NASHVILLE, Tenn. (NEXSTAR) – Tennessee voters will head to the polls to vote on the state’s next governor.
On Sunday night, two Democratic candidates – Karl Dean and Craig Fitzhugh – will face – off in an hour-long debate in the Tennessee Governor Debate Series.
The candidates will share a stage at Pellissippi State Community College in front of a live audience invited by the candidates. They will face questions about education and healthcare issues, along with local and candidate-specific topics.
You can watch the debate on News 2 or wkrn.com at 7 p.m. Central on Sunday, July 22.
Here’s a look at where the candidates stand on some key issues.
Education: “I’m convinced that we have to pay our teachers more,” Dean said. He also says as governor he will develop afterschool programs.
His webpage states that Dean, “opposes the use of for-profit charter schools and vouchers. Private school vouchers would allow taxpayer dollars to fund private schools, taking money directly away from Tennessee public schools.”
Dean is not satisfied with the repeated failures of online testing. He believes that computer-based testing accomplished in a timely and credible way is high priority.
School Safety: “I think you look at ways of having more resource officers or people present who are trained in our law enforcement and know how to provide protection.”
Medical Marijuana: “My position on medical marijuana is that if it’s something that is going to provide people from relief from pain, offer them treatment and if the medical community is supportive of this, then that is something we should do,” Dean said.
He said he will rely on the medical community’s opinions regarding the drug and if medical marijuana is their consensus, the decision should not be a government matter.
Taxes: “I think it is absolutely essential for any city, town, or county in Tennessee to have a strong tax base that allows that jurisdiction to invest in education, and in parks, and things of that nature. The tax base is the key to success of any political unit,” said Dean.
Opioid Crisis: Dean believes in strong government response to the opioid crisis and supports the work of the state legislature task force. He believes this task force must combat the overuse of legal access to drugs. Dean stands behind harsher prosecution for drug dealers and treatment programs for those effected by opioids.
He states he will work with the healthcare community to fight the root sources of the state crisis.
Medicaid Expansion: “I think the most critical thing to do now or after the election is to expand Medicaid,” Dean said. “The decision not to do the Medicaid expansion resulted in Tennesse losing over $4 billion. . . So to me, doing the Medicaid expansion is absolutely essential.”
Dean says that not expanding Medicaid is one of the biggest mistakes the legislature has ever made.
Health Care & Accessibility: Dean says he plans to work with the state legislature, healthcare professionals, and nonprofits to increase healthcare access.
He also promotes preventative healthcare by living healthy lives. He pushes this concept among young Tennesseans.
Undocumented Immigrant Children: “Our government has a moral obligation to protect children who come here through no choice of their own. Immigration reform out of Washington D.C. is long overdue and I hope Congress acts quickly to address it,” said Dean.
Jobs & Poverty: “As governor, I will be prepared and focused on bringing plenty of good-paying jobs to communities across the state,” said Dean. He adds, “One of the things I want to do as governor is bring more economic opportunity to West Tennessee, whether that’s supporting and getting the Megasite Project done.”
“I also think the poverty rate here in Memphis should be unacceptable to our state,” Dean says.
2nd Amendment: “I am a supporter of the Second Amendment, but I believe the gun laws that we have right now [regarding permits to carry hand guns] are adequate. I think they cover what needs to be covered and I don’t see a need for a change,” Dean told Nashville Public Radio.
Education: “Too many are held back by the unaffordability of college education,” Fitzhugh’s campaign website says, “Fitz will be committed to lowering the costs of our state colleges for every Tennessean.”
Fitzhugh plans to fund strong pre-k courses, high schools designed to focus on STEM programs (science, technology, engineering, and math) and he wants to help students in college and public technical schools graduate without debt.
Farming: If elected governor, Fitzhugh will incorporate gardens and agricultural education into a program to “provide life-long health, and wellness for children and families across the state.” He says he will work alongside farmers to set goals for producing high quality foods.
Healthcare: Fitzhugh wants the state to expand access to affordable health care. He believes that, “the Senate should make sure that every Tennessean has access to coverage, and that our veterans receive the care they need, when they need it.” He will attempt to expand Medicaid coverage.
Minimum Wage: His website promises, “Fitz will fight for fair wages for folks across Tennessee and an economy that works for all.”
Savings Accounts: Fitzhugh says that to give every child an equal opportunity for achievement he plans to create a tax-free childhood savings accounts that will grow over time. So every kid has a nest egg waiting when they get to adulthood, no matter their circumstance.”
Opioid Crisis: Fitzhugh’s plan to attack to the opioid crisis is the expansion and funding of Medicaid. He believes that will open the door for access to substance abuse treatments as well as protection of services designed to help those who are addicted.
He believes it is essential for first-responders to be equipped with the recourses necessary to combat the opioid crisis.
Suicide Prevention: “It’s an unfortunate reality that we continue to see a rise in this tragedy in TN,” Fitzhugh said on his Twitter feed. “Resources for this issue have to be included as a priority in our State budget.”
LGBTQ+ Gay Marriage: Fitzhugh says his views have changed. Because of his upbringing in the church he used to believe that “marriage was normally just between a man and a woman. And as a lawyer, I felt like it was unfair that we were giving State benefits and Federal benefits to people who had married. So, I came to the conclusion that maybe a civil arrangement (for) the LGBT community would take care of that,” he told Out and About Nashville.
He said over the years though, he decided it was none of his business. Fitzhugh said the Supreme Court ruling supporting same-sex marriage made him feel comfortable about changing his stance.
Infrastructure: Fitzhugh states that, “Broadband and highways are the arteries of our economy and rural Tennessee has been left behind.” He will invest in both. Fitzhugh hopes this will give all farmers and businesses access to wider markets and create new jobs..