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Wamp Fundraisers to Feature Musicians, Pay For TV Ad Campaign

Press Release from Zach Wamp for Governor; June 16, 2010:

NASHVILLE – Zach Wamp, Republican candidate for Governor, today announced a series of upcoming fundraising events to be headlined by star entertainers who’ve pledged their support for his campaign and his 20/20 Vision For an Even Better Tennessee now featured in his television ads.

Well-known music artists Ricky Skaggs, John Rich, T.G. Sheppard, The Whites and the Voices of Lee are volunteering their time and talents for Wamp over the next two weeks and will meet and entertain guests at fundraising events across Tennessee.

“I am grateful to have the support of so many talented and wonderful artists who help make Tennessee such a special place,” Wamp said. “These fundraising events will help us stay on TV and carry our message for an even better Tennessee to more and more voters all across the state. Our momentum is growing and could not be stronger at just the right time. We are going to win.”

Wamp made today’s announcement on the heels of a major campaign endorsement last week by Dave Ramsey, the nationally syndicated radio host and personal money management expert. Ramsey and his wife, Sharon, will host a fundraising event and business roundtable for Wamp’s campaign on July 1 at their home in Franklin.

Specific details for the following events are posted online and will be updated regularly via Wamp’s campaign web site at www.ZachWamp.com:

June 17 – The Whites / Franklin – White Oak Farm

June 21 – Voices of Lee / Knoxville

June 28 – Ricky Skaggs / Chattanooga

June 29 – John Rich, T.G. Sheppard and Friends / Nashville

July 1 – Dave Ramsey / Franklin

Often called the “Region’s Mayor” by U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, Wamp’s work to promote a regional approach to economic development in the Tennessee Valley Technology Corridor has led to many of the state’s biggest economic wins in recent years right in his congressional district.

These include Volkswagen and Wacker Chemie in the Chattanooga area, new missions and investments in Oak Ridge, new bio-fuel, nuclear and solar energy investments throughout the region, and thousands of growing small business jobs generated from these and other related manufacturing investments. As governor, Wamp will take his leadership in economic development and new job creation to the rest of Tennessee.

For more information about Zach Wamp and his campaign for governor, including his 20/20 Vision For an Even Better Tennessee, please visit the campaign online at www.ZachWamp.com.

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Wamp’s Got a Big Fan in Rich

Contrary to all appearances, country music star John Rich is not running for governor.

The singer/songwriter can be found at many events involving gubernatorial candidates, but he is there purely as a supporter, squarely in the camp of Republican Congressman Zach Wamp.

Whether hosting a fundraiser, attending a candidate forum such as last month’s event at Belmont University, or appearing at the very formal Old Supreme Court Chambers of the state Capitol, Rich stands out in a crowd in his cowboy hat and matching attire.

Wamp made note of “John Rich and his rowdy friends” in remarks to a largely supportive crowd at the Capitol when Wamp formally announced his candidacy last week in the Middle Tennessee portion of a statewide swing. It wasn’t the horn-honking kind of rowdiness the Capitol has seen in its day, but it’s fair to say the crowd in the room was a bit louder than most of the stately proceedings the room has seen historically.

While it might look like Wamp is dragging Rich around, using a celebrity to bolster the campaign, the fact is Rich put Wamp through a vigorous test to see if the congressman from Chattanooga was up to Rich’s expectations, not the other way around. Rich tested Wamp with what might be called his own political boot camp.

Wamp survived it.

Rich did some serious evaluating when he quizzed Wamp about his political beliefs.

The whole thing started from the friendship Rich had with another prominent Tennessee Republican, former Sen. Fred Thompson, and Thompson’s wife Jeri. Rich had performed at events for Thompson in the brief Thompson presidential campaign of 2008.

“The first person who ever told me about Zach was Jeri Thompson,” Rich said. “Jeri and Fred asked me what I knew about him. I said I knew his name but honestly I didn’t know a lot about him. In a little meeting with Zach, I asked him a bunch of really hard questions. He answered them all the way I wanted to hear them answered.”

He met with Wamp in Washington.

“One of the bigget issues for me was the Tenth Amendment.” Rich said. “I asked, ‘What are you going to do if the people in this White House try to pass unfunded mandates across Tennessee and across the country? Are you going to have enough backbone to tell them no thank you and take whatever lick it is they’re going to give you?'”

Rich said Wamp looked him dead in the eye and said, “Absolutely.”

“He said that was one of the biggest reasons he wanted to run for governor was to protect our states’ rights,” Rich said. “I was on board from that moment.”

Wamp is clearly the candidate who has embraced the music crowd in the current governor’s race.

There’s certainly nothing new about linking country music and politics. But while most of those relationships have involved support for presidential candidates — or in opposition of a president, the most famous case involving the Dixie Chicks — Wamp has managed to capitalize on impressive support from the Nashville music scene for the current governor’s race.

Wamp has events scheduled with Rich, the Oak Ridge Boys, Larry Gatlin, T.G. Sheppard and Christian music artist Michael W. Smith in the coming weeks. Rich and Smith are scheduled to hold events for Wamp in their homes. Rich has already hosted one.

Rich likes the intensity he sees in Wamp.

“If you’ve ever looked into that man’s eyes and spoken with him, he is not playing around,” Rich said. “It is not a game of politics to him. He is deadly serious, and that’s the kind of people we have to have if we’re going to survive the craziness we’re in right now.”

Rich even volunteered his own opinion about events in the campaign, including the early advertising blitz of Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam, a foe in the Republican primary.

“Mayor Haslam running ads this early, more power to him,” Rich said. “I told Zach, ‘I wouldn’t let that bother you. You’re going to continue to go to the counties.’ That one-on-one contact when you see Zach Wamp, he speaks to you and looks in your eyes. You know he’s a great man and he’s a great leader for our state.”

It’s not always easy for entertainers to get involved in politics. There can be a price to pay, since you potentially lose half your audience anytime you pick a side.

The debacle over the Dixie Chicks and President George W. Bush, where lead singer Natalie Maines’ criticism of the president cost the music group immensely, might serve as a warning to an image-conscious  entertainer to think twice about getting too political in the public eye.

But the ties between politics and country music have been substantial. Former President George H.W. Bush is an avid country music fan and spoke on stage of the Country Music Association Awards in 1991. President Richard Nixon played the piano on the Grand Ole Opry in 1974.

Superstar Tim McGraw, a Democrat, has spoken of possibly running for governor someday. The late King of Country Music, Roy Acuff, ran unsuccessfully for governor of Tennessee as the Republican nominee in 1948. Tex Ritter, a Nixon supporter, ran unsuccessfully in Tennessee for the Senate as a Republican in 1970.

The Bush family has enjoyed the support, financially and otherwise, of the Oak Ridge Boys, Reba McEntire and Ricky Skaggs over the years. Republican financial contributors have included legendary music executive Mike Curb as well as Jay DeMarcus of Rascal Flatts and Sammy Kershaw, who ran unsuccessfully for lietenant governor of Louisiana.

Universal Music executive Luke Lewis has contributed in the past to a political mix of Sen. Bob Corker and Rep. Marsha Blackburn, both Republicans, and Democratic Rep. Bart Gordon.

President Barack Obama’s contributors have included top-flight songwriters Matraca Berg, Don Schlitz and, notably, Rich’s old Big & Rich partner Kenneth Alphin.