Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Congressman Wamp grumbling as Knoxville mayor secures hold on big money, and the inside track on Tennessee GOP gubernatorial nomination

When the gubernatorial candidacy of Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam recently picked up Lamar Alexander's long-time chief of staff Tom Ingram as a top consultant, heads nodded that the GOP part of the Tennessee's governor race was being closed before it really opened.

And WPLN reported this morning that GOP contender, Rep. Zach Wamp, is grumbling, particularly since Haslam already has more than $2 million in his war chest. Wamp says big money of the elite should not take the race from middle class voters that rallied around Ronald Reagan. Interesting populist twist.

The only question now is whether the Democrats should even bother running someone in a state that Sen. John McCain carried by the largest margin of any other in the Union against President Obama. John Jay Hooker probably still is rested and ready.

The success of the anti-abortion movement to push SJR 127 through a House committee yesterday proves that the Democrats have little to run on in Tennessee. The resolution provides for a state referendum over whether the state Constitution provides more rights to choice than determined in the U.S. Constitution.

Democrats in the House have traditionally blocked this measure. The Senate, dominated by Republicans, will easily pass the measure. The state Supreme Court's contention that the Tennessee Constitution provides more rights has negated sensible safeguards passed by the state Legislature such as a 48-hour waiting period for abortions and all late-term abortions be conducted in a hospital.

In the gubernatorial primary, there will be little that GOP candidates differ upon, which makes Haslam's big warchest that much more of an advantage. But Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey -- another GOP gubernatorial candidate -- will have a legislative record to run on, which along with his name recognition could counter big money.

If you ask the average Middle Tennessean who Haslam is, he or she would be hard to come up with his title, let alone what he has done in Knoxville.

The East Tennessee Republicanism of Haslam and Ramsey is usually a tad more moderate than the red meat kind offered by party chairperson Robin Smith and the state GOP's most efficient attack dog, Bill Hobbs.

So the party leadership MAY have to tone things down a bit in a race the GOP should be sure to win. But as with the trickery that led to Kent Williams becoming House Speaker this session, nothing in Tennessee politics is ever a sure thing.

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