Tennessee’s Bredesen fields questions on Kavanaugh at forum

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Democrat Phil Bredesen speaks about his stance on health care during an ideas forum, Monday, Oct. 1, 2018, at the Bessie Smith Cultural Center in Chattanooga, Tenn. Bredesen held the event after his opponent for the U.S. Senate seat, Marsha Blackburn, declined to debate him on the same night. (Erin O. Smith/Chattanooga Times Free Press via AP)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Democrat Senate candidate Phil Bredesen on Monday faced some backlash from a Tennessee crowd for once again declining to say how he would vote on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

Bredesen hosted a forum in Chattanooga after his Republican opponent U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn declined to debate him. Instead, Blackburn opted to attend a fundraiser with President Donald Trump, who made a second stop in Tennessee to help boost the competitive open race now that GOP U.S. Sen. Bob Corker chose not to run for re-election.

Overall, the crowd — made up of mostly Democrats — applauded for the majority of Bredesen’s answers to questions submitted by the audience, which ranged from health care, veterans affairs and broadband access. However, when pressed on Kavanaugh, a handful of members of the crowd booed as Bredesen said he is waiting on the results of the FBI investigation surrounding the allegations against Kavanaugh before making a decision.

“I am still holding and reserving my opinion on Mr. Kavanaugh until the FBI finishes its investigation,” he said.

The soft boos were a sharp turn from the applause Bredesen — a former Tennessee governor — received just moments before when he said judges should show proper ethics and temperament.

Bredesen’s comment follow ongoing promises to maintain his independence if elected in November. Most recently, he vowed not to vote for Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer while expressing his disappointment in all of Congress’ leadership.

Meanwhile, Blackburn has said she supports Kavanaugh.

“Phil Bredesen continues to hide from voters and refuses to answer their questions,” said Abbi Sigler, campaign spokeswoman, in a statement. “After 84 days, he still has not given Tennesseans an answer on Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination. He continues to say he’s ‘applying for the job,’ but he’s leaving the application blank.”

In return, Bredesen’s campaign has criticized Blackburn’s team for avoiding events where the two would have to share the stage.

“I think debates are helpful because you get to see the candidate more unscripted,” Bredesen said Monday. “It’s not just a TV thing where you can take 22 takes to get it right. When you see people debate, you see how they handle themselves.”

The outcome of the red-state race could be critical, with a 51-49 Republican majority in the balance.

The two debated for the first time last week. The second and final debate has been confirmed for Oct. 10 at the University of Tennessee’s Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy in Knoxville.

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