Boyd drops out of last GOP governor debate
NASHVILLE — Republican gubernatorial hopeful Randy Boyd won’t participate in Tennessee’s last televised Republican gubernatorial debate before the Aug. 2 primary, according to Tennessee-based affiliates of Nexstar Media Group, owner of TV broadcast stations in most of the state’s major media markets.
“Randy Boyd drops out of Republican gubernatorial debate,” tweeted Kristin Farley, news anchor at Nexstar affiliate WATE-TV in Knoxville where the July 22 debates were scheduled to be held.
During a campaign swing in Upper East Tennessee, Boyd told Nexstar affiliate WJHL-TV in Johnson City “we just have a scheduling conflict. I don’t do the schedule, so I can’t tell you when it came up. But we’ve had a scheduling conflict.
“But again,” the Knoxville entrepreneur and former state economic development commissioner added, “we’re the only candidate that’s done all 18 debates. And by the way, you know this last debate is going to be almost 10 days after early voting started so half the people have already voted. So we’re going to be out visiting with voters and working the crowds.”
Tracey Rogers, general manager at Nexstar affiliate WKRN-TV said in an interview Friday afternoon that “as of this moment, the debate’s still on,” adding that Republicans U.S. Rep. Diane Black of Gallatin, Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell and Franklin businessman Bill Lee had all previously confirmed their attendance.
Asked earlier Friday whether she would be in the debate as she prepared to go vote near her Gallatin home in Middle Tennessee, Black told reporters “we have it on our calendar.”
In a brief email, Chris Walker, a Lee campaign aide, wrote, “Not surprised” regarding Boyd’s dropping out of the debate. “We’re in,” Walker added, “fully.”
Efforts to reach Harwell adviser Beth Fortune about the speaker’s debate participation were unsuccessful.
Boyd campaign CEO Chip Saltsman said in a statement that Boyd “is the only candidate who has participated in all 18 candidate debates and forums — and it’s pretty clear where all of the candidates stand on the issues.
“So,” Saltsman added, “we decided at this stage of the race, we would rather have Randy out talking directly to primary voters now that early voting is actually underway. But we look forward to doing more forums in the fall.”
At this juncture, all four Republicans are spending heavily on television, with Boyd and Black attacking each other. Latest polling shows a fairly tight race between Boyd and Black.
Nexstar already has aired two series of debates featuring Republican as well as Democratic candidates former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean and state House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh of Ripley in separate settings.
In addition to the planned Republican debate July 28 in Knoxville, Nexstar affiliates have a debate between Dean and Fitzhugh.