With no scheduled forum appearances or debates on the calendar where Knox County's Republican and Democratic candidates will go head-to-head, Democrat Ezra Maize says Tim Burchett needs to stop dodging debates.
"I don't believe Tim wants to answer the tough questions that may come from the citizens," Maize said. "He talks about 'hey, I want to be transparent with the citizens.' You cannot be transparent when you're hiding."
Burchett says it's not a matter of hiding, he's participated in public forums and debates before like the one at West High School in April. Right now, it's a matter of how to do what's most effective for the taxpayers and his campaign.
Maize points to a public forum set up by Knoxville radio host Hubert Smith on July 15th. Burchett hasn't said he'd be there and according to Smith, he initially declined.
"Senator Burchett's campaign at the time I extended that invitation in May said 'no, not at this time'," Smith said.
Burchett says an all-office candidate debate, like the one of July 15th isn't the best use of his or taxpayers' time. He says instead having conversations on front porches and in living rooms as he goes door-to-door is more effective way for voters to get to know him and ask whatever questions they have on their mind.
Maize says that he has specific questions he wants Burchett to answer about his voting record in Nashville and his plans for the county's administrative offices if Burchett were to be elected.
"I'm willing to go to any means to go toe-to-toe with Mr. Burchett and talk about the issues," Maize said. "I want to know if I'm not mayor, what are you going to do to make things right here in Knox County."
Additionally, Burchett declined an invite to a debate set-up by a group of South Knoxville Business Owners and Knoxville's League of Women Voters.
In that case, Burchett's campaign manager said the campaign wanted the event to be more accessible to everyone in the county, not just voters in South Knoxville. They pushed for the changes and when they were not made, they declined to participate in that particular debate.
With or without all three candidates for county mayor, Hubert Smith's July 15th forum will go on. He's hoping it'll increase voter awareness and maybe even impact turnout.
"I felt like certainly there was negligence in people thinking the general election was done," Smith said. "What I hope is we have more than 30-thousand people turn out to vote. That's what we had in the primary, which I thought was abysmal."
It starts at 7 p.m. at the City-County Building downtown and will be broadcast on community television as well as 10News2.