Republican nominee Pat Marsh has challenged his Democratic opponent Ty Cobb II to a series of town hall debates prior to the Oct. 13 special election to fill the 62nd District state House seat.
"I believe that the people of Bedford, Lincoln and Rutherford counties have a right to know where the candidates stand on the issues. The best way to do that is by having a series of joint appearances throughout the district," Marsh said in a letter which his campaign said had been hand delivered to Cobb's campaign office. "A joint forum would allow the voters to hear our ideas and plans to put people back to work."
Marsh said he would be willing to participate in any of variety of formats. "I am willing to do a town hall meeting or a more traditional style debate with questions asked by local leaders," Marsh said.
Prior to the release of Marsh's press release, the Times-Gazette had begun contacting the campaigns about their willingness to participate in a debate. A call last week to Cobb was returned by his campaign manager, Rolland Hughes, who told the Times-Gazette last week that Cobb's schedule would not permit him to participate in any debates.
"We're not going to have the time," said Hughes.
On Wednesday, Hughes said the Cobb campaign had received Marsh's letter challenging Cobb to debates.
"We're in talks with both camps," said Hughes. He said State Rep. Mike Turner, the House Democratic Caucus chairman, and State Rep. Glen Casada, the Democratic Caucus chairman, were negotiating over possible debate conditions and formats.
The third candidate in the race is Chris Brown, endorsed by the Constitution Party but listed on the ballot as an independent. Brown told the Times-Gazette on Thursday that he's not received any formal invitations from the Marsh campaign to participate in any debates.
The special election will fill the vacancy caused when Ty Cobb II's brother Curt Cobb resigned from the 62nd District seat at the end of June to take a position in the Bedford County court system.
Marsh defeated three other Republicans in the party primary last month; Ty Cobb II was unopposed in the Democratic primary. Early voting will begin Sept. 23 for the general election. The district includes all of Bedford, part of Lincoln and a small portion of Rutherford counties.
The Tennessee Professional Fire Fighters Association, a statewide organization representing about 4,500 active and retired firefighters, announced last week it has endorsed Cobb in the special election.
"Firefighters put their lives on the line every day to protect regular citizens put in harms way, so to receive their support is truly an honor," Cobb said in a news release. "Once elected, it is my desire to put that same firefighter passion to work in helping the people of the 62nd District."
"Mr. Cobb shows a commitment to both local and state issues and showed an understanding to the issues facing Tennessee's firefighters and emergency service personnel," said Eddie Mitchell, President of the Tennessee Professional Fire Fighters Association. "This organization believes Ty Cobb is the right man for the 62nd District and look forward to working with him in the coming months."