By Matt Masters, Lebanon Democrat

Congressman Marsha Blackburn and former Gov. Phil Bredesen faced off in a debate on Sept. 25 night at the Cumberland University’s Baird Chapel where they debated the issues that will face Tennessee in the U.S. Senate.

The debate began with the first question to Blackburn who was asked what she thought was the single-most important issue facing Tennesseans and what she would do to address that issue.

Blackburn jumped right into tax cuts, jobs and the economy as her focus for the most important issues facing Tennesseans, citing economic growth in Scott County. She closed her opening statement with, “A healthy economy [is] good for all Tennesseans.”

Photos courtesy of Lebanon Democrat

Bredesen said the dysfunction in Washington D.C. is the most pressing issue, and noted many things that could help Tennesseans, specifically in terms of economics, are stalled in Washington due to partisan politics and a lack of leadership.

“This idea that somehow your party affiliation, whether you’re a Democrat or Republican, ought to determine everything about how you think about things and how you approach things is one of the things that’s crazily wrong with it,” Bredesen said.

“You’ve heard a lot recently in this campaign about me, about these crazy ideas of how if somehow I’m elected and go to Washington that suddenly I’m going to turn my back on a whole lifetime of thinking for myself and being independent and suddenly become some kind of a political lackey. That’s not going to happen for a bunch of reasons.

“One of which is that I think a lot of the problem in Washington is with the leadership that we have there now. Whether it be Ryan or Pelosi or McConnell or Schumer, they’re not doing the job. We need to get new leadership, and I can tell you right now that if I’m elected, and when I’m elected and go to Washington, I am not going to be voting for Chuck Schumer.”

Blackburn latched onto Bredesen’s claim as an independent thinker and hammered home her claims that Bredesen would only support a Democratic agenda throughout the debate. She said the Democratic New York senator’s name 12 times throughout the debate, said Bredesen and his campaign was “bought and paid for” by Schumer six times throughout the debate.

“Phil had a choice. He could have run as a Republican or an independent, probably didn’t want to do that. He’s running as a Democrat so he will be with Chuck Schumer if he were to go to Washington,” Blackburn said. “He will vote with Chuck Schumer because his vote is already bought and paid for. His campaign is bought and paid for by Chuck Schumer.”

Bredesen made no mention of the ongoing support of Blackburn by President Donald Trump, who has campaigned at fundraisers for her in Tennessee several times, with the next rally scheduled for Oct. 1 in Johnson City.

Tax cuts, the national debt, immigration, refugees, President Donald Trump, health care, rural hospital closings, the opioid epidemic, trade, Supreme Court justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh, gun control, the press, infrastructure and the United States’ standing in the world were all topics tackled by the candidates.

Blackburn fell solidly on party lines, at times defying the influence of Trump, while Bredesen supported progressive stances, albeit moderate in today’s political climate, but continued to call for a change of leadership in both the Democratic and Republican party in Washington.

“I am running to take your Tennessee values to Washington D.C.,” Blackburn said in her closing statement. “Phil said that he is running to end the dry spell for Democrats in Tennessee. He said that he thinks that D.C. listens too much to voters. I think that D.C. needs to listen more to voters. That’s what draining the swamp is about.”

“If what you want is someone who brings some experience from the business world, brings some experience from being mayor and governor, and in particular brings an attitude of wanting to start making things happen, of getting things done, of pushing the partisanship down and trying to actually solve some problems, that’s what I want to do. That’s what my whole life has been about,” Bredesen said in his closing statement. “If that’s what people want, I would like to represent them in Washington, and I’m applying for the job.”