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Andraé McGary speaks at a news conference at the Hamilton County Democratic Party headquarters Wednesday morning.


What: Voter Empowerment Team political forum


State Rep. JoAnne Favors, Democrat, House District 28

Johnny Horne, Republican, House District 28

Todd Gardenhire, Republican, Senate District 10

Andraé McGary, Democrat, Senate District 10

Dr. Mary Headrick, Democrat, 3rd Congressional District

Candidates who have not confirmed:

U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, Republican, 3rd Congressional District

Mark Clayton, Democrat, U.S. Senate

U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, Republican, U.S. Senate

Source: Voter Empowerment Team

State Senate Democratic nominee Andraé McGary on Wednesday predicted his Republican opponent, Todd Gardenhire, "will campaign by putting forth lies" in the days before early voting begins Oct. 17.

Citing reports from "very reputable Republican sources" whom he declined to name, the 33-year-old Chattanooga city councilman declared that Gardenhire would paint him inaccurately as a liberal who supports a state income tax and accepts government assistance to provide for his wife and five young children.

Gardenhire and McGary are campaigning to represent Senate District 10, which includes portions of Bradley and Hamilton counties. State Sen. Andy Berke, D-Chattanooga, isn't seeking re-election so he can run for Chattanooga mayor.

A former radio talk show host who quit his job to run for office, McGary also said he's heard of a "whisper campaign" that he sells drugs to finance his "nice suits."

Gardenhire has made only one of the statements -- the income tax issue -- but McGary denied even the hypothetical rumors, calling them "blatant lies" during a news conference at Hamilton County Democratic Party headquarters in Chattanooga.

Gardenhire, 64, declined interview requests. Campaign spokesman Nick Collins issued a prepared statement that slammed McGary's aggressive media strategy.

"Focusing on real issues is the only activity Mr. Gardenhire is engaged in," Collins said. "Attempts to drag this campaign in the mud will be unsuccessful."

McGary rebuted the idea that he sells drugs for clothing, describing himself as a penny-pincher who visits thrift stores in "wealthy communities" such as Signal Mountain and North Chattanooga.

"You will find stuff that will absolutely make your jaw drop," he said. "Brand-name stuff, that either someone died or someone just couldn't fit anymore. You'll get suits for five dollars, six dollars."

Gardenhire won the Republican primary largely on the strength of attacks on his opponent, businessman Greg Vital. When a pattern emerged that Vital had embellished his educational history, Gardenhire dubbed him "Pinocchio" and said Vital was behind a potentially damaging mail piece whose source never was verified.

McGary said he expects similar behavior in this race.

"He'll hit below the belt," McGary said.

McGary also attacked his opponent's accessibility, which became an issue earlier this month when Gardenhire said he hadn't checked his campaign Facebook and e-mail accounts since winning the Aug. 2 Republican primary. In doing so, he missed several messages from organizations looking to set up debates with McGary.

"For the love of God, please get a website," McGary said. "Check your Facebook page. Respond."

Both candidates will appear at a candidate forum tonight. The election is Nov. 6.