CLEVELAND, Tenn. - Dan Howell and J. Adam Lowe, the Republican contenders for state House District 22, differentiated themselves mostly by their qualifications rather than their stated beliefs and positions on issues in a public debate Thursday.
"Life experiences" were recurring themes for both candidates during a forum sponsored by the Kiwanis Club of Cleveland and held at Mountain View Inn.
"First of all, I believe it's my experience in government," said Howell, who served as executive assistant to Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis for five years. "I understand local government quite well."
Howell, who also has served on the Tennessee Republican Party State Executive Committee, touted his relationships with many of the state's leaders.
His experiences, which include previously owning two businesses, serving as a business manager and experiencing the brunt of downsizing, give him empathy with people, he said.
Lowe, who is the vice chairman of the Bradley County Commission, pointed toward the relationships he's built with his constituents in the county and fellow commissioners since taking office in 2010.
Business ownership and serving as chairman of the Bradley County Education Committee are other important experiences that demonstrate what he understands and lives, he said.
"I haven't rubbed elbows with the elites in Nashville - I know that," Lowe said. "But I've spent my life with you. ... I know your life experiences. It's time to take that to Nashville."
Local government and local voters ought to be the deciding factor in whether school superintendents are elected or appointed, and those same local voices should make their own decisions about how teachers educate in the classroom, the candidates agreed.
Both candidates made similar statements about the control of pseudoephedrine cold medicines and their impact on criminal meth production.
Placing stricter penalties on the meth-producing criminals is the best place to start, not law-abiding citizens, Lowe said.
"I don't know of anybody who is in favor of creating a hardship, especially the elderly and those on fixed incomes, by creating an additional layer of payment by visiting a doctor before you can get your cold medicine," he said.
However, Lowe disagreed that he and Howell shared the same position on pseudoephedrine restrictions previously.
Howell's position has reversed since the two engaged in a recent debate on a local radio station, Lowe said.
Howell said his statements were taken out of context and incomplete because of radio show time restrictions.
The winner of the Republican primary for the District 22 seat will not face a Democratic challenger.
Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at email@example.com.