The Highlands program of the Cookeville-Putnam County Chamber of Commerce announced today that it will partner with Tennessee Tech University, Nashville’s WTVF NewsChannel5, and the Tennessee League of Women Voters to produce a non-partisan gubernatorial debate on Tuesday, September 14 at 7 pm. The town-hall style debate will be held in TTU’s Wattenbarger Auditorium.
Organizers say being the first televised General Election gubernatorial debate held outside of Nashville, Memphis, or Knoxville, the debate will give focus to hometown issues facing Tennessee’s rural and suburban areas, with an emphasis on economic development, education, and health care.
"Our candidates for governor should hear firsthand about the challenges facing these voters and begin to formulate plans to address those challenges," George Halford, president/chief executive officer of the Cookeville-Putnam County Chamber of Commerce and a Highlands partner, said. "A one-size-fits-all approach won’t work in governing Tennessee. Our rural and suburban areas require different tactics to meet their needs."
The debate will also offer a unique perspective on voter attitudes. Debate organizers will solicit video questions via YouTube and allow Tennesseans to vote on which questions they want asked of the candidates.
"Our primary responsibility is to ensure the debate is a non-partisan and fair forum that addresses the relevant concerns of voters," Kathy Edwards, vice president of the Tennessee League of Women Voters, said. "But we are extremely excited about plans that include the ability for Tennesseans to ask the candidates unscripted questions online. This will be valuable in expanding communication between the candidates and voters and will give us an indication of the mood of the electorate that we don’t believe this state has seen before."
The debate will also include a section for live audience questions and a section for candidate-to-candidate questions.
"This debate will be unlike any other that we’ve had in Tennessee," Halford said. "The location gives it a first-of-its-kind platform and the format opens new avenues for voters to learn what the candidates really think. This will be one to watch."
The Highlands is a regional public/private sector initiative between Overton, Putnam, and White Counties. Launched in 2006, the program has achieved several economic development successes due to unprecedented levels of collaboration and regional cooperation among community leaders.