Press Releases

Gubernatorial Candidate Forum Scheduled for Children’s Advocacy Days: March 9-10

Press Release from the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth, 1 March 2010:

Candidates to lead Tennessee will share their plans to care for its future – its children – Wednesday, March 10, in a forum at Children’s Advocacy Days.

The Children’s Advocacy forum is part of a two-day event focusing ?attention on issues affecting children and providing citizens information for policy advocacy for children. Sponsored by the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth and its regional councils, the free ?event will be at War Memorial Auditorium March 9-10.

Nashville journalism legend and founder of the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University John Seigenthaler will moderate the 10 a.m. forum. Shelby County District Attorney General Bill Gibbons, Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam, former state House Democratic Leader Kim ?McMillan, Jackson businessman Mike McWherter, Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey and Congressman Zach Wamp have confirmed participation in the forum. News Channel 5, the Nashville CBS affiliate will broadcast the forum at times to be announced prior to the election and make it available to other CBS affiliates across the state.

Children’s Advocacy Days, in its 22nd year, will also feature presentations on critical services on Tuesday, March 9. The Making KIDS COUNT Media, Youth Excellence and the Jim Pryor Child Advocacy awards will be announced on the event’s first day.

Bill Bentley, president of Voices for America’s Children’s, will kick off Wednesday’s events, which also include a presentation by Education Commissioner Tim Webb on Tennessee’s Race to the Top.

In keeping with the election year activities, the theme of 2010 Children’s Advocacy Days will be a political picnic, with everything but the ants – opportunities for participants to meet their legislative ?representatives, plan to work together and celebrate their hard work and vision for Tennessee’s children.

The Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth is an independent agency created by the Tennessee General Assembly. Its ?primary mission is to advocate for improvements in the quality of life for Tennessee children and families. For more information contact TCCY at (615) 741-2633 or visit the agency website at Online registration (at ends midnight Thursday, March 4. Onsite registration begins at 9 a.m. Tuesday.

Additional information on the event is available at


Sparks Fly at Debate: GOP Rivals Try to Burn Haslam on Fuel Company Ties

A couple Republican candidates for governor used rival Bill Haslam as an onstage punching bag Thursday, harping on his refusal to release details about his personal income from his family business.

GOP hopeful Bill Gibbons, Shelby County’s district attorney, called the Knoxville mayor out during a gubernatorial debate in downtown Nashville for not revealing how much income he earns from Pilot Corp., the truck-stop chain the Haslams have built into something of a national gas- and diesel-station empire.

“Frankly, he has a conflict of interest, because every time the state of Tennessee has a major highway project, Pilot Oil has an interest. He doesn’t want us to know the scope of that conflict of interest,” said Gibbons.

Congressman Zach Wamp didn’t want to miss out on the action, and he, too, took a poke at Haslam when the opportunity arose.

He didn’t name any names, but it was obvious to everyone in the room who Wamp was referring to when he opined that transparency should begin before being elected to office.

“On Wall Street, they say too big to fail. And I wonder here if one family or one corporation is too big to be held accountable like everyone else,” he said.

Haslam declined to share his details about his personal income. But he didn’t hesitate to fire back at his detractors for what he described as their seeming sleights to his family’s entrepreneurialism and success.

“It bothers me to hear somebody say a Tennessee company that started as a small business has grown to be a national company, that there’s something wrong with that,” said Haslam.

Haslam is the only Republican candidate who so far hasn’t release personal income records as requested by a band of Tennessee’s large newspapers. Those records are not public and are not required to be released to run for political office.

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, who is also running in the August primary election, stayed out of the Haslam-centered spat.

Also participating in the debate co-hosted by the Tennessee Press Association and The Associated Press were Senate Democrat Leader Jim Kyle, former House Democrat Leader Kim McMillan and Jackson businessman Mike McWherter.


Gubernatorial Candidates Signed RTTT Funding Request

All seven major candidates for governor agreed to support Tennessee’s “Race to the Top” education reforms in hopes of the state picking up a share of $4.35 billion in federal grant money Washington is doling out over the coming months.

Each signed a letter of support drafted by Gov. Phil Bredesen’s staff requesting $501.2 million for the Tennessee public school system.

“Should our state succeed in the competition, we will continue to focus on education and work tirelessly to implement the reforms necessary to transform our schools and offer our children a better future,” read the letter (pdf, pg. 34) affixed with the signatures of the four Republicans and three Democrats.

After spending a week in a special legislative session, the General Assembly approved sweeping education reforms that include changing the way teachers and principals are evaluated and creating a state-wide school district to manage failing schools.

The changes were needed, according to Bredesen, to strengthen the state’s federal grant application.

The letter is “extremely important” to the state’s application, said Lydia Lenker, Bredesen’s press secretary.

GOP candidates include Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, Congressman Zach Wamp, Shelby County District Attorney General Bill Gibbons and Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam. Campaigning for the Democratic Party nomination are state Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle, Jackson businessman Mike McWherter and former House Democratic leader Kim McMillan.

“Bottom line, it’s about continuity and commitment through the gubernatorial transition,” Lenker said.

The application, handed to U.S. Government officials Tuesday, could mean an influx of education dollars that would span past Bredesen’s term in office.

“We recognize the challenges in sustaining education reform across gubernatorial administrations and shifts in the legislature,” the letter stated. “If our state is successful in Race to the Top, it also must deliver on the proposed programs and investments in a manner that effectively spans the transition in January 2011 from the current governor to the next governor.”