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Womick Redoubles Haslam Criticisms

Rick Womick isn’t backing down from provocative comments he made in a letter sent to Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration a week ago.

The Rockvale Republican state representative told the Associated Press this week he’s sticking by his letter. In fact, he’s upped the rhetorical heat a bit, calling the reelection-seeking governor a “traitor to the party.”

“You had the head of our party targeting individual members because we don’t agree with him 100 percent of the time, that’s treason,” the former Air Force fighter pilot told the AP.

The Chattanooga Times Free Press first reported that, according to campaign finance reports, Advance Tennessee PAC, with connections to supporters of Haslam and Republican Speaker of the Tennessee House, Beth Harwell, was launched in July and spent $137,725 in five primary races against incumbent legislators who’ve opposed the administration.

Successfully fending off attacks from moderate challengers in the GOP primary were state Reps. Courtney Rogers of Goodlettsville, Mike Sparks of Smyrna, and  Micah Van Huss of Jonesborough.  Kingsport Rep. Tony Shipley, the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee chairman, and Stacey Campfield, the notoriously controversial state senator from Knoxville, were both unseated.

Haslam laughed-off Womick’s warlike words. And he defended efforts to purge hostile Republicans from the General Assembly.

“I don’t know why my supporters should be precluded from doing what everybody else is doing, in terms of being engaged and trying to make certain good people are elected,” Haslam told reporters. He added that there are plenty of groups, such as teachers unions, who want to “engage in primaries,” and he doesn’t see his supporters actions as being any different.

Womick was one of 15 state legislators to sign a letter in late June that called for the resignation of Kevin Huffman, Tennessee’s embattled education commissioner, on the grounds that he allegedly manipulated the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program results when the department delayed their release by four days.

After the release of that letter, Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper issued an opinion — requested by state Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet — that affirmed Huffman’s delay of the release of TCAP scores as acceptable under state and federal law.

Womick’s most recent letter to the administration accused the AG and Huffman of collusion on the opinion, and referred to it as “an orchestrated cover-up” and “Clintonesque.” Womick’s letter added that while many other legislators were unhappy with Haslam, to prevent further retaliation, he would not name them.

He also told the AP that in the future he expects a stronger legislative stance against Haslam, who is “making a lot of enemies very quickly.”

But Haslam said he plans to continue business as usual.

“For any governor, the job is to propose an idea and then to get at least 50 members of the House and 17 members of the Senate to vote in favor of it,” Haslam said. “I don’t think that’s changed.”

Corker Coy About Presidential Bid

U.S. Sen. Bob Corker might run for president.

Or he might not.

Tennessee’s junior senator, two years into his second term, spoke at a Lawrenceburg Chamber of Commerce event and acknowledged he entertains daydreams about being president of the United States. He said, though, that he won’t be making any hasty decisions about jumping in the 2016 race — and that his wife might ultimately end up with veto power on the matter.

A story by the Associated Press reported that Corker said “there are times when I do wish I could have the kind of impact and create the kind of change and have the kind of vision for our country” that he thinks “so many people here in Tennessee would like to see happen.”

And Corker told the Jackson Sun editorial board Wednesday afternoon that he “relishes” the presidential role, knowing the “huge difference” he could make as opposed to just being a U.S. senator.

Corker also told the Economics Club of Memphis something similar on Wednesday night — though he apparently added that while he’s indeed thinking about it, it isn’t an all-consuming ambition.

Like the Volunteer State’s other GOP Senator, former Gov. Lamar Alexander, Corker, who is the chief Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has been criticized by Tea-Party conservatives for working too closely with liberal Democrats.

In addition to his efforts in the Senate on financial reform and the auto-industry bailouts — which earned him the moniker “Bailout Bob” — the former Chattanooga mayor has received national media and political attention for some of his proposals, including raising the gas tax, arming the Syrian rebels and taking a hardline stance against Russia over Ukraine.

If he does decide to make a bid for president, Corker would join a field of candidate that is speculated to also include such notable Republicans as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul.

Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor and brother of George W. Bush, told a Florida NBC affiliate that he, too, is still weighing the pros and cons of a presidential run.

Williamson and Rutherford See Huge Growth, Memphis Lags in Census

New census numbers underscore a more diverse Tennessee, a struggling Memphis, and booming Williamson and Rutherford counties.

Both counties’ growth exceeded 44 percent compared with the last decennial count; Williamson’s population at the 2010 census topped 183,000; Rutherford’s, 262,000, according to census data compiled by USA Today. Rutherford County Mayor Ernest Burgess attributed the surge in his county to a high quality of life and economic opportunity.

The figures also show a growing Hispanic population in Tennessee — 1 in 10 Davidson County residents is Hispanic, the Tennessean noted — and integration gains throughout the South, according to a measure that tracks whether blacks and whites reside in the same neighborhoods.

The Associated Press explains:

Thirty-two of the (South’s) 38 largest metro areas made such gains since 2000, according to a commonly used demographic index. The measure, known as the segregation index, tracks the degree to which racial groups are evenly spread between neighborhoods. Topping the list were rapidly diversifying metros in central Florida, as well in Georgia, Texas and Tennessee.

Missing out on the overall 11.5 percent boom in the Volunteer State was Memphis, whose population experienced only the second decline since the yellow fever outbreak of the 1870s, according to the Commercial Appeal. Memphis’ population shrank by 0.5 percent to just under 647,000 residents, even though its suburbs and the county as a whole saw population growth.

Davidson County grew 10 percent to almost 627,000 residents, Knox County grew 13 percent to a population topping 432,000, and Madison County grew 7 percent to more than 98,000 residents.