Republican U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann and challenger Mary Headrick shared a stage for the first time Thursday, along with three other candidates seeking state or federal office.
The smattering of candidates met for a Lookout Valley Neighborhood Association candidate forum at the John A. Patton Recreation Center.
Along with Fleischmann and Headrick, U.S. Senate candidate Gordon Ball, a Democrat challenging Sen. Lamar Alexander, and state House District 27 candidates, Republican Patsy Hazlewood and her Democratic opponent Eric Mcroy, shared their views with the nearly full auditorium
Fleischmann's pitch Thursday was a far cry from the hard-line partisan stance he took during the Republican primary. Multiple times he stressed the importance of working across the aisle and praised "great debate" in the nation's capitol.
This was also the Ooltewah Republican's first local campaign event without longtime political operative Chip Saltsman in his corner.
"The things that divide us are really minimal. I've seen it first hand -- we come together as a House, as a Senate and as a nation to deal with crisis," Fleischmann said.
Outside of the general tone, Fleischmann continued to tout some of the same points he used before the Aug. 7 primary -- his role in restructuring the Chickamauga Lock and getting Erlanger Health System connected to federal funding.
"I rolled up my sleeves, went to work for our senators and went to work with all nine of our representatives. Our Republicans and Democrats came together and got work done," Fleischmann said.
The congressman also took time to praise the free enterprise system and urged residents to continue to support economic development.
Headrick also stuck strictly to a focused message for her 10-minute time slot.
"I maintain that the strength of our county depends on a strong middle class," Headrick said. "Our representatives have made decisions harmful to the middle class, but benefited special interests and big donors to campaigns," Headrick said.
After criticizing Citizen's United, a Supreme Court decision that she said opened the door for letting "dark money" into political campaigns by allowing corporations to contribute as people, Headrick said she was running for Congress to support social safety nets, public education, reduced interest rates for student loans and an increased minimum wage.
"I don't think our government needs to be run like a business," she said. "It needs to be a good service. And when we gouge our college students with a high interest rate, you are running it like business, not a good service."
Headrick, a physician, criticized a proposed voucher program for Medicare and said it would ultimately erode services for lower income residents.
"I've been a physician for 30 years, and I have seen the real benefits of Medicare," Headrick said.
She also said the Social Security program was not beyond help, and again pointed to her educational background as credentials for getting it back on track.
"The trust fund is still in the black. We have an 18-year bubble from the baby boomers going through the system. ... I was a math major, a computer analyst," she said. "Social Security is not broken. We need to save it and we need to keep it."
The House District 27 candidates shared differing views about the state of the western portion of Hamilton County.
Hazlewood praised the district for past economic development and said she would work to help it continue.
She continued to say she wanted to work in Nashville to change the BEP funding formula for public school funding so that Hamilton County got a bigger slice of the pie. When the formula was created, the county was shorted, she said.
"It made Hamilton County a donor county. We actually give more to the state than we get back for our students," Hazlewood said.
But Mcroy cautioned that giving tax incentives to large manufacturers could jeopardize the community down the road.
"If we progress the way we are, our district is going to change dramatically, not in the way we want to," Mcroy said.
Ball spent is 10 minutes answering criticism from the Alexander campaign, and went on to speak against Common Core school curriculum and echoed Headrick's stance on college loans.
"If we can bail out Wall Street, surely to God we can bail out our kids," Ball said.
The event was not a debate and no questions were accepted from the floor.
Contact staff writer Louie Brogdon at email@example.com, @glbrogdoniv on Twitter or at 423-757-6481.