Tennessee's 3rd District debate scheduled for Oct. 8

photo Mary Headrick, from left, Chuck Fleischmann
Arkansas-Tennessee Live Blog

IF YOU GO• What: 3rd Congressional District debate between U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann and Dr. Mary Headrick• When: 6:30-7:30 p.m. Oct. 8.• Where: Cleveland Bradley County Public Library, 795 Church St. NE, Cleveland, Tenn.• Cost: FreeSUBMIT A QUESTIONEmail Cleveland Education Association President Tammy Magouirk at tammilligan@msn.com.

U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann has agreed to debate his Democratic challenger in one of the most conservative parts of Tennessee's 3rd Congressional District.

Fleischmann and Dr. Mary Headrick will square off Oct. 8 at the public library in Bradley County, where Republicans outvoted Democrats 9-to-1 in the August congressional party primaries.

The announcement seems to fulfill the freshman Republican's pledge to debate his Democratic opponent at least once before the Nov. 6 election. Fleischmann spokesman Tyler Threadgill said it's unclear whether another debate will happen again in a district that includes 10 other counties and large urban constituencies in Chattanooga and Oak Ridge.

"We're onstage with our opponent and a moderator is asking questions," Threadgill said. "The congressman has said he will debate, and he is looking forward to expressing his views."

Headrick has called for as many issues-based debates as possible, including events strictly devoted to jobs and Medicare. The scheduled debate is her first breakthrough on that front, but a news release last week made it clear the Maynardville, Tenn., doctor wants more.

"As a physician, I have not spent much of my professional career debating in public," she said, "but I expect that a lawyer like Mr. Fleischmann should be willing and able to engage in public debate."

The Oct. 8 debate sponsor is the Cleveland Education Association, the local arm of Tennessee's teachers union. Details aren't finalized, but organizers said the debate's focus will be on teacher evaluations, federal funding and other topics related to education.

"Anybody can still submit questions on any issue they want," said Cleveland Education Association President Tammy Magouirk.

Other events appear to have stalled. Headrick is expected to attend a Sept. 27 candidate forum sponsored by the Chattanooga Times Free Press and the Voter Empowerment Team, an organization aiming to draw blacks into the political process.

Fleischmann has a scheduling conflict that day, Threadgill said. The congressman would be "open" to other proposed debates in Hamilton County that don't disrupt his official duties, he added.

Contact staff writer Chris Carroll at ccarroll@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6610.