published Friday, July 23rd, 2010

Hopefuls face off in wide-ranging debate

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    Staff Photo by Allison Carter/Chattanooga Times Free Press - On Thursday evening Master of Ceremonies, Dudley Meadows, center, begins the debate between Jim Fields, right, and David Cantrell, left, who are candidates for District Two. The debate took place at Alexian Village, a retirement community on Signal Mountain.

The two men vying for the Hamilton County Commission District 2 seat debated local issues, but many of the questions they answered were on big-picture topics.

David Cantrell, a pilot running as an independent, and Republican Jim Fields, a local attorney, talked consolidation but they also discussed separation of church and state and gun rights.

The candidates met at Alexian Village in Signal Mountain.

Mr. Fields said he wants to build county revenues by increasing tourism.

“That’s great for our economy,” Mr. Fields said. “That’s used to fund education and other county services.”

Mr. Cantrell said the county needs to focus on a “diversified” economy.

“Small businesses are critical, and we need to work with them as much as we can,” he said.

Would the candidates support or oppose consolidating city services?

Mr. Cantrell said he needs to know how much money that would save.

“I’m not against moving some of the services if it proves cost effective,” he said. “We have to look to the in-depth issues and see which ones make sense to merge.”

The voters would have to approve any consolidation, Mr. Cantrell added.

Mr. Fields said the logistics of putting services together might be difficult.

“I’m in favor of it if it can save money, but I question whether it can logistically be done,” he said.

The candidates moved on to weightier matters. How did they feel about the conservative tea party movement?

Mr. Fields said it’s a movement to move the country closer to the vision of the Founders.

“I would very much defend the tea party movement,” he said. “I think it’s a grass-roots effort that a lot of people in this country are flocking to.”

Mr. Cantrell said he was “neutral” about the tea party.

“My problem with groups like that is, they on one hand say they want minimum services but then when you ask them they say they want all the services they’re entitled to,” Mr. Cantrell said.

Where do the candidates stand on the separation of church and state and the teaching of religion in schools?

Mr. Cantrell said he’s for separation of church and state and thinks schools should teach comparative religion courses.

Mr. Fields said he believes in the First Amendment. He said he is in favor of letting people who have an opinion about religion express it but said people do not have the right to push their views on others.

The two men also asked each other questions: Mr. Cantrell asked Mr. Fields how he would separate his business interests from his official business on the County Commission. Mr. Fields said if an issue came up, he would recuse himself.

Mr. Fields asked Mr. Cantrell if he’d received any support from unions. Mr. Cantrell said he hasn’t received support from anyone.

Jack McEwen, a resident of Alexian Village, said he was a bit surprised by the questions about guns and God.

“But you have to have an answer to those (issues) on which you can hang your other ideas,” he said.

Continue reading by following these links to related stories:

Article: Fields for term limits, against metro government

Opinion: Letters to the Editors

Free Press Editorial: For County Commission

Article: Candidates debate role of religion in politics

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