Talk To Local
BY TOM YANCEY
Two Republican candidates for governor in 2010 -- U.S. Rep Zach Wamp, R-3rd, of Chattanooga, and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, of Blountville, bantered in good fun at Friday's Republican Party Picnic here.
Wamp opened his remarks by saying that Ramsey is "a fine lieutenant governor, and I hope he continues to be."
Ramsey later quipped that Wamp would make a fine commissioner of finance and administration in his cabinet.
But Wamp turned serious almost immediately, and said his heart and prayers would be with Ramsey because of Ramsey's father's serious illness.
Ramsey later told the crowd that his father was diagnosed with terminal cancer last Tuesday and went into hospice on Friday. Ramsey was as upbeat as usual, but it was obvious that the day had been a hard one for him and for his family.
Party Chairman Louis Ricker, in recognizing elected officials, said that U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-1st, of Johnson City, could not be present because he has viral pneumonia.
Former First District Congressman David Davis, whose Web site says "Davis for Congress," was introduced, but did not speak.
Also present but not speaking were state Sen. Steve Southerland, R-1st, of Morristown, and state Rep. David Hawk, R-5th, of Greeneville.
Ryan Hughes, a field representative for Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam, who is also a candidate for governor, spoke briefly, noting that Haslam will be in Greeneville on Monday to speak to the Republican Women's Club at noon at the General Morgan Inn.
Cade Benedict, Northeast Tennessee coordinator for Memphis District Attorney Bill Gibbons, also spoke.
Benedict cited Gibbons' humble origins, and Gibbons' rise because of a good public school system and a mentor who helped him get a scholarship to Vanderbilt University.
ABOUT 100 PRESENT
The annual event, held each fall at Kinser Park, drew about 100 people, including most GOP elected officials in the county. Among those attending were a handful of active Republicans from surrounding counties.
The turnout was smaller than at some previous GOP picnics. This was the first time in memory that the party charged for the meal. The $10 tickets bought a barbecue dinner catered by Chuckwagon BBQ.
An auction after the meal, before the speeches, raised money for the Republican Women's Club.
Both candidates brought their families. Wamp brought in his campaign motor home, with his name in huge letters on the side.
His fast-paced speech began by declaring that he is "A child of God and a creature of grace."
He introduced his wife, Kim, and their family, and said he has been active in Republican politics for 27 years, starting as a precinct chairman.
Wamp said his conservative positions on issues have been consistent for 15 years.
"We need a state that's healthier," Wamp said, noting that Tennesseans lead the country in the numbers of prescription drugs they take. "We're overmedicating our kids," he said, and as a result "They are too sedentary."
"The most effective anti-depressant is sweat," Wamp said.
'WASHINGTON OUT OF CONTROL'
He said Tennessee "needs a bold, productive agenda on economic development," and the section of the state "with the highest satisfaction in Tennessee politics is southeast Tennessee," where Wamp is the Third Congressional District representative.
"What's happening in Washington is out of control," Wamp charged.
"We need strong governors to stand up and say, 'We are autonomous," Wamp said, adding, "The federal government needs to be pushed out of our state."
Wamp, whose career was in commercial real estate, said Tennesseans need to stand together and elect a middle-class governor.
"I've got the ground game to win this race," Wamp said.
"We're all going to be outspent by a very wealthy guy from Knoxville," Wamp said in a reference to Knoxville Mayor Haslam, the former president of Pilot Oil Co., which operates a large chain of truck stops and convenience stores.
In campaign fund-raising, Haslam is considered the clear leader among Republican candidates so far, based on published reports.
"But I have to tell you," Wamp said, "the elites have had their run in America."
He concluded, "We don't need blue-blooded moderates, we need red-blooded conservatives."
Wamp's web site is http://www.zachwamp.com.
'THE RIGHT REASONS'
When Ramsey began to speak, he jokingly welcomed Wamp "to my administration."
But he turned serious, saying that facing the prospect of his father's probably not coming home from the hospice, and having to take over the care of a 90-year-old aunt "who halfway raised me," makes him wonder, "Why are you running for office?"
"If it wasn't for the right reasons" Ramsey said, he wouldn't be running.
He added that, of the candidates for the GOP nomination for governor, "You can't go wrong with any of them," but one is a little better.
Ramsey talked briefly about being raised on a dairy farm, working his way through college, becoming a surveyor, and then opening his own surveying company, then a real estate and auction company, each time working with his wife, Sindi.
Earlier, Ramsey had demonstrated his skill as an auctioneer by helping Greene County Mayor Alan Broyles auction off donated items.
Ramsey was applauded when he reminded the audience that, in 2008, he became the first Republican lieutenant governor in Tennessee in 140 years.
Traveling the state for the last five years, working to bring about a GOP majority in the legislature, has been excellent preparation for a run for governor, Ramsey said.
'IT MATTERS WHO GOVERNS'
"It matters who governs," he said, quoting his campaign theme. "If you don't think so, look what's going on in Washington, D.C., now."
Ramsey said that having a Republican-controlled legislature means that Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in the U.S., no longer gets $200,000 annually from Tennessee tax dollars.
Ramsey said he was proud to draw up the bill that permits handgun carry permits, and noted that Business Tennessee magazine has twice named him as "the most pro-business legislator."
"Today, I want to be the governor," Ramsey said, "because I think I can take the state in the right direction."
He continued, "We've got a lot going for us in education" in the state and especially in Northeast Tennessee, "but lots of schools in Tennessee aren't good, and we need to face that fact every day.
"It's an absolute crime that kids in inner-city Memphis and inner-city Nashville are forced to stay in schools that are failing them, and give them no choice," Ramsey said.
Parents of children in those schools need help, he said. The legislature passed "a good charter school bill" this year, Ramsey said, and "I want to take that to the next level."
Tennessee is "doing pretty well" in economic development right now, he said, with major investments in many parts of the state, despite the weak economy.
As someone who has started and run two businesses, "I know how that works," he told the audience.
Ramsey said most business people, in their hearts, "want government to stay out of the way," he said, and wherever possible, he said, he wants it to do that.
"My Web site is teamRonRamsey.com," he said, urging those who want to help him become governor to visit it.
"With your help, we can make that happen," he said.