The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga was the venue for the fifth of six forums around the state for candidates running for governor and U.S. Congress on Thursday, June 30.
Sponsored by the USA TODAY Network Tennessee in partnership with the University of Tennessee system and Lipscomb University, the series kicked off in May at UT Knoxville in the run-up to the 2022 mid-term elections.
Held in the Tennessee Room of the University Center, the forum was moderated by David Plazas, Opinion and Engagement Director for the USA TODAY Network newsrooms in Tennessee.
Jerold Hale, UTC Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, welcomed the audience and candidates and said UTC was proud to provide a public space for political discourse.
“As a public university serving a public purpose, UTC is committed to fostering civic engagement and meaningful debate,” Hale said. “We have an obligation to promote the search for knowledge and to create avenues for discussion toward informed decision-making.
“Because participation is vital to the democratic process, we are grateful to these candidates, our guests in this room, and everyone watching the livestream from home. We also thank the USA Today Network Tennessee, its opinion and engagement director—and our moderator—David Plazas, for making this forum happen.”
First up were two of the three Democratic candidates running for governor, Dr. Jason Martin, a physician from Nashville, and JB Smiley, an attorney and Memphis City Council Member.
The third candidate, Carnita Faye Atwater, a former nurse from Memphis, did not attend.
Each candidate had 90 seconds for opening statements.
Plazas posed questions, including some submitted by people in the audience, covering everything from recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions to state politics to favorite spots in Chattanooga.
The candidates had up to a minute to respond, with another 30 seconds reserved for rebuttals if one candidate name-checked the other in a response.
Gov. Bill Lee, a Republican elected in 2018, is running unopposed. He participated in the first forum in the series held at UT Knoxville but was not in attendance at the UTC event.
Voters will decide in the Aug. 4 primary election which of the three Democrats will go up against Lee in the Nov. 8 general election.
The second half of the forum featured Democrat Meg Gorman and Republican Sandy Casey. They are vying for Tennessee’s 3rd Congressional District seat currently held by incumbent U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, a Republican first elected in 2010.
Plazas posed questions to Gorman—who previously ran against Fleischmann in 2020—and Casey, a Navy veteran, in the same format as the gubernatorial candidates, including soliciting their opinions on current events, state and local policies and the Chattanooga area.
Chattanooga and Hamilton County are within the district’s boundaries, which include Hamilton, Polk, McMinn and Monroe counties and the southern half of Bradley County.
Watch the forum to find out how the candidates responded to Plazas’ questions.
Register to vote by July 5 to participate in the Aug. 4 primary elections. Early voting takes place July 15-30. The general election is on Nov. 8.