The debate over the debate continues.
Candidates in the special election to fill the vacant 62nd District state House of Representative seat continue to fling accusations over who is and isn't interested in a debate.
The campaign of Republican candidate Pat Marsh issued a news release criticizing Democratic candidate Ty Cobb II for his campaign's initial response to the Times-Gazette that he didn't have time for a debate.
"I am disappointed in the Democrat Candidate's response that he does not 'have time' for such an event," Marsh stated in a letter to Constitution Party candidate Chris Brown which was included with the news release. "You and I have had an opportunity to debate during the primary, and I believe that now that we are only weeks away from the general election, we must have a debate with all three candidates present. Anything else would be a disservice to the voters and not achieve the objective."
Cobb's campaign then fired back with a copy of a letter sent to Marsh's campaign.
"I find it disappointing that you would try to score cheap political points through a press release insinuating that I am refusing to debate you. As you are well aware, leaders in both House caucuses are negotiating the best time, place and format for such a debate of the issues," states the letter.
Both campaigns say that they would be willing to include Brown, who complained last week about being excluded.
Gov. Phil Bredesen is scheduled to attend a rally for Cobb tonight at the Fly Arts Center. The event will take place from 5-6:30 p.m. and is sponsored by the Tennessee House Democratic Caucus.
A letter to the editor of the T-G from Tom Kovach, state chairman for America's Independent Party, supports Brown's efforts to be included in any debate.
"The election laws of Tennessee are currently structured in such a way as to suppress both free choice and coalition building," states Kovach. "For example, not only does the state exclude all but the 'Big Two' parties on statewide ballots (except for presidential races, which are governed by Federal rules), but the Tennessee election law also prohibits cross-endorsements!
"Thus, if a candidate represented views that were satisfactory to more than one party, Tennessee would prohibit all but one of those parties from putting that candidate on the ballot. And, under the provisions of the nicknamed 'Incumbent Protection Bill' that the Democrats sponsored, and Gov. Bredesen signed into law, three years ago, it is now twice as difficult for smaller parties to gain a ballot line, because that law doubled the number of petition signatures required. That law was unfair to voters, and was likely un-Constitutional."
The Oct. 13 special election will fill the vacancy caused when Cobb'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. Early voting will begin Sept. 23.
Marsh defeated three other Republicans in the party primary last month, while Cobb was unopposed in the Democratic primary. The district includes all of Bedford, part of Lincoln and a small portion of Rutherford counties.