The following article is taken from the July 2010 issue of the Main Street Journal. Click “Subscribe Online” above to start your subscription.
On the Money: Governing Beliefs: A Look at the Tennessee Governor’s Race
By: Chuck Bates
While it seems a foregone conclusion that Mike McWherter is the likely Democrat nominee for the post, the Republican Primary is not nearly so cut and dry and while some would argue that many of the candidates hold similar views on a litany of issues the personalities and character of the three primary contenders for the Republican nomination are decidedly different and their method and means of governing are likely to be a direct reflection of those differences.
Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam, Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey and Congressman Zach Wamp could not be any more different as individuals. Mayor Haslam is the scion of the Pilot Oil and Truck Stop Empire. Lt. Gov. Ramsey is a self-made, small businessman who runs a real estate and auction company. Congressman Wamp is a political creature having moved through the Republican Party ranks spending the last 15 years in Washington, D.C. On the issues you will find all three reciting the primary planks of the Republican platform but take a deeper look and you really begin to see whether their reasons for running are altruistic or motivated for the purpose of just being Governor. All have a political Achilles heel of some sort but Haslam and Wamp have the biggest hurdles to overcome with the party faithful.
As Mayor of Knoxville Haslam signed on to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s very anti-gun initiative. This is a big problem for most of the Republican base. Further exacerbating this is the recent veto of common sense gun legislation by current Gov. Phil Bredesen where Mr. Haslam’s police chief was present representing Knoxville on this very unpopular veto of gun rights. For the truly entrenched on this issue it would appear Mayor Haslam only joined one of the better known 2nd Amendment groups after he decided to campaign for Governor reeking of political motivation instead of heart felt belief. Finally there is the sentiment that despite his opposition to a state income tax many he worked and associated with during that heated debate of the Sundquist years were indeed pro-income tax and this association has many wondering about his sincerity on the topic. Mayor Haslam has had a difficult time connecting with the average voter in Tennessee as is evident in the multiplicity of television ads run by his campaign. It seems that despite spending more than the other two candidates combined he has been able to gain little traction. While he does have the ability to spend a great deal more yet, money alone cannot get you elected.
Lt. Gov. Ramsey is the first Republican to hold that position since Reconstruction and seems to resonate with a great deal of the voters and particularly grass root, conservative groups receiving endorsements from Tennessee Right to Life, NFIB, homes-schooling groups, 2nd Amendment activists, and even the Tea Party movement. He was however hamstrung on fundraising due to rules against such activity during the state legislative session but despite the obstacle has been able to keep up with the pack in terms of money raised. Ramsey seems to be striking a chord with his message of ready to go on the first day with his knowledge of the inner-workings of state government and his government needs to leave us alone sentiment. His willingness to lead on grassroots issues has brought him considerable support from the party faithful.
Congressman Wamp is facing some of the biggest challenges since he is perceived as being from Washington and part of the problem instead of the solution. Despite his efforts to speak to the contrary many are of course skeptical of career politicians and particularly those from Washington, D.C. Further, breaking his first two campaign promise to only serve six terms (now in his seventh) and not to accept PAC money (taking it in his congressional career and even now in his gubernatorial bid), leave the public just that much more cautious when it comes to the Congressman. On that red-meat Republican issue of guns Mr. Wamp has a mixed bag of ratings from the various 2nd Amendment organizations due to his sporadic voting record. Finally if Zach Wamp seems to have one real problem it is likely Zach Wamp himself. He is certainly high energy in delivering his message but comes across as though he is wound tighter than a three dollar watch. I have had the opportunity to witness him come unraveled and irritated during debates with only a little pushing. He appears to be somewhat of a hot head. It is this attitude that turns some away from his fire brand campaign while his record and career in politics provides a hurdle in the current anti-incumbent environment.
Should make for an interesting summer. You can find out more about the candidates at their respective websites: www.billhaslam.com, www.teamronramsey.com and www.zachwamp.com