Candidates vying for U.S. Senate square off in first televised debate

Candidates vying for U.S. Senate square off in first televised debate

June 29, 2006

6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) -- As Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist steps down from his seat in the U.S. Senate, the vacancy creates what political pundits across the country are saying is one of "the" races to watch this election year.

Thursday night, 6 News hosted the state's first televised debate of the Republican candidates hoping to fill Frist's seat.

Van Hilleary, Bob Corker, and Ed Bryant faced a panel of journalists and an audience at the University of Tennessee's University Center Auditorium.

Those who were expecting excitement in this debate didn't have to wait until the 4th of July for fireworks.

Each of the candidates came out firing on all cylinders, with the two former congressmen firing on Bob Corker.

It was clear from the beginning that to beat Bob Corker, candidates Hilleary and Bryant had to beat up on him.

There was this exchange about ethics in Congress: "I've heard this before from Bob and I always look to see if he's talking with a straight face when he's talking about lobbyists," said Ed Bryant.

"Bob came out early and said he wanted to do away with all earmarks, but I think he's backed off that a little bit," said Van Hilleary.

The former mayor of Chattanooga responded, saying, "We need to look at the earmarking process. There are huge abuses happening, especially when they're added in conference committee."

The candidates traded jabs on immigration, taxes and more. But the excitement came as Corker repeatedly ribbed his opponents on being Beltway insiders.

"What I find interesting about my Washington friends is they keep setting standards that they cannot live up to," said Corker.

"If I'm your Washington friend, you're my pro choice, tax-raising through the roof buddy!" Hilleary shot back.

"One other thing on this Washington friend stuff, had Bob Corker not lost in 1994, he'd have been up there in D.C. with us," said Bryant.

And there was the abortion debate.

"Bob's a good guy, but I don't think this has always been his position and I don't think it was until it suited him in the previous primary," said Hilleary.

"Van just made the comment he made, his position on pro-life has changed since 2002 and now his exceptions are different," said Corker.

"No way you can compare Bob Corker's record to my record on right-to-life issues," said Bryant.

The winner of the Republican primary election on August 1 will go on to face Harold Ford, Jr., in the November general election.

Ford is running unopposed for the Democratic nomination. Thursday night's debate is sure to be used as political ammunition for Democrats in November.

The event was co-sponsored by the Howard H. Baker, Jr. Center for Public PolicyWNOX NewsTalk 100, Knoxville Metro Pulse, and the League of Women Voters.

In the audience was invited community leaders, educators, college students, healthcare experts, lawmakers, and others.

6 News anchor Gene Patterson moderated the debate. The candidates answered questions posed by 6 News anchor Lori Tucker, WNOX radio host Hallerin Hilton Hill, and Metro Pulse's Barry Henderson. 6 News anchor Kristin Farley introduced the major issues and gave audience members an opportunity to ask questions.


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