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Haslam Tweaks Gun Stance; McWherter Takes Shots

With just a week to go before election day, Republican Bill Haslam is backing away from comments he made recently about eliminating handgun carry permits.

“I’m in favor of leaving the law the way it is now. I’ve said that that night. I’ve said that ever since then. Somehow we keep coming back to this,” Haslam said Monday.

During a meeting with members of the Tennessee Firearms Association a week ago, the two-term Knoxville mayor indicated he would sign legislation allowing gun owners to carry their weapons in public without permits, should such a change in law pass in the Tennessee General Assembly. (Link to full video of TFA meeting)

Since then, Haslam has adjusted his stance, saying he’d in fact advocate against such changes to the law, but he has stopped short from retracting his comments before the gun-rights advocates.

Democrat Mike McWherter, who polls suggest is trailing considerably in the race for governor, pounced on Haslam’s comments last week with a commercial charging that the GOP candidate “caved under pressure and supports allowing even convicted felons and domestic abusers to carry a concealed gun, no questions asked.”

Haslam noted that even if the law was changed, background checks would still be required for the purchase of handguns.

With one week to go before election day, McWherter says his strategy during the remaining days of the campaign is to continually question Haslam’s leadership ability.

About one half million voters have already cast their ballots in Tennessee, according to state officials. Despite what appear to be long odds, McWherter maintains that he still has time to sway a majority of state voters his way.

Here are clips from both on the campaign trail Monday:

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McWherter: ‘Haslam Got Bullied’

Republican Bill Haslam wasn’t the only gubernatorial candidate feeling pressured by the Tennessee Firearms Association.

Democrat Mike McWherter tells TNReport that he had a “frank exchange” with the TFA about a month ago with members who were “civil to me but they were yelling at me, if you want to know the truth about it.”

“Obviously, Bill Haslam got bullied throughout that whole presentation,” McWherter continued.

Here’s what McWherter had to say:

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NewsTracker

Channel Surfing

Fifteen days to go until election day, and the gubernatorial candidates keep cranking out campaign commercials. Here are the newest, including two from Republican Bill Haslam and another that just launched today from Democrat Mike McWherter.

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Candidates Say They’d Streamline Senior Services

The two leading candidates for governor tried to win over elder voters in Nashville Friday with messages of making services more accessible to them and their care givers, but both offered different approaches.

Democratic candidate Mike McWherter told seniors at the AARP “Conversation with Tennessee’s Next Governor” event that the state needs a cabinet-level officer and a full department devoted to coordinating senior services. Calling it “one-stop shopping,” he said its cost would be minimal, especially if it consolidates and reorganizes services that already exist.

“Frankly, I think consolidating a lot of these services may create some efficiencies that literally  pay for themselves,” he said, adding that the one agency could refer people to the services that they need.

Bill Haslam, a Republican mayor of Knoxville, told the same group he can’t promise that the state has the money to make any major changes right now, but said there are other creative ways to streamline services so seniors and their caregivers have an easier time navigating through the system.

“Everyone understands we’re in tight budget times, so we need to work smarter to solve these same issues,” he said.

While Haslam didn’t offer specifics, he did point to the development of a 311 phone number in Knoxville for people to call with questions about local government services and said the same approach might work with senior services statewide.

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New McWherter Ads Out

After weeks of lying low on the TV ad front, Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Mike McWherter began launching a number of campaign commercials this week. Take a peek:

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Featured News Tax and Budget Transparency and Elections Video

‘A Thousand Little Cuts’ To Budget Under Haslam; A Bredesen-style Spending Plan Under McWherter

Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam won’t say exactly what he’d cut from the state budget if elected governor but sought to assure a group of Middle Tennessee mayors he’d find lots of places to reduce spending.

The Republican candidate said he’d do a top-to-bottom examination of the budget, evaluate the number and use of state employees, evaluate whether the government needs all its assets, look at the state’s health insurance program and study the way the state makes purchases.

“It’s a thousand little cuts,” he said.

Haslam, the perceived front-runner to replace termed-out Gov. Phil Bredesen, has so far refused to say specifically what programs he would reduce in state government.

“We’ll do the same thing that you’ve been doing. It’s just on a bigger scale,” he said.

His Democratic opponent, Mike McWherter, is also short on details but told the same group he would largely follow Bredesen’s lineup of budget cuts slated for next year.

“If you stay pretty close to that plan, then we’re in pretty good financial shape, comparatively speaking, to other states,” McWherter said.

Next year’s $30 billion budget includes $189 million in cuts to programs funded with federal dollars and one-time stimulus money that will run out next year.

In addition to those reductions, Bredesen’s administration is asking state agency directors to help shave at least another $45 million from the state budget.

The next governor is free to reverse those cuts or issues deeper ones. However, he’ll also need the legislature’s support before the reductions can stick.

“Now, I am not going to stand up here today and tell you that I’m absolutely going to follow every recommendation in that budget,” McWherter said. “There always have to be tweaks and changes depending on unanticipated events.”

As the two candidates talked budget reductions, the group of 40 city and county mayors from 10 Middle Tennessee counties quizzed candidates on their dedication to supporting a regional mass transit system.

Both candidates said they thought the issue was important, but neither said mass transit systems such as light-rail would be immediately feasible under their administration.

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Press Releases

Haslam Campaign Attracts 105 Prominent Democrats, Independents

Press Release from Bill Haslam for Governor; Sept. 23, 2010:

NASHVILLE – In a show of public bipartisan strength, Republican gubernatorial nominee and Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam announced a list of 105 Independent and Democratic leaders supporting his bid.

The list includes prominent Independents and Democrats, including former members of the Bredesen administration, elected officials from across the state and other influential leaders.  This announcement comes in the wake of a new WSMV poll showing a 31 point lead for Mayor Haslam and his overwhelming victory at the Town Hall Debate in Cookeville last week.

“The next governor will take office when the federal stimulus dollars run out, and he’s going to have no choice but to drastically reshape state government,” former Commissioner of Revenue Reagan Farr said. “Bill Haslam’s outstanding record of balancing Knoxville’s budget while maintaining essential services is precisely the leadership we need now.”

“Regardless of your party affiliation, the fact is Bill Haslam is the leader that Tennessee needs now,” said Craven Crowell, former TVA Chairman and chief of staff to former U.S. Sen. Jim Sasser. “We need someone who can guide the state during these tough times but who also has a vision and plan for the future.  Bill Haslam is that man.”

“I’m looking for someone who will not get bogged down in partisan politics but will lead by example and focus on creating jobs, managing the state’s budget and building on the momentum this state has shown in education,” Memphis hospital executive Cato Johnson said. “During his tenure as Mayor of Knoxville, Bill Haslam has shown an ability to bring people together to solve problems, and that’s why I’m supporting him.”

“Bill Haslam is the right leader to continue to build on the momentum in Tennessee around education reform.  He will capitalize on the incredible opportunities presented through the higher standards, our state’s success in the Race to the Top competition, a one-of-a-kind data system and a host of innovative initiatives across the state,” former Commissioner of Education Lana Seivers said. “Mayor Haslam has demonstrated that he has the experience, understanding and courage necessary to leverage the opportunities that exist in order to support education and create a better future for Tennessee’s children.”

“I’m grateful for the Democrats and Independents who have voiced their public support for me, because I’ve always worked to build a broad consensus when governing,” Haslam said. “We’re only 20 days away from early voting, and Crissy and I will continue to crisscross the state learning from and talking to Tennesseans where they live, work and play.”

Mayor Haslam is the two-term Republican Mayor of Knoxville, reelected in 2007 with 87 percent of the vote. A hardworking, conservative public servant, Haslam led Knoxville to become one of the top ten metropolitan areas for business and expansion, while reducing the city’s debt, tripling the rainy day fund, reducing the number of city employees to the lowest amount in 15 years and bringing property taxes to the lowest rate in 50 years.  An executive leader with a proven record of success, he helped grow his family’s small business from 800 employees into one of Tennessee’s largest companies with 14,000 employees. For more information on Bill Haslam, please visit www.BillHaslam.com.

EAST TENNESSEE

• Former Knox County School Board Chairman Sam Anderson

• Knoxville attorney Robyn Askew

• Knoxville attorney Gordon Ball

• Knoxville physician Charlie Barnett

• Knoxville businessman James Clifton Beeler

• Knoxville attorney Tasha Blakney

• Former Knoxville City Councilman Robert Booker

• Knoxville attorney Don Bosch

• Knoxville attorney Chuck Burks

• Former Department of Environment and Conservation Commissioner for Bredesen Administration Betsy Child

• Market Square District Association President John Craig

• Former TVA Chairman and former Chief of Staff to U.S. Sen. Jim Sasser Craven Crowell

• Chattanooga attorney and former Assistant D.A. Lee Davis

• Regal Entertainment Group President and COO Greg Dunn

• C&C Millwright President and CEO Jerry Fortner

• Knoxville businessman Charles Frazier

• Chattanooga businesswoman Vicky Gregg

• Knoxville City Councilman Duane Grieve

• Knoxville attorney Greg Isaacs

• Knoxville businessman Jim Jennings

• Former Chattanooga Mayor Jon Kinsey

• United Brotherhood of Carpenters & Joiners of America Southern District Vice President Danny Maples

• Former State Sen. Carl R. Moore

• Bristol consultant Elliott G. Moore

• Former Tennessee Bar Association President Pamela Reeves

• Former State Representative Wayne Ritchie

• Robledo Translations owner Patricia Robledo

• Museum Director/Knoxville Community Leader Avon W. Rollins, Sr.

• Former Knox County Mayor Tommy Schumpert

• Former Carson-Newman College President Joe Bill Sloan

• Former State Trial Administrator Larry Stephenson

• Former Knox County Commission Chairman Thomas “Tank” Strickland

• Lawler-Wood and Wood Properties founder H. Pat Wood

MIDDLE TENNESSEE

• Nashville Career Advancement Services Director Jacky Akbari

• Nashville educator Manuch Akbari

• Alvis Company President A. Jane Alvis

• Mid-South Carpenters Regional Council Political Director Michael Boner

• Former Department of Revenue Commissioner for Bredesen Administration Loren Chumley

• Nashville real estate broker Richard Courtney

• Nashville businessman Dick Darr

• Former Metro Councilman Buck Dozier

• Hudson Group Owner Wayne Edwards

• Former Department of Revenue Commissioner for Bredesen Administration Reagan Farr

• Former Shelby County Commissioner J.W. Gipson

• Tomkats Catering Group President Jesse Goldstein

• Former Senior Adviser of Legislation and Policy for Bredesen Administration Robert Gowan

• Nashville attorney Celeste Herbert

• Nashville physician Bill Holland

• Hudson Group Owner Bill Hudson

• Former Chief of Staff to U.S. Rep. Marion Berry Thad Huguley

• Ashland City Councilman Rick Johnson

• Jimmy Kelly’s Restaurant owner Mike Kelly

• Pinnacle Financial Services Senior Vice President Brock Kidd

• Former Policy Chief for Bredesen Administration Drew Kim

• Cushion Employer Services CEO Pam Martin

• Molette Investment Services President Lee Molette

• State education leader Gary Nixon

• Former Department of Childrens’ Services Legislative Liason for Bredesen Administration Emily Ogden

• Former Senior Adviser to Bredesen Administration Will Pinkston

• Former Communications Director for U.S. Sen. Jim Sasser James Pratt

• Nashville restauranteur Randy Rayburn

• Former  BMI Music Group Executive Joyce Rider

• Former Chief of Staff to Gov. Buford Ellington Bo Roberts

• Former Department of Education Commissioner for Bredesen Administration Lana Seivers

• State education leader David Sevier

• Former Education Advisor to Bredesen Administration Patrick Smith

• Nashville Pastor Frank Stevenson

• Nashville activist Lekita Stevenson

• The Spiritual Herald Editor Robert Stevenson

• CIGNA Healthcare Vice President of Sales Mary Tate-Smith

• Former Metro Councilman Leo Waters

• First Tennessee Bank Senior Vice President Davis Watts

• Former Department of Commerce and Insurance Deputy Commissioner for Bredesen Administration Scott White

• Former Brentwood High School Assistant Principal Barbara Winfrey

WEST TENNESSEE

• Former Brownsville Mayor Webb Banks

• Former Department of Economic and Community Development Assistant Commissioner for Bredesen Administration Joe Barker

• McKenzie Director of Finance Charlie Beal

• Carroll County healthcare professional Kay Beal

• The Blue Group President Stanley Blue

• Brittenum Bruce Managing Partner Dedrick Brittenum

• Former West Tennessee Jobs Development Director for Bredesen Administration Charlie Dyer

• Ewing Moving Service President Charles Ewing

• Memphis attorney and Tennessee Board of Regents member John Farris

• Memphis Small Business Chamber Executive Director and Chairman Andre Fowlkes

• Gipson Mechanical Contractors President Winston Gipson

• Shelby County Commissioner James Harvey

• Cushion Employer Services COO Anthony Holt

• Memphis hospital executive Cato Johnson

• Mid-South Carpenters Regional Council Executive Secretary-Treasurer James Kerley

• Former Tipton County Sherriff Buddy Lewis

• Genesis Marketing CEO Bruce L. Mills

• Martin Chief of Police David Moore

• Former Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth Board Member Barbara Holden Nixon

• The Redwing Group CEO Ron Redwing

• Memphis Hospital Executive Gary Shorb

• System Technology President Jeremy Simpson

• Haywood County Mayor Franklin Smith

• Former Tennessee Bar Association President Charles Swanson

• Fayette County Mayor Skip Taylor

• Felix Way Advertising CEO Felix Walker

• Porter-Leath Executive Vice President of Development and New Business Mike Warr

• Best Nurses President Regina Williams

• Former Tennessee Chiefs of Police Association President Bobby Williamson

• State Farm Insurance Agency President Ron Willis

• Former  Heritage Conservation Trust Executive Director Marie Yeagle

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Press Releases

McWherter Press Conference Release on Haslam Family Business Interests

Press Release from Mike McWherter for Governor Campaign, Sept. 21, 2010: McWherter Implores Haslam To Have Honest Conversation with Voters As Conflicts Accumulate, Knoxville Mayor Has No Choice But to Disclose

NASHVILLE – At a press conference today in downtown Nashville, Jackson businessman and Democratic gubernatorial nominee called on opponent Bill Haslam to publicly disclose his finances and have an honest conversation with the voters of Tennesseee.

The move comes as documents were recently uncovered linking CVC Capital, ½ owner of Pilot Travel Centers, to business dealings in the Middle East and raising eyebrows concerning Bill Haslam’s conflicts of interest.

“CVC has major ownership stakes in companies that are doing business with countries including Iran, Libya, Syria and others,” said Mike McWherter. “One example is the German company Evonik which is actively involved in the development of chemicals and energy sources, including nuclear power. And they have offices in Tehran.

In 2008, Pilot Travel sold 47.5% of its company and entered into an equal-governance partnership with CVC Capital, a Luxembourg-based private equity firm. In the same year, CVC Capital purchased a 25% stake in Evonik. Evonik and its predecessor, Degussa, helped countries like Iraq, Iran, and North Korea develop their weapons and nuclear programs.

“Nearly half of Pilot’s interests are foreign-owned, and at least one of those foreign companies is doing business with Iran–a rogue nation that is developing nuclear weapons and poses a threat to our national security,” said McWherter.

Throughout the primary election, Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam was repeatedly asked to disclose his personal finances in order to ensure Tennessee’s highest political office remain open and transparent. However, in a deliberate attempt to deceive Tennessee voters, Haslam has refused to disclose his personal finances and avoided discussing the particulars of his business interests.

“Does Haslam just expect the people of Tennessee to just trust him when he says his business dealings pose no conflict of interest as governor? That’s ridiculous,” said Mike McWherter. “This is about an open and honest discussion with the voters of Tennessee – this is about the character of a man who seeks our state’s highest office. The people of Tennessee deserve an answer.”

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News Transparency and Elections

McWherter: More Info Needed on Haslam’s ‘Questionable Web of Business Dealings’

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mike McWherter is suggesting his Republican opponent’s family truck-stop company has ties to a business that deals with Iran.

McWherter stopped short of accusing Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam of wrongdoing, but said voters need answers.

Haslam and his family own Pilot Oil Corp., a privately owned company that operates truck stops throughout the country. The corporation is the parent company of Pilot Travel Centers, which is partially owned by CVC Capital Partners, a global private equity and investment firm that also does business with Evonik Industries AG.

Evonik works with specialty chemicals, power generation and real estate in several countries, including Iran, which currently has an adverse relationship with the United States, according to McWherter who provided reporters with 14-pages worth of press releases, news articles, investor relations summaries and a printout of Evonik’s Wikipedia page.

The allegations represent the freshest attempt by McWherter to use Haslam’s family business against him, a tactic used by Republicans in the primary election.

“The bottom line here is Bill Haslam does not want to reveal these connections,” McWherter told reporters at the Tennessee Democratic Party Headquarters in downtown Nashville. “And he’s hiding something, and nobody knows what it is. But before you’re going to trust him with the highest office here in Tennessee, I think the voters have a right to know.”

He alleges that 50 cents of each dollar spent at Pilot Oil is funneled to CVC Capitol Partners, a private equity and investment company, however, McWherter did not reveal where he got his information from.

Haslam’s campaign says the argument is “silly and insulting.”

“Mike’s desperate attack failed once so he’s back to try it again,” said David Smith, a campaign spokesman.

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News

Gubernatorial Debate Tonight in Cookeville

The two major candidates for Tennessee governor will face off for the first time tonight at a debate tailored to rural and suburban voters.

But it’s unclear whether either will reveal specific details about their public policies, or stay with general themes like they’ve for the most part done thus far in the campaign.

With seven weeks to go before the Nov. 2 election day, neither Republican Bill Haslam nor Democrat Mike McWherter has shed much light on what programs they would cut next year to balance the state’s $13 billion budget — nor have they offered specific details on what programs they would create and how they would work.

Haslam and McWherter will face about an hour’s worth of questions on topics ranging from economic development, health, education and small businesses issues from a rural and suburban standpoint, according to a spokeswoman from the Highlands Debate 2010 at Tennessee Tech University in Cookeville. Questions will come from a moderator, attendees in the audience and from viewers on YouTube.

The candidates will also get to direct inquiries at each other.

The debate is a production of the university, League of Women Voters of Tennessee and Nashville’s WTVF News Channel 5. It’ll be broadcast live statewide by CBS affiliates statewide at 7 p.m. Central Standard Time.

Voters will likely get to hear more from Haslam about his data-driven “dashboard” plan to track the state’s progress on five issues ranging from job and economic development, fiscal strength and education and workforce development to safety and public health. The plan includes using data to track the state performance on major issues such as the state’s unemployment rate or the number of diabetes cases and holding commissioners responsible for the outcomes.

But when asked by reporters Monday why he left out the details about how he’d measure improvement in those areas — or what benchmarks his administration would aim to reach — he said it was too early to get too specific.

“I’ve just said here’s the five things we’re going to focus on, here’s things we think it’s fair to measure us on and here’s some very specific items within each one of those five things that we’re welcoming accountability on,” said Haslam.

It’s premature to say exactly how much he expects those efforts will translate into improvements throughout the state because he and his staff don’t yet occupy the governor’s office, he continued

“What I’m not ready to tell you right now is X percent is going to be an acceptable target because the team that develops that has to be a part of buying into that goal,” he said.

Likewise, McWherter also has for the most part avoided delving into policy minutia, or the nuts and bolts of how he’d keep state government living within its means. His website says simply that he’ll promote fiscal responsibility if elected — along with cutting taxes for businesses that hire new employees.