In what will likely be one of the most hotly contested and expensive races this November for the U.S. Senate, Rep. Marsha Blackburn and Gov. Phil Bredesen squared off on Wednesday during one of the campaign's first forums.
Blackburn, a Republican, is trying reassure voters that she believes some of President Trump's tariffs are hurting Tennesseans, even though she has been a staunch supporter of the President since his inauguration.
While Bredesen, a Democrat and former Governor of Tennessee, is working to convince voters that he is not going to be rubber stamp vote for the party a whole. At one point telling the audience at a forum hosted by Lipscomb University that, "I don't believe that if Chuck Schumer gets mad at me, I will go to hell automatically."
The event, moderated by NewsChannel 5' Ben Hall, was largely focused on economic issues facing both the country and the state. While ideologically on vastly different ends of the spectrum, both candidates seem to have found common ground on international tariffs which have already started hitting hard for some state businesses like Jack Daniels and soy bean farmers.
"I'm not a fan of tariffs," Blackburn told the audience.
"This causes me heartburn... This is about jobs and it is about vibrancy and it is about companies being able to keep individuals working," she added, trying to walk a thin line between breaking with President Trump on the issue, while still appealing to Tennesseans who are being directly impacted by the tariffs.
Bredesen took a much stronger stance as he pushed back on the recently imposed tariffs, using similar language to some of his political advertisements running right now.
"Using regulatory power as vehicle for policy change is wrong," he said.
"When you use an axe instead of a scalpel you have a lot of unintended consequences and that's what we're seeing here," Bredesen added.
The former Governor of Tennessee also said he would support legislation that would limit the President's power when it comes to tariffs. Something Rep. Blackburn said she would not support if the issue were somehow related to national security.
Outside political groups have already started pouring money into this race, which has gained national attention. Both Bredesen and Blackburn are vying to fill the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by veteran politician and current President Trump critic, Bob Corker. Millions are expected to be spent on the race that is now heating up following the August primary.
For Democrats, a win would be critical in regaining some control Congress but the fight is largely uphill. Tennessee voted overwhelmingly for President Trump in 2016 and the last time the state elected Democratic Senator was when former Vice President Al Gore was in the Senate.
Bredesen fully acknowledged the fight that lies ahead of him simply running as a Democrat in this state right now.
"I'm a Democrat... But it's not a religion," he said.
Bredesen has already committed to four Senate debates in the coming months. Blackburn has not announced her schedule yet.