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Coleen Martinez, Dist. 89 candidate, involved parent, talks issues

Nancy Anderson Shopper News Coleen Martinez with her family: son Willie, 9; Josh, 11; and husband, Oscar. SUBMITTED

Coleen Martinez spends her time knocking on doors these days – seeking votes. She pulled ahead of Keifel Agostini by a wide margin to win the Democratic nod for State House Seat 89 in the primary. She faces Justin Lafferty, the Republican, in the November general election.

She is married to a mechanical engineer, Oscar, and is the mother of two boys, Willie 9, and Josh, 11.

Martinez, a West Virginia native, graduated from the University of Florida with a bachelor’s degree in exercise science in 2003 and a master’s in health education and behavior with a specialization in adapted physical activ-



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ity in 2006.

The Martinez family moved to the Karns area in 2012 when Oscar secured a position with ORNL.

Martinez has never run for political office, but she has volunteered for a number of causes in the community, including the Special Olympics. She coaches the West Bearden Basketball League, the Cedar Bluff Elementary cross country team, and is a TN Achieves mentor in addition to substitute teaching.

“I get my volunteer spirit from my dad. His is very community oriented and sits on lots of boards. He modeled that community spirit for me and I’ve taken it to heart. I just want to give back to the community.”

She says her experiences as a substitute teacher, volunteer and parent have given her a unique perspective on a number of issues including education, gun control and the opioid epidemic.

“We must fully fund education. We’re currently underfunding education by about $500 million. If you include teacher compensation, it’s $900 million.

“We got into this situation because Gov. Haslam signed a law saying we didn’t have to fully fund public education, so we are not giving it all the dollars we’re supposed to. A number of counties have sued the state and a number of counties have raised taxes because of this.

“We have to change that law to support fully funding education. Rep. Craig Fitzhugh has a plan to fund public education through the lottery system.

“If the county raised the property tax by only 2 cents, that would bring us up closer to where we need to be. That’s how Oak Ridge and Maryville are able to pay more to their teachers and provide more for their students. That’s only a couple of cents.”

Martinez is a proponent of gun control with an unusual and forward thinking measure to ensure weapons don’t get into the wrong hands.

“Tennessee really doesn’t have anything in the way of gun control at all. I think we should start with age. We need to expand background checks and raise the legal age to 21 to own a weapon.

“Let’s say that you have to secure your weapon better. I saw an article where someone broke into a car and got an AR-15 and walked around Nashville with it. There should be a penalty for leaving an AR-15 laying around. We need regulation for that.

“I think it’s odd that we can pick up anyone’s gun and shoot it, but you can’t pick up anyone’s iPhone and use it without a fingerprint.

“Why can’t we use biometrics on guns too? If you put something on your AR-15 that makes it usable only by you, that would make me feel more secure about sending my kids to school.”

Martinez said we can put a hit on the opioid crises by expanding Medicaid to cover the cost of therapy and Suboxone. Only 5 percent of doctors in the United States are licensed to provide treatment so we need grants to get more doctors licensed, she said. She said emergency rooms need to be able to give Suboxone to people presenting in severe withdrawal, and we need to start therapy and treatment in the jails.

“We can’t just keep policing the problem. People in jail are not receiving treatment or therapy. Opioid addiction can and does lead to legal problems, we need to start in our jails.

“Doctors need to prescribe opiates less. There are alternate therapies, you don’t always have to give opioids.”

When asked why House Seat 89, Martinez said, “I’m running for State House District 89 to make sure we’re doing our best for the children of Tennessee so they can grow, learn, thrive, and succeed.

“I’m a woman running. Women are over 50 percent of the population, but we’re only represented in the political world by about 12 percent. Being a mother of kids still in school, I’m personally invested in their education and whether or not they’re going to come home from school alive. I’m not embedded with any group.

“I look at service in the House as an extension of my volunteerism.”


Josh Martinez joins his mother, Coleen Martinez, for a school board meeting at the Knoxville City County Building in April.

Paul Witt and Jamie Ballinger join Coleen Martinez for the Pride Parade in Downtown Knoxville June 23. SUBMITTED PHOTOS

Phil Bredesen, Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, welcomes Coleen Martinez and her son Josh to his campaign headquarters in South Knoxville June 28.

Coleen Martinez, left, and her neighbor Marda Crass run the Knoxville Covenant Health half-marathon in April 2013.

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