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Tennessee governor candidates meet at the U of M for first debate

The race for Tennessee governor leads Democratic nominee Karl Dean and Republican nominee Bill Lee to the University of Memphis Rose Theatre, where both will have their first debate Tuesday.

With both candidates having drastically different backgrounds, political commentator and U of M journalism professor Otis Sanford said Bill Lee’s business background may give him an edge.

“Karl Dean has been in politics,” Sanford said. “The background of Bill Lee is more of a businessman, and that might help him because we have seen people that never served in office get elected. Voters think it is a change of pace, a fresh face.”

Sanford said Lee has an advantage in popularity because there are more registered Republicans than Democrats in Tennessee. He also said although many people including Republicans do not like President Donald Trump, those people may not immediately hate Lee.

“I do not know at this point how people feel about Trump,” Sanford said. “I do not think the people who have lost interest in Trump are going to penalize Lee. The question will be do the people believe that Lee has the experience, the intellect, the knowledge to be the governor of Tennessee.”

Sanford said, despite Lee’s experience as a businessman, he thinks Dean would be a better governor for the state.

“With Lee being a former businessman, he will see himself as an executive over the state, which is basically what a governor is,” Sanford said. “However, with Dean’s history of being a good mayor, I feel like he would do a better job than Lee.”

Dean brings a long political track record to the table. He was the mayor of Nashville from 2007 to 2015.

“Karl Dean brought the city of Nashville out of the great flood of 2010, and he created over 70,000 jobs in Nashville,” a spokesperson from Dean’s campaign team said. “That alone shows he does well under pressure and that he is able to be the governor of Tennessee.”

The Daily Helmsman reached out to Bill Lee’s campaign, but they were unable to comment.

For an example of how the politicians’ stances differ, Lee said he wants to ban abortion even in cases of rape and incest. Lee is also a supporter for the “Heartbeat Bill” that bans abortion around six weeks. In contrast, Dean said abortion is a woman’s choice, and the government should not interfere with that choice.

The last day to register to vote in the Tennessee State and National elections is Oct. 9, the early voting period is Oct. 17 to Nov. 1, and the general election will be Nov. 6. Voting polls will be held across the state of Tennessee for both the Governor’s chair and one of Tennessee’s United States Senate seats, which is between Republican Marsha Blackburn and Democrat Phil Bredesen.

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