NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - With early voting just a few days away, candidates are making a strong push to Tennesseans about why they feel they deserve your vote.

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When it comes to issues affecting the nation and Middle Tennessee, Congressman Jim Cooper and challengers Joshua Rawlings and Keeda Haynes each have their own visions and solutions.

Cooper, Rawlings and Haynes are the Democratic primary candidates for the 5th Congressional District, which includes Davidson and Dickson counties and part of Cheatham County.

One major issue each candidate spoke passionately about was racial tension, police and criminal justice reform.

“I’m a huge supporter of restorative justice programs and I believe that we should hire police officers not just out of the military, but also out of our social services - Chaplains, ministers and also folks who are experts in deescalation,” said Rawlings.

“If defunding police means taking the police budget to zero, that’s not a good idea,” said Cooper. “What we need to do is restructure policing so that officers are hired to really try and de-escalate violence and not try to militarize the police force as it’s been too often in the past.”

“Those funds need to be taken from police and need to be reallocated to other areas,” said Haynes. “We need to re-imagine what policing looks like for us and what policing looks like for our community. I think the people that are closest to the problems are the ones that are closest to the solutions.”

The candidates also discussed how to deal with disaster relief, like what was seen in the days and weeks following March’s deadly tornadoes.

“As an experienced congressman, I helped educate Governor Lee about how quickly he needed to apply for federal disaster relief,” said Cooper. “Some of his staff was telling him to wait weeks and get everything totaled up before the help came. So we got immediate FEMA help in places like Lee Chapel AME in north Nashville, in East Nashville, in Donelson and Hermitage and further out into Mount Juliet and Cookeville.”

“We just have to think about the structures of our bureaucracies, and when people are hurting, the last thing they need is a 25-page FEMA document to try and apply to get their roof fixed and their life back together,” said Rawlings. “We need to apply one-on-one services for individuals who are in hardship.”

“We can be advocating for there to be more FEMA money for people in these particular situations and really just empathizing and understanding what people are going through in this situation,” said Haynes.

The candidates also discussed the ripple effects of the pandemic, the economy and the desperate need for quality healthcare.

“I appreciate the work that Congress has done around COVID-19 and the CARES Act, but you know, let’s just be real here, $1,200 and even an additional $500 for your kids, what is that really covering for your kids? What is that really covering for those of us here in Nashville?” said Haynes.

The candidates expressed their sadness at the tragic death of Darius Settles, a 30-year-old husband and father, the youngest person to die from COVID-19 in Nashville, who could not afford health insurance.

“We should’ve expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, but our state legislature has stubbornly refused to do that,” said Cooper. “We really have to force our state legislators to accept the federal aid so that we can have health insurance coverage for all Tennesseans, for all Americans.”

“Universal health care access. My plan for universal healthcare is a free public option which will cover the 30 million people who are currently not covered,” said Rawlings. “Folks who are still comfortable with their private insurance providers can stay with it and we need to make that market more robust.”

See the full interview with candidates

Jim Cooper

Keeda Haynes

Joshua Rawlings


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