With less than a week to go before electing a new representative for the 62nd District, the three candidates have yet to meet in debate at the same time. Despite efforts from several sources, from Webb School to the Times-Gazette, no date was ever approved and agreed upon together by Chris Brown, running as an independent but with the Constitution Party's endorsement, Democrat Ty Cobb or Republican Pat Marsh. The closest it came to a real face-off was the recent town hall meeting held at Webb with Brown and Marsh attending.
The most recent attempt, engineered by the Cobb campaign, has also failed to gather the three men together.
Both Cobb and Brown agreed, but Marsh has declined to participate in the debate scheduled for Saturday.
"I said all three candidates," said T-G editor Kent Flanagan. "If we didn't get all three, we aren't going to have it."
Flanagan said Cobb and Brown could have their debate but someone else would have to moderate it.
Representatives at the Marsh campaign headquarters were asked Friday if Marsh would appear. They said no, telling the T-G that the presence of several Democratic gubernatorial candidates planned here this weekend felt like "sandbagging."
Keith Talley, communications director for the Tennessee Democractic Party, said the candidates were here for a Get Out The Vote campaign, not for the debate. He laughed when he was told Marsh would not participate in the planned debate.
"You know, they have criticized Ty Cobb for having to work and they come up with these last-minute scheduled debates in partisan town hall venues, but when we come up with a nonpartisan venue and moderator, they don't want to take part," he said. "It's very hypocritical."
The race has been hotly contested almost since the minute former representative Curt Cobb (Ty Cobb's brother) announced his resignation in late June. The district includes all of Bedford County, and parts of Lincoln and Rutherford counties.
So far, there have been at least five attempts to get the candidates together to air their views.
Before the primary, five of the six candidates -- Marsh, Brown, Bobby Scott, Casey Walters, and Joseph Byrd -- for the vacant state House seat faced each other in a candidate forum Aug. 18 at Central High School, sponsored by the Bedford County Republican Women. Cobb did not appear.
Marsh won the Aug. 27 Republican primary for the vacant 62nd District Tennessee House of Representatives seat. Unofficial vote totals had him drawing more votes than his three opponents combined. District-wide, Marsh drew 1,826 votes to Scott's 397, Walters' 348 and Byrd's 48.
Cobb was unopposed in the Democratic primary. He received 557 courtesy votes district-wide, including 332 in Bedford County.
Early in September, Marsh challenged Cobb to a debate.
"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 that 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."
Even then, the T-G was trying to establish a debate. Prior to the release of Marsh's press release, the newspaper had begun contacting the campaigns about their willingness to participate. A call to Cobb was returned by his campaign manager, Rolland Hughes, who told the T-G at the time that Cobb's schedule would not permit him to participate in any debates.
Brown scheduled his own forum for Sept. 21, offering a question and answer session. He said he had not been contacted about any of the debates the Democrats and Republicans were trying to arrange.
When the Webb School Young Democrats and Young Republicans organized their town hall-style question and answer forum for last Tuesday, Cobb again did not show, citing a former commitment with the Right to Life organization.