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Blackburn, Bredesen Show Some Fight In First Debate

Posted at 9:45 AM, Aug 27, 2018

U.S. Senate candidates Rep. Marsha Blackburn and former Governor Phil Bredesen participated in a debate at Cumberland University. 

The fireworks started early in the debate between Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and former Governor Phil Bredesen (D). 

Congressman Blackburn struck first, calling Bredesen's campaign "bought and paid for by Chuck Schumer" multiple times. She also invoked former Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton attempting to connect Bredesen's campaigns with their legacies.

Bredesen later countered by bringing up Blackburn's anti-ACA votes, saying that Congressmen like her get top of the line health care while voting to take it away from Tennesseans.

The contentious case of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and the sexual assault allegations clouding the process. Rep. Blackburn enthusiastically endorsed Kavanaugh and accused Democrats of "character assassination."

Gov. Bredesen said he needs more information on the allegations, but wasted no words condemning both parties in how the process has been conducted.

Newschannel5 political analyst Pat Nolan said despite the sparks, it's unlikely that either performance will move the race out of a dead heat.

"Nobody made a big mistake, and nobody came up with an argument that will change minds. I think that those who were for the candidates are still for them, and those who were against them are still against them, and those who are undecided are probably still undecided."

Full Coverage: Election 2018

The debate was sponsored by NewsChannel 5, The Tennessean, Nashville Public Television (NPT), the League of Women Voters and Cumberland University. 

NewsChannel 5 anchor Rhori Johnston and David Plazas, the opinion engagement editor at The Tennessean, co-moderated the debate.  

About 150 people were able to watch the debate inside the auditorium at Cumberland University.  Afterwards, several voters said the debate was fair and thorough. They appreciated the candidates addressing a variety of topics, from healthcare to immigration, and the fact they were respectful.

"It was very interesting, and it kept our attention," said Bob Allen. "This is a very important election, and I hope people show up and vote."

"I think they were nice to each other," said Manuela Ptacek. "Far too often these debates get nasty."

Prior to the start of the debate, there was a festive atmosphere on the Cumberland University campus.  The Lebanon High School band put on a show for supporters. Bredesen also came outside and addressed a crowd of cheering supporters. Supporters of Blackburn lined up wearing red shirts and carrying signs.

“There are significant differences between how Phil Bredesen and I will serve Tennesseans in the Senate, and this debate will highlight that contrast," Blackburn said. “I appreciate the hard work of the event’s organizers and volunteers. I look forward to a substantive discussion about the future of our state and our country as part of our general election debates.”

Bredesen previously announced he would participate in at least three other debates. 

“I want this campaign to be about ideas because that’s what  Tennesseans expect from their leaders,”  Bredesen said. “I’m applying for the job as U.S. Senator. These debates will give me the opportunity to show how we can take on the tough problems in Washington and work together to get things done.”

Both candidates are vying to fill the seat currently held by Republican Sen. Bob Corker, who is not seeking re-election. 

Related Stories: 
Marsha Blackburn Wins Republican Primary In U.S. Senate Race
Phil Bredesen Wins Democratic Primary In U.S. Senate Race