U.S. Senate candidates Rep. Marsha Blackburn and former Governor Phil Bredesen traded barbs in a debate at Cumberland University Tuesday.
U.S. Representative Blackburn (R-TN-07) called Bredesen out on a number of issues at the debate at the university in Lebanon, from allegedly covering up sexual harassment in the state’s executive office to being financially dependent on Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.
The video archive is available here:
The debate was sponsored by NewsChannel 5, The Tennessean, Nashville Public Television, the League of Women Voters and Cumberland University. NewsChannel 5 anchor Rhori Johnston and David Plazas, opinion engagement editor at The Tennessean, were co-moderators.
Schumer’s PAC donated $10,000 to Bredesen’s campaign earlier this year, and the Schumer aligned Senate Majority PAC has already booked more than $2 million in ads in Tennessee, The Tennessee Star previously reported.
The candidates were asked if they would vote for Judge Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court.
Bredesen said what both parties are doing “disgusts me” and repeated previous claims the nomination is a circus. He said he wanted to hear the accusations and Kavanaugh’s testimony before deciding.
Blackburn pointed out every woman needs to be heard when making an accusation. But she would vote to move the nomination out of committee and send to the floor, calling Kavanaugh an “imminently qualified jurist.”
She said that when Bredesen was governor sexual harassment claims doubled in one year but the administration shredded the documents. Bredesen called that a mischaracterization and said he wanted to protect the women.
Blackburn’s campaign issued a press release quoting press reports about her claims.
“As a woman and the mother of a daughter, the hypocrisy of self-proclaimed liberal men who say one thing and do another makes Marsha sick,” the press release said. “Phil Bredesen is a coverup artist with a busy shredder. When he was governor, he cared more about shielding the reputations of his powerful friends than protecting women.”
The Blackburn campaign quoted a 2005 Tennessean story that said, “The governor’s office has become involved in a select number of workplace harassment complaints against top state officials and has put them under a veil of secrecy that does not apply to ordinary state workers, a Tennessean review of case files shows.”
“Routine state cases are generally documented with notes or reports, and the resulting files are available for the public to review and assess whether appropriate action was taken.”
“But when cases are routed through Gov. Phil Bredesen’s office, the files are empty, are shredded or contain only one or two pages with almost no details about the accusations or how the investigations were handled.”
Regarding President Trump’s tax cuts, Bredesen said the ideal is great but Congress put aside the reform and only did the “fun part” buy cutting taxes, adding $1.5 trillion to the national debt. Blackburn pointed out that former President Barack Obama increased the debt. She proposes a balanced budget amendment without a tax increase, reduce spending and continue to grow the economy.
On healthcare, Blackburn said that because of the Affordable Care Act, 160,000 Tennesseans cannot afford to buy health insurance yet are penalized. She said Bredesen wants a single payer system and would support Schumer and other Democrats in enacting it. Bredesen said Obama was mad at him for initially opposing the act, but now that it is the law, it is “unconscionable” to sabotage it.
Blackburn called for more counties to have access to high-speed internet for telemedicine.
Newschannel5 political analyst Pat Nolan said it is 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.”
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Jason M. Reynolds has more than 20 years’ experience as a journalist at outlets of all sizes.