The general election debate season ended as it began: with Republican gubernatorial nominee and Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam showing the depth and breadth of knowledge required of Tennessee's next governor.
The sharpest exchange during the televised debate came when Haslam challenged his opponent on his general understanding of the state's looming budget situation.
Haslam asked his opponent about $290 million in cuts coming for state higher education, $430 million for TennCare and whether he understands the challenges facing the next governor.
State government budget documents back up Haslam's stance that the budget isn't as rosy as Haslam's opponent believes. Documents show $991 million in cuts were delayed by federal funds and $852 million in cuts delayed with state funds.
Yet McWherter falsely claimed Haslam was wrong. "I think your numbers are absolutely wrong," McWherter said.
"As mayor I've wrestled hard budget problems and have come to solutions that work for our citizens," Haslam said in closing statement. "Our next governor needs that experience to deal in difficult times.
"I promise you I'll begin every day and end every day thinking about how to bring jobs to Tennessee," Haslam added.
Mayor Haslam is the two-term Republican Mayor of Knoxville, reelected in 2007 with 87 percent of the vote. A hardworking, conservative public servant, Haslam led Knoxville to become one of the top ten metropolitan areas for business and expansion, while reducing the city's debt, tripling the rainy day fund, reducing the number of city employees to the lowest amount in 15 years and bringing property taxes to the lowest rate in 50 years. An executive leader with a proven record of success, he helped grow his family's small business from 800 employees into one of Tennessee's largest companies with 14,000 employees.