Local 24 is your Local Election Headquarters, and we hosted the first in a series of live debates Wednesday; The West Tennessee Republican Gubernatorial Debate.
The hourlong conversation between Congressman Diane Black, former state commissioner Randy Boyd, and businessman Bill Lee remained civil, but at times, controversial.
The candidates touched on a host of issues, from the economy to infrastructure, but based on the social media response, the biggest talker of the night of came after the candidates took on an extremely hot and contentious local topic.
In front of the local audience, Black, Boyd and Lee all agreed that Memphis leaders made the wrong decision in December, when the Memphis City Council unanimously voted to sell two parks to a non-profit, and crews immediately took down and removed Confederate statues.
“No that was not the right thing to do, because once again, I believe we need to be reminded of our history,” Black said.
“Removing any historical monument removes any reminder that we never want to repeat those things,” Lee said.
“It will be bad for us to start removing our history. Each generation tries to remove a piece of history that they disagree with, we’ll have no history,” Boyd said.
The candidates agreed on most issues throughout the hourlong debate, including the idea of tailoring specific incentives for Memphis to help revive the area’s economy.
“I think incentives are valuable,” Lee said. “I do think we need greater transparency with incentives. There is such a thing as a bad deal.”
“We invest in people and places,” Boyd said. “We invest in job training for Tennesseans that stay in Tennessee. We invest in places in Tennessee.”
“There are two things that we need to look at that Memphis needs to consider, and that is our lagging education and also our crime rate, so those have to be right,” Black said.
The trio of candidates also supported arming teachers in schools, if they agreed to the idea.
“We’ve have so many kids who need help,” Boyd said. “We have adults who need help. Many years ago, we got out of the business of providing mental health.”
“That they are trained and that they have certified in some way by local law enforcement, I think that’s another option,” Black said.
“We protect our nation with firearms and our nation’s leaders with firearms, but leave our children in gun free zones and that doesn’t make sense to me,” Lee said.
The winner of the GOP primary in August will take on either Democrat Karl Dean or Craig Fitzhugh in the November general election.