WASHINGTON COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL) – The race for the Tennessee 6th District House seat is heating up as voters hit the polls on Friday for the first day of early voting.

Incumbent, Micah Van Huss, has represented the people of East Tennessee since 2012 and with the upcoming election, he plans on continuing his run for years to come. “We need effective, experienced leadership in Nashville to be able to protect the freedoms, security, and prosperity of the people of Washington County,” said Huss.

While Van Huss has the experience, his challenger, Tim Hicks, told News Channel 11 what the people really need is a fresh start. “At the end of the day I don’t think this race will be about the differences on the issues, I think it’ll be about a different attitude and approach towards public service,” said Hicks.

Each candidate told News Channel 11 their thoughts about hot button issues, including recent county-wide mask mandates, both agreeing that wearing a mask should be a personal choice.

“If they want to is my answer. This is the United States of America, we’re a free country, if folks think that they’re vulnerable or that they’re going to be around vulnerable folks, you know that’s their choice,” said Van Huss.

While the pandemic continues across the nation, whether a person is wearing a mask or not is not their top priority. “It’s a great thing if you feel like that’s what you need and you feel comfortable, but if not, then I don’t have a problem with that,” said Hicks.

What both candidates did say was a priority was getting the economy back on track following this pandemic.

As far as recent calls to “defund the police” following acts of police brutality across the country, both candidates stand in support of local law enforcement. “We’re going to continue to ensure that our law enforcement has the tools and the funding that they need to provide security for our citizens,” said Van Huss.

Hicks also touched on the divide currently happening across the nation saying it shouldn’t be happening. “To Him, all of us matter and that is really something that I think needs to take place, I think we need to look at God’s guidance on that,” he said.

Hicks also told News Channel 11 that his main goal if elected would be focusing on an entirely different issue, which is the addiction problem across Northeast Tennessee and climbing suicide rate. He fears the pandemic will contribute significantly to both of these statistics.

Candidates also touched on access to education as well as the question of whether or not unemployment benefits should be extended to all East Tennesseans. Look out for News Channel 11’s Jeff Keeling’s article featuring the full uncut interviews with these candidates.

Election day is August 6th.