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AP

Sole scheduled debate for Tennessee Senate seat called off

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The only debate scheduled thus far between the candidates seeking to win Tennessee's open Senate seat has been called off.

Tracey Rogers, general manager for WKRN-TV, confirmed Monday that a scheduled Oct. 14 debate had been canceled. The Memphis Flyer was the first to report the debate had been spiked.

"Logistical conflicts," Rogers wrote in an email response to questions about why the event would not be held. Rogers declined to provide any further information.

The top two candidates running for Senate are Republican Bill Hagerty and Democrat Marquita Bradshaw. Hagerty has been endorsed by President Donald Trump, while Bradshaw is an environmental activist who pulled off a victory over the Democratic establishment's choice in the August primary.

When asked if Hagerty had agreed to participate in the debate before it was canceled, a campaign spokesperson pointed to two news reports where Bradshaw claimed she would not debate Hagerty.

"Do you hope to debate him at some point?" WJHL-TV anchor Josh Smith asked Bradshaw on Sept. 2.

"No," Bradshaw answered.

Before that, in an Aug. 22 WKRN-TV interview, Bradshaw told the news station she was also not interested in debating Hagerty because "he used hatred to drive a message of division."

Campaign spokesperson Abigail Sigler said Hagerty had no debate "to commit to" because of Bradshaw's comments saying she wouldn't participate in a debate and no other Senate candidate was qualified for the Oct. 14 debate.

However, Bradshaw has since switched positions, as early as last week she told reporters she was now willing to square off against Hagerty. That's because she "sees it as her duty to counter the hatred and hypocrisy coming from the other side of the aisle with a positive message about the issues that matter most to Tennesseans," said Ken Taylor, Bradshaw's campaign manager.

Taylor cited the recent presidential debate, the open U.S. Supreme Court seat due to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death and COVID-19 developments in Tennessee as key issues that should be discussed between the top Senate candidates.

"I invite my opponent to join me in giving Tennesseans what they deserve: an open and honest debate over the issues they care about most," she said.

According to the Memphis Flyer, Independent candidate Aaron James had raised objections to being excluded from the WKRN debate. James had reportedly raised too little campaign cash to qualify for the event.

Currently, no other Senate debate has been announced ahead of the Nov. 3 election.

The Senate seat opened up after Republican U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander announced he would retire at the end of his term. Republicans have held both Tennessee seats in the Senate since 1994.

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