Fleischman, the incumbent, drew from his experience in Congress, while Headrick pulled from her teaching and medical careers to discuss reforms in education and spending.
“I think I bring a background of varied experience both as a physician dealing with the public, as well as being a mother of two boys that we raised while we lived in Oak Ridge. … I’d like to bring those experiences to the problems we all face,” Headrick said.
She said the government has had an access of influence by those with money and by big business. She said this needs to change. She said these decisions have negatively affected the middle class.
For his part, Fleischmann emphasized his stance on education.
“As long as I serve you on the United States Congress, I promise to be a strong advocate for education,” Fleischmann said.
Fleischmann stressed the important role that public education made in his life by attending public schools through elementary, middle and high school, then going on to state universities.
“Education is near and dear to my heart,” Fleischmann said. “We cannot fail our children.”
He said problems in education are issues that need to be resolved collectively.
Both candidates agreed changes need to be made concerning the current U.S. Department of Education.
Fleischmann said the institution of a U.S. Department of Education was “an abysmal failure,” while Headrick said she is not “in love with the Department of Education as a Cabinet-level position.”
“As the federal government grows, it is always a problem,” Fleischmann said.
He stressed more federal funding should go straight to the state and local levels without as many dictates on how it can be used.
Headrick said “there still needs to be guidance” when it comes to federal funding, but this can be done without a Cabinet-level position. Headrick said some government regulations are in the best interests of children and citizens.
While both candidates agreed on the importance of finishing the new Chickamauga Lock, they disagreed on funding. Headrick said the lock on the Tennessee River could be funded through increasing the marine diesel fuel tax, a measure barge operators have said they would support. Fleischmann said the trust fund for the group of locks including Chickamauga needs to be reformed, because the majority of the money goes to a lock in Kentucky rather than the money being evenly distributed.
The candidates held opposite beliefs on how taxes should be handled. Fleischman said he is in favor of a lower tax for everyone. Headrick said those who make more than $250,000 a year can afford to pay more to help the country and should spend their money in the states.
“We need to have fair revenue, even if it means more taxes in some areas and less in other areas,” Headrick said.
The candidates were also on opposite sides of the capital gains tax issue. Headrick said these taxes do not need to be cut.
“Capital gains need to be taxed like regular income,” Headrick said.
She said she is in favor of a combination of cutting spending in key areas and raising taxes in key areas.
Fleischmann is in favor of having no capital gains tax for two years.
“We have a spending problem in the United States ... raising taxes will not solve this problem. It will only make it worse,” Fleischmann said.
He said mandated programs need to be reformed. He also said discretionary spending needs to be cut back. Fleischmann said defense spending and Medicare do not need to see further cuts to funding. He said cuts can be made in areas that will have less of an impact.
“There is so much waste, fraud and abuse in the federal budget,” Fleischmann said.
Both candidates agreed the federal government should not have as much say as it does in education.
Candidates were asked to give their opinion of the Race to the Top educational funding and reform. Headrick said much of the money has gone to planning and strategies rather than to directly helping students.
“In regards to our push to change American education, we’ve had a push for privatization, a push for vouchers, a push for what is called ‘choice,’ but ... it would actually wind up being an extraction of your property tax dollars so that they could be spent and sent elsewhere,” Headrick said.
She further highlighted the heightened discussion of school vouchers, saying it was a move that would leave the poorest students behind. She stressed the majority of funding for education comes from the local level. She said local people should have more influence on what is taught and the federal government should have less, because it doesn’t provide as much funding.
“I think vouchers are part of a program that can move toward more school choice for parents,” Fleischmann said.
He said this would localize more of the education decisions affecting students.
Fleischmann agreed on local control being a better system.
“I want to see more local and parental control of education as opposed to Washington, D.C. control. The problem I have seen in Washington ... is that there are always strings attached,” Fleischmann said. “I think it’s very important — whether you are talking about Race to the Top or any other educational reform — that local school boards, parents and local PTAs have more say.”
Candidates expressed widely differing opinions on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Fleischmann said he has voted against it 32 times. He said it is not good for the American public. Headrick said the act made many good reforms to the insurance system, such as allowing students to stay on their parents’ insurance until age 26, and not denying coverage to those with pre-existing conditions.