JONESBOROUGH, Tenn -

Two of the three candidates vying to be the next state reps of Tennessee's seventh district, squared off in Jonesborough tonight.

The debate between Republican Todd Franklin and incumbent State Representative Matthew Hill started at 7:00 p.m. at the Jonesborough Visitor Center.

Topics discussed during the debate included education and the open door policy,

This weekend, Phil Carriger decided to not participate in tonight's debate.

Carriger issued the following statement about the 11th hour frenzy of debate confusion:

"My opponent has had three months to accept numerous invitations to debate the issues from credible media entities and the Tea Party, but has refused.  Now at 11:59, after early voting has ended, he has obviously felt the pressure from citizens questioning his absence and his hit-and-run attack ads distorting my record.

Somebody has got the cart before the horse here.  You don't announce a done deal until the details have been presented in writing and agreed to by all the participants.  I was unaware of the email I received at midnight while I was sleeping until I read about it in the newspaper this morning just like everyone else.  This is not any way to do business.  It's not fair to the candidates or to the voters.

I have said from the beginning that I was willing to participate in any debate organized by a legitimate news or community organization with an independent moderator at a neutral venue with a clearly defined format and rules.  The Johnson City Press and the Tea Party have both offered opportunities, and one of my opponents has turned them both down.

With all due respect for good intentions, a slapdash attempt without media coverage would amount to little more than a dueling pep rally.  Washington County voters deserve better.  I welcome anyone with questions about my record or what I'll do in Nashville to call me at 423-282-8373.  Meanwhile, I am going to continue to get out and talk with as many voters as possible between now and Election Day."

Early voting, which traditionally take in 30 to 40 percent of all votes ended on Saturday.

The primary election will be held this Thursday, August 7.