Candidates for Hamilton County mayor will participate in a debate next month, the first publicly announced for the election cycle.
The debate will be hosted by the Chattanooga-based conservative organization Hamilton Flourishing at 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 21 at 1222 East Main St., Suite 102, the location of SociallyU, which is providing a studio for the event. Organization President Doug Daugherty will host the debate.
"The plan at this point is to do 60 minutes live, and another 20 minutes each recorded," a news release said.
Hamilton Flourishing aims "to inform, educate and support the citizens of Chattanooga and Hamilton County in their pursuit of a more peaceful and prosperous community," according to its website.
So far, Republican candidates Matt Hullander, Sabrena Smedley and Weston Wamp have said they will participate, although other candidates who qualify by the Feb. 17 deadline will also be able to participate.
In the past week, three other candidates have picked up qualifying petitions: Democrat Matthew Adams, independent David Tulis and independent Richard Ford, according to the Hamilton County Election Commission.
Those three candidates, in addition to Wamp, have not yet returned their qualifying petitions. Wamp said during a Friday phone interview he already has the required number of signatures but he has not yet dropped them off at the elections office.
The candidates at the debate will draw straws to determine the order in which they make comments, and each will have four minutes to introduce themselves, according to the news release.
Questions for the debate will be informed by polling available on Hamilton Flourshing's website. A poll earlier this month from the group, conducted by Spry Strategies of Knoxville, found crime and public safety to be the top issue for county voters, followed by economic development and job growth, homelessnes, mental health and addiction and affordable housing. The survey showed most voters are undecided in the mayor's race, with Hullander leading among those with a preference, followed by Wamp and Smedley.
Candidates will have 20 minutes each to answer the questions in the debate, which will be broadcast on Hamilton Flourishing's social media pages and archived on its website.
Recordings of the debate will also be available on the candidates' campaign social media pages if they choose to do so.
Contact Logan Hullinger at email@example.com or 814-319-5158. Follow him on Twitter @LoganHullinger.