WASHINGTON (Gray DC) -- Tennessee's decision this November could determine which party controls Congress and the country. But for many voters, their decision will come down to the local economy, not national politics.
We spoke with Tennessee's U.S. Senate candidates - Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn and Democratic former Gov. Phil Bredesen -- about what they can do for the state's economy if voters send them to D.C.
The economy is growing, the stock market is booming, and unemployment is historically low.
But for the average American, even as wages rise the cost of living rises faster. Rep. Marsha Blackburn still sees that as improvement. "You're seeing the wage increases take place," she said, "and this is - to me - a very hopeful sign."
Blackburn credits last year's federal tax cut with helping the economy - citing a 14,510 increase in jobs through 2020 projected by the right-leaning Tax Foundation.
Blackburn is concerned about the national debt, which non-partisan budget analysts say the tax cuts increase by hundreds of billions of dollars. But, Blackburn said the country can afford more tax cuts -- leaving companies with more to invest and workers more of their paychecks - if Congress is bold enough to cut entitlement spending.
"The elitists, from both sides of the aisle, continue to spend, spend, spend," she said.
Phil Bredesen said he supports tax cuts helping the average Tennessean, but argued Congress missed an opportunity to shrink the debt by closing loopholes for big companies and the wealthy.
He said he worked closely with Tennessee's current senators while he was governor. On the jobs front, that meant lobbying businesses to come to the Volunteer State, or grow existing operations. "I certainly plan to do the same thing with whoever's elected Governor," he said.
Bredesen said tax cut savings aren't being re-invested in hiring, in part, because businesses aren't getting the certainty they need from Washington. He pledged to change that. "I think a more stable environment a more understandable environment for companies would really unlock a lot of investment," he said.
This piece is the first in a three-part series. Wednesday's will explore how the candidates feel about global trade disputes and the impact tariffs are having in Tennessee. Thursday's looks into the relationship the candidates expect to have with the president.
But tonight, we begin with their plans to boost the state's economy and create more jobs.
Our full interviews with the candidates will be posted online once the all three parts have aired.