The two main party nominees running for Tennessee governor faced off tonight in Knoxville in the first of 3 debates leading up to the November election.
Republican state Senator Jim Bryson attemped to close the gap in the race which shows democratic incumbent Phil Bredesen with a strong 3 to 1 lead in the latest Mason Dixon Poll.
Both nominees told a full house in the West High School auditorium that increasing teacher pay and improving student learning are top priorities.
"We've got to find ways for young people in our state to get to college and be able to afford that college," said Phil Bredesen.
"We need to do our best to have the Hope Scholarship keep up with the inflation rate of higher education so that it can help those students go to school," said Bryson.
The Senator criticized the Governor's handling of state health care, his cutting 170,000 people from TennCare's Rolls and limiting benefits to thousands more.
"We've come to a point where we were a year out from an election, and we cut people off of TennCare in order to make the numbers work and make it look like it's been structurally changed."
Bryson says the TennCare fix isn't working, that the states 140 million dollar "safety net" to help disenrolled TennCare recipients pay for medication isn't enough.
But Bredesen says he brought an out of control health care program under control.
"We are at the same time, improving the operation of TennCare especially in getting people who are involved in fraud in the system off the rolls."