hit by a drunken driver who didn’t have adequate insurance. She was injured and her car was totaled but she didn’t receive full compensation because of the $10,000 minimum liability insurance in the state where the driver lived.
Another bill she has sponsored makes out-of-state drivers with multiple DUIs face stiffer penalties if they are arrested for DUI in Tennessee. The driver who hit Hurley had previous DUIs in another state, she said.
Hurley realizes that she is sometimes compared to the colorful conservative Rep. Stacey Campfield, a Knoxville Republican who also seems to have a way of attracting attention. She doesn’t mind the comparison.
“He’s controversial, but he’s also a very hard worker and he’s conservative to a fault,” she said.
Republican state Rep. Jimmy Matlock, whose 21st House District includes part of Loudon County, describes Hurley in similar terms.
“She is one of the most hard working and passionate members of the state Legislature,” Matlock said.