CLEVELAND, Tenn. - Candidates seeking to represent Bradley County in the Tennessee Legislature sought to define themselves during a two-hour forum Tuesday.
The forum, sponsored by the Cleveland Lions Club and the Bradley County Bar Association, was held at Lee University's Dixon Center.
Leading off the forum were Republican primary candidates for Tennessee Senate District 10 were Todd Gardenhire and Greg Vital.
Gardenhire touted his business background and history as a conservative.
"I've never supported a Democrat," he said.
Vital pointed to his background of creating a business, owning a farm and washing the Republican Party headquarters' windows as a young man.
"I'm not running for public office but for public service," Vital said.
The winner of the Aug. 2 primary will face one of the three Democrats in the November general election. Quenston Coleman, retired state probation and parole officer, and David Testerman, a Hamilton County school board member took part in the forum. Andraé McGary could not attend because the Chattanooga City Council, of which he is a member, was meeting.
Why would a Democrat seek votes in very-Republican Bradley County? the candidates were asked.
"It doesn't matter whether I'm a Democrat or a Republican," Coleman said. "What matters is I have integrity; I have leadership ability and a history of service."
"I am an American. I am a Tennessean," Testerman said. "I'm a conservative."
The audience heard from state representative candidates in the GOP primary as well.
"I've never been involved in politics. I've never been involved in government," said David Kimbro. "But I know how government should work."
Kimbro is challenging incumbent Eric Watson in the House District 22.
"Since I was elected, we have had GE, Wacker, Amazon; adding $80 million to the payrolls," Watson said. "Not to mention Whirlpool."
"I'm not a politician. If I win and get re-elected 10 times, I will still not be a politician," said Jack Epperson. He is challenging incumbent Kevin Brooks in House District 22.
"I am a public servant," Brooks said. "That's the term I've always used."
Tuesday's forum was the first of three. On Thursday local candidates for seats on the Bradley County school board and the Cleveland City Council take the stage at Lee's Dixon Center at 6:30 p.m. On July 17, the third forum, featuring U.S. congressional candidates, takes place at 6:30 p.m. at Cleveland State Community College's Johnson Theater.
The forums are broadcast on WCLE-FM radio 104.1 and WTNB-TV Channel 5.