Webb School's Town Hall meeting, a debate featuring two of the three candidates for the 62nd district seat in the Tennessee House of Representatives, almost became a debate featuring one of the candidates.
Democratic candidate Ty Cobb was already a no-show, and when moderator Hannah Little introduced the candidates, Republican Pat Marsh first, then Chris Brown, Brown addressed the crowd.
"This is the second meeting I've been where nobody said a prayer or the Pledge of Allegiance," said Brown, the Constitution Party candidate. "So, ladies and gentlemen, please excuse me."
Brown then walked out.
Little hesitated, then asked Webb's interim headmaster, Gordon Bondurant, to lead the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance. By the time the first member of the audience approached a microphone to ask a question, Brown was back in his chair.
As the audience asked questions, many times the candidates would agree with each other's answers. Both stated their opposition to abortion and especially government-funded abortions, and their support of the second amendment and the right to bear arms. Both wanted to see arts and music returned to public schools -- as well as prayer. Both said they wanted the government to be less intrusive in business and local government and both indicated a desire to be on the state's transportation committee if elected.
Marsh said his experience owning a trucking company would be helpful if he were named to the commerce and transportation committee and Brown said, as an independent trucker, he would like to see a lot of the pork belly spending in the transportation department cut.
When asked what their differences were and why each thought he was the better candidate, Brown stressed the importance of a third party in a two-party system and Marsh referred to his experience as a businessman.
"I believe in coming back to Bedford County to take care of Bedford County," said Brown. "I won't get caught up in special interests. We need checks and balances."
"I feel I have the business background and the maturity," said Marsh. "I've been a good corporate citizen. Also, I have Lincoln County roots ... I would be a voice for the total district, not just Bedford County."
He said his common sense and experience in running a business -- including not spending more than he earned -- would be an asset in Nashville.
One member of the audience asked about tort reform and both candidates said they felt it was needed to prevent frivolous lawsuits. Marsh said states that have introduced tort reform have seen an increase in doctors and the services they are able to offer, but Brown warned that stopping frivolous lawsuits shouldn't prevent people who have really been injured from being able to sue.
Both candidates also saw a need to bring more industry to the district.
"We need to try to keep our number one asset from leaving -- our children," said Marsh,"
He suggested keeping taxes low, offering tax breaks to new industries, and active recruiting as ways to increase industry.
"We need to sell this state, tell everybody how good our roads are, how good our schools are," he said.
Brown referred to how few jobs there were when he left for military service, and that there were even fewer when he got back.
"We need to lower taxes and get more jobs," sad Brown.. "We need to all work together ... us, not the special interest groups. You are the ones who support these jobs."
Both were also leery of the health care reform bill being worked in Washington.
"That money's got to come from somewhere and I haven't heard an good explanation of where that money will come from," said Brown.
Marsh agreed, adding stem cell research as another item he didn't think the government should approve, much less fund.
When asked why they wanted to run, Brown brought up his party affiliation.
"A lot of people complain about the two-party system," he said. "Mr. Marsh is a good man. Ty Cobb -- I don't know nothing about him, We have lost a lot of what our party stood on,"
He said the Democrats only wanted to raise taxes and the Republicans have yet to stop abortion.
Marsh told the audience he decided to run because he wanted to contribute.
"I was never in the service and I always felt a little guilty about that," he said. "I thought this would be a way to serve."
Marsh said he was concerned because so many people were amazed that he would want to run. He said their attitude indicated they were disgusted on with the system but they had given up and didn't even want to try to change things. He wanted to change things, he said.
"God is our leader," said Marsh. "We do need some good people to get back in the political arena."
Russ Faxon, a Bell Buckle businessman and artist, asked them about the money they spent on campaigning.
"You guys have sent us a lot of landfill material," said Faxon. "How much money have you spent on those flyers?
"How do we know you're going to be spending our money more effectively than you spend your own?"
"A lot of this came out of the Republican Party and the Democratic Party," said Brown. "That money could have fed a lot of children in this county."
Brown said his campaign has worked on the internet, going door-to-door and a few flyers, In all, he said, he's spent less than $1,000.
Marsh did not say how much has been spent on his campaign but agreed that it was too much.
"It's my first time in politics," he said. "I said 'how much will it take?' and we've already doubled that. I don't see how we spent it."
He added that because Cobb would not debate him, he felt it the flyers were the only way he could get his message out.
The last question of the evening asked the candidates what they themselves would ask Ty Cobb if he were there.
"Ty Cobb, did you really have to pay a parking ticket up on the square?" asked Brown.
The audience laughed and the candidate continued. He said Cobb's father and brother had served in public office and that was part of the problem.
"There are too many good ole boys," said Brown. "Ty Cobb is a union man, I'm not a union man. The firefighters support him because they're union -- I thought their job was to save babies, not to kill them."
Later, Brown explained he was referring to their support of the Democratic party through their support of Cobb, not Cobb himself, who was endorsed by a right to life group.
Marsh said he wished Cobb had shown up and thought the Democratic candidate might be nervous about public speaking.
"I was at first, too," he said, "I got over it."