CORRECTION: In an earlier version of this story, The Tennessee Star incorrectly referred to comments made by Mr. Dean and Mr. Lee in earlier debates as comments made in Tuesday’s debate in Memphis. The Star has corrected this story to reflect that those comments were made in the earlier forums. The Star will run a complete story on the Tuesday debate in Memphis between Mr. Dean and Mr. Lee tomorrow. The Star regrets the error.
A Tuesday Tennessee gubernatorial debate in Memphis between Republican candidates Bill Lee and Democrat Karl Dean revealed, perhaps not unexpectedly, Lee is a conservative and Dean is a left-winger.
That was most evident in how both men answered panelists’ questions during the televised event.
This after various mainstream media outlets last week tried to portray Dean as a political moderate.
This past week, The Associated Press and The Tennessean said Dean is a political moderate who admires Haslam.
In a press release that came out after the debate, Tennessee Republican Party spokeswoman Candice Dawkins said Lee won the debate. She also said there is a disconnect between what Dean wants and what s good for Tennessee.
“He spoke passionately about the importance of criminal justice reform and vocational education, and (he) is the only candidate that will build on the success of our Republican leadership and make Tennessee a leader in the nation,” Dawkins said.
“Karl Dean’s performance tonight only highlighted that he is not in line with Tennessee values. Dean tried to frame Tennessee as a state where we are lacking in infrastructure, educational opportunities, and economic development, and that is simply not the case. The truth is that under Republican leadership, Tennessee is thriving.”
In earlier forums, the two candidates expressed views on a number of issues facing the state.
Both men have been asked how they view NFL players who kneel during the National Anthem. The Tennessee Titans play for Nashville at Nissan Stadium.
Lee has said the players showed “absolute disrespect” to veterans and the American flag.
“It symbolizes all that has come before us,” Lee said at a June debate of Republican gubernatorial candidates (beginning at the 26:30 mark of the linked video).
“It is not a political symbol. It is not up for debate whether it is appropriate to symbolize the founding of this nation, the background of this nation and the future of this nation. Not respecting it is unacceptable in my view,” Lee added.
Dean, however, has said he saw it as a First Amendment issue.
“We want people to stand and salute when the National Anthem is being played, but there are also protests, and protests sometimes make people uncomfortable. The idea behind it is to facilitate a discussion about issues that people believe are not getting the attention they deserve. They want to talk about changes in our society,” Dean said at a July debate of Democrat gubernatorial candidates (beginning at the 8:47 mark of the linked video.)
“This has happened throughout our country’s history. I see it as more of an issue about the First Amendment. Certainly, we want people to stand, and I stand for the flag. I certainly protect the right of people to express their opinions and to protest,” Dean added.
The candidates have previously been asked about a new state law banning sanctuary cities in the state. Tennessee legislators voted for it during this year’s legislative session.
Current Tennessee Republican Gov. Bill Haslam didn’t sign that bill, nor did he try to veto it.
Dean said, as governor, he would have gone for a veto.
“The veto can be overridden by a simple majority. That went into Gov. Haslam’s thinking,” Dean said at the July debate of Democrat gubernatorial candidates.
“It’s important to send a message that this is wrong and then veto it.”
Lee discussed his views on illegal immigration in earlier forums.
“It’s sad to watch children taken away from families, but we have an immigration policy that is broken because of the failure of Congress for decades to deal with something that has been a challenge for all of America,” Lee said at the June debate of GOP gubernatorial candidates (beginning at the 4:00 mark of the linked video).
“We can make it worse by offering incentives for illegal immigrants to come into this state like drivers’ licenses, which we did, but don’t anymore, or sanctuary cities, which we should never have, or in-state tuition for illegals, which we should never do,” Lee added.
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Chris Butler got his master’s degree in communications from the University of Louisiana at Monroe and his bachelor’s degree in political science from Louisiana Tech University.
Chris worked as a newspaper reporter for seven years and later was an investigative reporter for Tennessee Watchdog from 2010 to 2017. From May 2018 to August 3, 2018 Chris was the Tennessee communications director for the TennValues PAC, which endorsed Bill Lee for governor. Chris has served as the investigative reporter for The Tennessee Star since August 6, 2018.