Bradley County voters got a chance to hear from some of the candidates running for local office ahead of the May county primary election. 

Early voting starts in Bradley County on Wednesday.

The Cleveland Lions Club and the Bradley County Bar Association hosted a political forum at Lee University, where candidates spoke on major issues they believe the county faces. 

Many people went expecting to hear from those running for county commissioners and sheriff, but Bradley County Sheriff Eric Watson and his opponent, Steve Lawson, were both no-shows. Their absence left some people disappointed, while others walked out somewhat satisfied with the outcome. 

"I mean I don’t know. Who were they? The ones that didn’t show up... these are the guys I will remember when it comes time to vote," Bradley County resident Peaches Searles said. 

With two no-shows. Six candidates running for county commissioner captured the spotlight. Cameras rolled in Lee University's studio, while residents watched the forum unfold on a TV screen across the hall.

"Honestly, I was expecting them to be on the stage with a podium and me in the audience," Searles said.

A possible tax increase was one of the topics discussed. Residents have gone without an increase in 20 years. Most of the candidates seemed to be against it, but some say something needs to be done to accommodate the county's needs and continuous growth. 

"I see the growth that’s going on and the fact that they are all thinking about the future and how they’re going to handle it and how they’re going to deal with it is a plus," Searles said. 

"We do want to pay teachers more, they deserve it. We do want to pay our paramedics more, they deserve it; firefighters etc. At some point, we need to be creative in finding new revenue. I’m not saying that a tax increase is absolutely needed, but we need some other forms of revenue coming in," Bradley County resident Blake Allison said. 

Overcrowding at the county jail was briefly discussed. Though everyone was vocal about letting the sheriff take care of it, but the candidates for sheriff weren't there to say what they would do. 

"It’s going to be an interesting race. I know it’s going to be close and I’ll be watching it very closely," Allison said.