published Thursday, August 28th, 2014

Democrat Gordon Ball presses Alexander for debates

NASHVILLE — Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Gordon Ball is calling on Republican incumbent Lamar Alexander to debate him in major Tennessee cities, including Chattanooga, before the Nov. 4 election.

"Televised debates will allow the voters of this state to see the stark differences in my vision for Tennessee and Sen. Lamar Alexander's vision of Tennessee," Ball, an attorney, said in a Wednesday statement.

Alexander campaign spokesman Brian Reisinger said in an email response that "there will be plenty of opportunity in the next 10 weeks for Tennesseans to see the difference between Sen. Alexander's opponent -- who would be one more vote for the Obama agenda -- and putting Lamar Alexander's experience to work in a new Senate majority."

Reisinger, however, made no mention of a debate.

During the GOP primary campaign, Alexander evaded a call for debates from tea party challenger Joe Carr, although he never came right out and said so.

Instead, he said it would be too difficult to schedule all seven people running for the GOP nod. He didn't say whether he would consider debating all of them individually.

Alexander also said his record was well known. He said voters could find out more on his campaign website or "usually I'm walking down the street and they can ask me."

No incumbent U.S. senator from Tennessee has debated a challenger since at least 1996 when incumbent Republican Fred Thompson held one debate with Democrat Houston Gordon.

In 2002 as GOP nominee, Alexander did debate Democrat Bob Clement for the open seat. But as an incumbent in 2008, Alexander refused to debate the Democratic nominee, former state Democratic Party chairman Bob Tuke.

"They basically brushed us off," Tuke later told The Commercial Appeal in Memphis. "... I think it disserves the electorate to decline to debate, but they obviously disagree."

In another open Senate seat contest, former Chattanooga Mayor Bob Corker, the 2006 GOP nominee, debated Democrat Harold Ford Jr. for the Senate seat left open when Bill Frist decided not to seek a third term.

Ball, 65, first challenged Alexander, 74, to a series of debates in his Aug. 7 victory speech.

Telephone and email efforts to reach the Tennessee League of Women Voters, which in the past has sponsored debates, were unsuccessful Wednesday.

Contact staff writer Andy Sher at asher@timesfreepress.com or 615-255-0550.

about Andy Sher...

Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...

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