When Countess Ramseur walked into St. Paul AME Church on Thursday night, she had no idea she was walking into a political debate featuring candidates in four different races.
"I thought there was another meeting here," she said. "So when we walked in and saw all these people, I knew it had to be something interesting. And it was."
The meeting featured a debate among candidates running for state House District 28, state Senate District 10, the 3rd Congressional District Democratic primary and Hamilton County mayor.
State Reps. Tommie Brown and JoAnne Favors kicked off the evening. The Democrats were forced to run against each other after voting districts were restructured earlier this year. But Favors said she doesn't think of the race in terms of personal competition.
"I don't consider myself running against, I consider myself running for the seat," Favors said.
The two women took the same position on nearly all of the issues they debated. Both agreed that racial profiling exists and should be fought, that the current sales tax system is regressive, and that gun laws should be tightened but realistically, won't be.
"It would take an act of God to get that [gun] legislation out," Brown said. "I'm not going to introduce it, but I will vote for it."
Neither said the redistricting at the state level was fair to African-Americans.
"We did not have any input in that," Favors said. "I do feel that we were treated unfairly."
State Senate District 10 candidates Andraé McGary, David Testerman, Todd Gardenhire and Quenston Coleman debated questions focused on job creation and professional training for area youth. Candidate Greg Vital was invited but had a previous commitment.
In the 3rd Congressional District Democratic primary debate, Bill Taylor and Mary Headrick differed on the minimum wage. Headrick supports immediately upping minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.16. Taylor said such a large jump would put workers out of jobs. He wants to raise the wage incrementally.
In the race for Hamilton County mayor, Rick Wilson and Richard Ford debated. Current Mayor Jim Coppinger was invited but did not attend.
Gardenhire was the only Republican to join the debates. Ward Crutchfield, former Democratic state senator, and Paul Smith, Hamilton County Democratic Party chairman, also attended.
Shelly Bradbury covers police and crime in Chattanooga and Hamilton County for the Times Free Press. She's been with the paper since 2012, working first as an intern and then as a business reporter. She is from Houghton, New York, and graduated from Huntington University in Huntington, Indiana, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and minor in management. Before moving to Tennessee, Shelly previously interned with The Goshen News, The Sandusky Register and The Mint ...