Gerber: A chance for voters, candidates to meet

Gerber: A chance for voters, candidates to meet

July 8th, 2012 by Alison Gerber in Opinion Columns

The election is less than a month away and early voting starts Friday.

In other words, if you haven't already decided, it's time to think about how you'll cast your ballot.

To help you make that decision, the Times Free Press is partnering with three other organizations on a candidates' forum and debate, allowing voters to hear from candidates in four races:

• State House District 28, which has Reps. Tommie Brown and JoAnne Favors facing off, and also features Johnny Horne.

• State Senate District 10, for which Quenston Coleman, Todd Gardenhire, Andraé McGary, David Testerman and Greg Vital are running.

• The 3rd Congressional District Democratic primary, in which Mary Headrick and Bill Taylor are competing.

• Hamilton County mayor, where Rick Wilson and Richard Ford are challenging incumbent Jim Coppinger.

The Chattanooga chapter of the NAACP, the Hamilton County Voter Empowerment Team, the Chattanooga Times Free Press and WRCB-TV Channel 3 are sponsoring the forum on Thursday at 6 p.m. The event will be held at Saint Paul A.M.E. Church, 2514 Williams St., in Chattanooga.

The Rev. Kenneth Love of Saint Paul will moderate the debate, which will be divided into four 30-minute sections, one for each race.

The forum has been timed to take place before the start of early voting, which runs from Friday through July 28. The primary election is Aug. 2.

If you have questions that you'd like answered, please email them to and place the word "debate" in the subject line.

Each race has its specific issues.

In State House District 28, both Favors and Brown have spoken out about Chattanooga's gang issues and helped sponsor legislation that toughened gang laws. Do you think the city is doing enough to deal with the gangs? Or perhaps you think the gang issue is overblown and is being used as an election-year tool for votes.

The 3rd Congressional District runs from the Tennessee/Georgia state line up to the Tennessee/Kentucky state line, slicing through urban areas such as Chattanooga, "think-tank" zones such as Oak Ridge and rural counties such as Roane, McMinn and Polk.. How does a single

person adequately represent such a wide-ranging batch of interests? What specific plans do Headrick and Taylor have for the Chattanooga region?

Democrat Andy Berke has been senator from State District 10 since 2007, but has chosen to run for Chattanooga mayor in 2013. District 10, which includes part of Hamilton County, was reconfigured this year to exclude Marion County and take in some areas in Bradley County. Berke has said that cutting government waste, education and jobs are the major issues in the district. Do the five candidates who want to succeed him agree? If not, what do they think the issues are?

Hamilton County's next mayor will face several issues in the next four years. Among them, the Enterprise South industrial park, which now holds the Volkswagen plant and many other industries, is almost full. The county can't just throw up its hands and say "Oh, well, guess that's all we can do." But land for a new park is scarce in the county, so what is the mayor going to do to keep the region growing from an economic standpoint?

So come to the forum and let officer holders and aspiring pols shake your hand and tell you why they deserve your vote. Send in your questions for them, or bring them with you.

Then go out and vote.

And don't forget the words Winston Churchill said in 1947: "Democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time."