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Press Releases

Dems Say Ramsey Targeting Higher Ed

Press Release from the Tennessee Democratic Party, September 13, 2010:

Republican Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey’s condescending remark about college professors should alarm voters across the state about the Republican commitment to education and job creation, Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester said.

Ramsey told Capitol Hill reporter Tom Humphrey that many in the academic world “step off campus and they’re lost. They like to get up in the morning, comb their beard, put on their wire-rimmed glasses, throw their little tweed vest on and go to school for three hours… and hate Republicans.”

“Mr. Ramsey and the Republican leadership at the General Assembly have shown their true colors with a remark like that,” Forrester said. “It really calls into question their commitment to higher education and even helping our local school systems better educate our children.

“Mr. Ramsey and the state GOP not only want to cut programs intended to reduce infant deaths, they also now want to give the boot to any child who wants to go to college. That boot is going to hamper job creation in this state if it’s not careful.”

Forrester pointed out that a well skilled work force is vital to many businesses and industries.

“How in the world do you recruit top-notch companies and industries into a community if you don’t have the workers with the necessary skills to hire or the educators we need to teach those skills?” Forrester asked. “Our teachers and college professors shape and hone young minds every day.

“If we don’t have the commitment we need in the General Assembly or in the governor’s office to better educate and train our work force, then this entire state is lost. Fortunately we have had that commitment in Gov. Phil Bredesen and Democratic leaders in the Legislature.

“And I know Mike McWherter and the rest of our Democratic candidates across the state have the commitment to create more jobs in our communities by ensuring companies and businesses in Tennessee have the employees they need to compete in an increasingly global and high-skilled economy. I’m not sure that commitment is there with some on the other side of the aisle,” he added.

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Press Releases

Lt. Gov. Appoints Shelby Co. Commissioner to Health Equity Commission

Press Release from Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey, Aug. 24, 2010:

(Nashville) – Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey (R-Blountville) has appointed Shelby County Commissioner J.W. Gibson to the Tennessee Health Equity Commission. The Commission partners with law makers, State departments, health equity stakeholders and community members to ensure that health priorities and concerns of Tennessee’s minority and underserved populations are adequately addressed.

“Commissioner Gibson’s expertise in identifying and responding to the healthcare needs of individuals and communities in Tennessee make him an excellent addition to the Health Equity Commission,” said Lt. Governor Ramsey. “As a successful business owner in the medical field, his perspective will be invaluable in providing quality healthcare for those in need.”

Mr. Gibson is a veteran of the U.S. Navy and attended Christian Brothers University in Business Management. He is founder and CEO of the Gibson Companies. As a business leader he has served as President of the National Minority Medical Supply Association, and Chairman of the Minority Input Committee, an advisory group to the Mid-South Minority Business Council (MMBC). He conducted the Healthcare Providers Focus Group designed to assist major hospitals in developing plans for increased spending with small businesses.

Mr. Gibson has been on the Board of Directors of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, Community Redevelopment Agency, Leadership Memphis, Christ Community Health Science and the Shelby County Education Foundation. He is also a past Chairman of the Board of Directors for Memphis in May.

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Featured News Transparency and Elections

Haslam Wallops Wamp, Routs Ramsey, Manhandles Marceaux

Everybody knew Bill Haslam was the favorite to win the GOP gubernatorial nomination, but even the Knoxville mayor himself was surprised by how quickly and convincingly he sewed up victory Thursday night.

Less than an hour after the polls had closed, The Associated Press declared Haslam the winner.

“It was a little better than I was expecting, to be quite frank,” he told reporters at the Hilton Nashville Downtown hotel where his family and supporters gathered to watch the returns. “So we’re very, very pleasantly surprised. The word humbled sounds trite, but it’s really true.”

Almost half the 725,000 voters who picked up a ballot in the Republican primary voted for Haslam, giving him 47 percent of the vote. According to election results from WKRN, 29 percent of voters chose Chattanooga Congressman Zach Wamp, leaving 22 percent voting for Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey of Blountville and 1 percent each for internet phenom Basil Marceaux, Sr., and Joe Kirkpatrick, who officially dropped out of the race and endorsed Ramsey last spring.

No one issue drove opposition to Haslam’s bid than his opponents’ — especially Wamp —  criticism of his family’s national line of truck stops, Pilot Oil, and the Knoxville mayor’s refusal to disclose his profits from the company.

Yet in the end the attacks did little to slow the his lavishly funded campaign juggernaut.

Haslam continually pointed to his leadership with the business to illustrate his ability to balance a budget and create jobs — even while his competitors painted his family’s business as a conflict of interest for a Tennessee governor.

“I’m proud of Pilot,” Haslam told reporters after he accepted the Republican nomination. “Wouldn’t any governor want a company like Pilot headquartered in Tennessee? I think the answer is yes. If somebody thinks differently, they should say so.”

Wamp fought some of his own battles, including attacks on his Congressional voting record. He also was quoted as saying he would consider a possible Tennessee succession from the United States if the federal government continues to manage the states. He later came off that message, saying that wasn’t exactly what he meant.

Ramsey attracted a significant faction of Tea Party voters with his message about shrinking state government and telling the federal government to stay out of Tennessee’s business. But his message wasn’t enough to sway enough voters to his side. He will retain his legislative post as lieutenant governor and leader of the state Senate.

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Press Releases

TN Dems Enjoying Uncontested Gubernatorial Primary

Statement from the Tennessee Democratic Party, July 28, 2010:

Tennessee’s Republican gubernatorial candidates are making a compelling case to elect Democrat Mike McWherter for governor. State Sen. Ron Ramsey, U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp and Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam are viciously attacking one another over perceived shortcomings in their Republican credentials. See an example of their attacks on one another in this short YouTube video clip.

Mike McWherter is the only candidate for governor who understands the real issues and concerns affecting most of us: creating jobs and providing the state with economic security for future generations of Tennesseans.

To get involved with the Mike McWherter for Governor campaign, visit his website at Mike McWherter.com.

The Tennessee Democratic Party also needs your help to elect Democrats in the General Assembly and Congress, as well. We can use volunteers and financial support for all aspects of this fall’s campaigns. For more information call us at 615-327-9779 or visit our website at tndp.org.

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Transparency and Elections

Early Voting Patterns Have Wamp Smelling Upset

U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp credits U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn with defining a political trend in Tennessee that he believes will help him win the governor’s race.

“She calls it Middle to West. What happened 10 years ago in Middle Tennessee is now happening in West Tennessee,” Wamp said.

“It’s a grassroots, blue-collar, red-blooded, lower-to-middle to middle-class new Republican voter. It’s not the country club people Bill Haslam appeals to,” Wamp said. “He really has nowhere to go. That’s good.”

Whether there is truth in Wamp’s assessment of how to nominate a Republican to replace Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen only the results of the Aug. 5 primary will tell.

But whether the Republican votes in the governor’s race are going to Wamp, Haslam or Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, the number of Republican voters in early voting compared to Democrats is overwhelming.

Figures from the state Division of Elections updated Monday showed that 249,709 ballots had been cast in early and absentee voting. The balloting includes Democratic and Republican primaries for governor and the state’s congressional races, as well as legislative races. Of the total number of voters, 156,338 cast Republican primary ballots, compared to 78,657 for Democrats.

A closer look shows that of Tennessee’s 95 counties, Republicans have the majority of ballots cast in 74 of them, compared to 21 counties with Democratic majorities. What has looked like a tidal wave of Republican support over the last few months at Republican events appears to be manifesting itself in early voting.

Much of the disparity might well be attributed to the fact Democrats have little motivation to vote in the primary, since in the governor’s race Mike McWherter is the only Democrat still running and is sure to win the nomination. A ruggedly combative race in the Republican primary pits Wamp of Chattanooga, Knoxville’s Haslam and Ramsey of Blountville in the hunt.

A recent Mason Dixon poll by the Tennessee Newspaper Network, a partnership among the state’s four major newspapers, showed Haslam leading the Republican pack with 36 percent of the vote, followed by Wamp with 25 percent and Ramsey with 20 percent, with 17 percent undecided.

“It’s almost impossible to poll people in a primary,” Ramsey said. “People are examining the issues, and they’re coming toward me.”

But the Democrat, McWherter, seems to believe the Republican choice will be Haslam. McWherter issued a press release Monday in which his campaign manager, Kim Sasser Hayden, said, “As Bill Haslam spends millions of dollars trying to defend his record of raising property taxes, price gouging Tennesseans at the gas pump and hiding his vast oil wealth, Tennessee voters realize he is not the character he has tried to create in his television ads.”

McWherter also announced a campaign television ad, which focuses on his plan to create jobs and boost the economy.

Haslam’s lead in the primary would appear to be commanding by following recent polls, which makes it all the more intriguing that the Knoxville mayor put up a one-minute television ad recently defending himself against Wamp’s attacks and launching some of his own at the congressman. Wamp has tried to paint Haslam as a rich kid and an oil man. Haslam, whose family has built a fortune with its Pilot Travel Centers, makes voters aware in his ad that Wamp has participated in Washington’s spending ways and never had to balance a budget.

Ramsey, who has the support of tea party organizers, is painting himself as the one true conservative with the legislative experience to be governor. Ramsey is hitting both Haslam and Wamp in his advertising, capitalizing on issues similar to theirs.

Haslam’s latest ad leads to the question of why a candidate with a double-digit lead would bother to air a negative response ad, unless there is more to the reason for the ad than Haslam is letting on. He has said the title of the ad, “Enough Is Enough,” says it all about its intention. Haslam said he just got tired of what he was putting up with from Wamp.

Ramsey said the Haslam campaign thought it would coast to victory.

“They went to the four corners offense and tried to run the clock out and way too soon,” Ramsey said. “He’s literally trying to ride this out. You can’t dodge the voters and expect to win. They’re (the Haslam campaign) in free fall. They know they’re in free fall. They’re not in panic mode yet, but I think they’re getting close to it.”

Yet Ramsey and Wamp trail in the polls, which gets back to Wamp’s point.

“Polling doesn’t show where people are voting heavy or voting light,” Wamp said. “Just watch what happens. Where people are voting in bigger numbers is where I am going to do better. We’re watching that constantly in early voting.

“I do well in rural counties. I wanted to do a certain percentage of the total vote, and they’re 8 points higher. What does that mean? It means a lot of traditional Democrats in rural counties in places like the 8th District are voting Republican for the first time ever. I’m doing very well there.”

Of the 21 counties where there have been more people voting in the Democratic primary than in the Republican primary, five are in the 8th Congressional District in West Tennessee, where Democratic state Sen. Roy Herron is the likely nominee against a field of three Republicans — Stephen Fincher, Ron Kirkland and George Flinn — who are in a fierce battle.

Six of the Democrats’ majority counties are in the 6th Congressional District, where state Sens. Diane Black and Jim Tracy and former businesswoman Lou Ann Zelenik are waging a tough Republican primary battle. Two war veterans, Brett Carter and Ben Leming, head the Democratic field in the 6th.

Five of the Democrats’ 21 majority counties in early voting are in the 4th Congressional District, where incumbent Democratic Rep. Lincoln Davis awaits the survivor of a crowded field of Republicans.

As expected Democrats are casting the majority of ballots in the state’s two biggest urban counties, Davidson (which is Nashville) and Shelby (which includes Memphis). Republicans have cast the majority of early-voting ballots in Hamilton County (Chattanooga) and Knox County (Knoxville).

Knox County, home to Haslam, has cast 13,951 Republican ballots in early voting to 1,166 for Democrats.

Republicans Showing Force in Early Voting

By Mike Morrow

U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp credits U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn with defining a political trend in Tennessee that he believes will help him win the governor’s race.

“She calls it Middle to West. What happened 10 years ago in Middle Tennessee is now happening in West Tennessee,” Wamp said.

“It’s a grassroots, blue-collar, red-blooded, lower-to-middle to middle-class new Republican voter. It’s not the country club people Bill Haslam appeals to,” Wamp said. “He really has nowhere to go. That’s good.”

Whether there is truth in Wamp’s assessment of how to nominate a Republican to replace Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen only the results of the Aug. 5 primary will tell.

But whether the Republican votes in the governor’s race are going to Wamp, Haslam or Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, the number of Republican voters in early voting compared to Democrats is overwhelming.

Figures from the state Division of Elections updated Monday showed that 249,709 ballots had been cast in early and absentee voting. The balloting includes Democratic and Republican primaries for governor and the state’s congressional races, as well as legislative races. Of the total number of voters, 156,338 cast Republican primary ballots, compared to 78,657 for Democrats.

A closer look shows that of Tennessee’s 95 counties, Republicans have the majority of ballots cast in 74 of them, compared to 21 counties with Democratic majorities. What has looked like a tidal wave of Republican support over the last few months at Republican events appears to be manifesting itself in early voting.

Much of the disparity might well be attributed to the fact Democrats have little motivation to vote in the primary, since in the governor’s race Mike McWherter is the only Democrat still running and is sure to win the nomination. A ruggedly combative race in the Republican primary pits Wamp of Chattanooga, Knoxville’s Haslam and Ramsey of Blountville in the hunt.

A recent Mason Dixon poll by the Tennessee Newspaper Network, a partnership among the state’s four major newspapers, showed Haslam leading the Republican pack with 36 percent of the vote, followed by Wamp with 25 percent and Ramsey with 20 percent, with 17 percent undecided.

“It’s almost impossible to poll people in a primary,” Ramsey said. “People are examining the issues, and they’re coming toward me.”

But the Democrat, McWherter, seems to believe the Republican choice will be Haslam. McWherter issued a press release Monday in which his campaign manager, Kim Sasser Hayden, said, “As Bill Haslam spends millions of dollars trying to defend his record of raising property taxes, price gouging Tennesseans at the gas pump and hiding his vast oil wealth, Tennessee voters realize he is not the character he has tried to create in his television ads.”

McWherter also announced a campaign television ad, which focuses on his plan to create jobs and boost the economy.

Haslam’s lead in the primary would appear to be commanding by following recent polls, which makes it all the more intriguing that the Knoxville mayor put up a one-minute television ad recently defending himself against Wamp’s attacks and launching some of his own at the congressman. Wamp has tried to paint Haslam as a rich kid and an oil man. Haslam, whose family has built a fortune with its Pilot Travel Centers, makes voters aware in his ad that Wamp has participated in Washington’s spending ways and never had to balance a budget.

Ramsey, who has the support of tea party organizers, is painting himself as the one true conservative with the legislative experience to be governor. Ramsey is hitting both Haslam and Wamp in his advertising, capitalizing on issues similar to theirs.

Haslam’s latest ad leads to the question of why a candidate with a double-digit lead would bother to air a negative response ad, unless there is more to the reason for the ad than Haslam is letting on. He has said the title of the ad, “Enough Is Enough,” says it all about its intention. Haslam said he just got tired of what he was putting up with from Wamp.

Ramsey said the Haslam campaign thought it would coast to victory.

“They went to the four corners offense and tried to run the clock out and way too soon,” Ramsey said. “He’s literally trying to ride this out. You can’t dodge the voters and expect to win. They’re (the Haslam campaign) in free fall. They know they’re in free fall. They’re not in panic mode yet, but I think they’re getting close to it.”

Yet Ramsey and Wamp trail in the polls, which gets back to Wamp’s point.

“Polling doesn’t show where people are voting heavy or voting light,” Wamp said. “Just watch what happens. Where people are voting in bigger numbers is where I am going to do better. We’re watching that constantly in early voting.

“I do well in rural counties. I wanted to do a certain percentage of the total vote, and they’re 8 points higher. What does that mean? It means a lot of traditional Democrats in rural counties in places like the 8th District are voting Republican for the first time ever. I’m doing very well there.”

Of the 21 counties where there have been more people voting in the Democratic primary than in the Republican primary, five are in the 8th Congressional District in West Tennessee, where Democratic state Sen. Roy Herron is the likely nominee against a field of three Republicans — Stephen Fincher, Ron Kirkland and George Flinn — who are in a fierce battle.

Six of the Democrats’ majority counties are in the 6th Congressional District, where state Sens. Diane Black and Jim Tracy and former businesswoman Lou Ann Zelenik are waging a tough Republican primary battle. Two war veterans, Brett Carter and Ben Leming, head the Democratic field in the 6th.

Five of the Democrats’ 21 majority counties in early voting are in the 4th Congressional District, where incumbent Democratic Rep. Lincoln Davis awaits the survivor of a crowded field of Republicans.

As expected Democrats are casting the majority of ballots in the state’s two biggest urban counties, Davidson (which is Nashville) and Shelby (which includes Memphis). Republicans have cast the majority of early-voting ballots in Hamilton County (Chattanooga) and Knox County (Knoxville).

Knox County, home to Haslam, has cast 13,951 Republican ballots in early voting to 1,166 for Democrats.

Categories
Transparency and Elections

Haslam Uninterested in Debating Wamp Again

U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp has challenged Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam to more debates in their Republican gubernatorial primary, but it appears Wamp shouldn’t hold his breath.

The Haslam campaign shows little interest in even considering Wamp’s desire; they point to what is believed to be a record number of joint appearances among the candidates, mostly at forums.

Wamp, from Chattanooga, was shown lagging behind Haslam in a recent independent poll, with Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey following in third place as the field heads to the Aug. 5 primary. Early voting has already begun.

The poll, conducted by WSMV-TV in Nashville, showed Haslam with 32 percent of the vote, Wamp with 21 percent and Ramsey with 11 percent but still a high number of undecided votes at 36 percent.

WSMV aired a live debate on July 12, but that is likely to be the last debate before Republican voters choose a nominee.

The candidates have made more than 100 such appearances dating back to last year. In fact, the gubernatorial candidates have made appearances recently at county Republican Party picnics that the main contenders attended and spoke at a year ago. They’re now making repeat appearances at those annual events.

Most of those appearances in the last year, which included numerous indoor dinners in the winter months, have been forums, where candidates each answer the same question but have little interaction with each other and rarely get to engage in meaningful debate.

The debate July 12 allowed candidates the rare opportunity to ask each other questions, although the time for answers was extremely limited as debate organizers tried to get as many questions into the one-hour event as possible.

“Candidates got to ask each other questions, and everybody took a liberal opportunity to ask me questions,” Haslam said.

The attention did appear to focus on Haslam, a clear indication that Republican opponents view him as leading the race and that Democrat Mike McWherter expects to meet Haslam in the general election Nov. 2. McWherter joined Haslam’s Republican opponents in getting in jabs at the Knoxville mayor.

Wamp said in a formal release that more debates would give Haslam the opportunity to publicly address issues that Wamp is raising about Haslam, who has refused throughout the campaign to reveal his income from the privately held family business, Pilot Corp., which recently became Pilot Family J through a merger that makes Pilot Flying J one of the top 10 largest privately owned companies in the nation.

“We’ve had plenty of chances to answer questions of all different types from all types of people,” Haslam said. “We’ve been doing this for a year and a half, and I’m not sure how all of a sudden Zach decided there was a need.

“And why all of a sudden he didn’t think Ron should be a part of that too. That would be my question. Why shouldn’t Ron be a part of that?”

Wamp’s release says Haslam should join him at additional debates, claiming Haslam is “stonewalling” and trying to convince voters that “he’s something that he is not.” The request does not include Ramsey, who has been in the top tier of contenders since the race began.

“I challenge Bill Haslam to come out from behind his big oil money and advertising curtain and debate these issues publicly with me before the voters of this state,” Wamp’s release said.

An underdog asking for direct debates with the leader is common in campaigns. In fact, in 2004, Wamp declined to debate his Democratic opponent in one of his races for the 3rd District congressional seat. A report from the archive of WBIR-TV in Knoxville said Wamp preferred to be “out with the people” rather than debate his challenger, John Wolfe.

Tom Ingram, general consultant to the Haslam campaign and a veteran of major campaigns in the state, said reasons behind the attempt by Wamp for more debates are easy to see.

“The only reason a candidate wants more debates is they have probably run out of money and need the free media, and they’ve seen numbers that cause them to be desperate,” Ingram said. “They’re throwing Hail Marys.

“You were there Monday night. That was a splendid exchange of ideas. We’ve got a schedule from now to the primary to spend with the voters, and that’s where we’re are going to spend it.”

Haslam also pointed to his campaign’s busy schedule leading to Aug. 5.

“We’ve been working hard to make sure we take advantage of them. It’s not exactly like we’ve been avoiding our opponents in this,” Haslam said.

Wamp has not let up on Haslam, however.

“There are still a lot of unanswered questions,” Wamp said. “When there are that many unanswered questions and a candidate is hiding behind $15 million or whatever it’s going to be, we need more debates.

“We need more interaction. There was a big undecided. When there are this many undecided voters this late, we ought to have more debates, not less.”

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Press Releases

Wamp Wants More Debates

Press Release from Zach Wamp for Governor, July 17, 2010:

Wamp calls for more televised debates to address lingering questions about Haslam’s record; Says Haslam should stop stonewalling and answer all questions

CHATTANOOGA – Zach Wamp, Republican candidate for Governor, today challenged Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam to join him at additional televised debates across the state so that Haslam may directly address lingering questions many Tennessee voters still have about his history of price-gouging consumers at the gas pumps, raising taxes during his first year as mayor and joining New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg in a direct assault on the rights of Tennessee gun owners.

Wamp said more interactive televised debates would give Haslam the opportunity to fully, honestly and publicly address these and other issues that Haslam has refused to answer.

“For months now, we have asked Mayor Haslam to do what all of the other candidates have done, and that is to be fully open and transparent about his personal income taxes, his company’s many conflicts of interest with the state and the Mayor’s record of public service that is anything but conservative,” Wamp said.

“But at each turn, Mayor Haslam has tried to deal with these questions by stonewalling and spending more money to try and convince voters he’s something that he is not. Today, I challenge Bill Haslam to come out from behind his big oil money and advertising curtain and debate these issues publicly with me before the voters of this state.”

Despite Mayor Haslam’s call for “civility” earlier in the year, the Haslam campaign was the first to use paid phone banks to launch negative attacks against his opponents several months ago when it was caught using highly unethical “push-polling” against both the Wamp and Ramsey campaigns.

Many of the issues Wamp raised are addressed in a new television ad called “Rusty” that the Wamp campaign is now airing that features a lifelong Tennessean named Rusty Criminger.

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Education News Transparency and Elections

Ramsey Would Reject RTTT Funds If ‘Strings Attached’

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, said Saturday that as governor he’d reject federal Race to the Top funds for state education if the money comes with requirements from Washington, D.C.that it be spent in specific ways.

“I hope and pray this Race to the Top money doesn’t have strings attached to it. If it does, and I’m governor, we’re not going to take it,” Ramsey said.

He said the funds should be used in non-recurring ways, such as putting it toward teacher and principal training.

Ramsey, who is seeking the Republican nomination to replace Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen, was speaking at a meeting in Franklin of the Professional Educators of Tennessee, an organization that offers teachers an alternative to joining a teachers union. The lieutenant governor said he is feeling much relieved now that the legislative session is over and he can concentrate on primary election campaigning

Other speakers at the meeting included Republican candidate Zach Wamp, Democrat hopeful Mike McWherter and independent candidates Bayron Binkley, Samuel Duck and Brandon Dodds.

Bredesen led the charge for the Race to the Top funds, and the federal government surprised Tennessee by granting the state $500 million, an amount the state wanted and applied for but did not expect to receive in full. The state had expected a much lower figure if it won. Only one other state, Delaware, won Race to the Top funds in the first of two rounds in the contest and was awarded roughly $100 million.

Ramsey told the group the Race to the Top funds were greatly due to the intense amount of work the Legislature put in during its special session on education in January.

Ramsey spoke highly of the effort in the special session and explained that he knew the subject of teacher evaluations was controversial but supported changes in the evaluation process. The reform effort was intended to help put together a strong application for the federal funds.

Ramsey said the special session was an example of “the way government ought to work.”

“This is not about some mass firing of teachers, but it is a tool we can use to help teachers,” Ramsey said. “In the end, this will work out. It will be fine.”

Ramsey was in full campaign mode and he became passionate when the issue of federal intervention rose.

“At first I thought this administration we have now was just incompetent. But now I think it’s conniving,” Ramsey said. “You don’t borrow $1.4 trillion one year, $1.6 trillion the next year and expect our country to stay the same. It’s not going to happen.

“I hope to have grandkids soon. There’s no way our kids can have the same world to grow up in that I did if we keep heading in this direction. It’s impossible.”

He said governors need to push back against the federal government.

“This is revolutionary,” Ramsey said. “I don’t mean like march on Washington, D.C., revolutionary. I mean revolutionary in the sense that I don’t think states have ever pushed back. We’ve never been in this position before.”

Wamp said a group like the Professional Educators of Tennessee deserves to have a voice in decision-making on education. He used the opportunity to state his case about the importance of early childhood reading and emphasized the importance of health issues among children.

“The truth is you are getting a product that requires you to be in law enforcement and psychology and everything across the spectrum instead of the ability to just educate the children based on you getting a decent product,” Wamp told the group.

McWherter tied education to the mission of creating more jobs in the state. He said he recognizes the importance of providing the resources necessary to teach children. He also lauded the Bredesen administration for landing the Race to the Top grant monies.

The primary is Aug. 5. The general election is Nov. 2.

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Business and Economy Health Care News Transparency and Elections

Ramsey Prescribes County-Centered Health Plan

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, proposes using local health departments to meet the needs of TennCare patients in a way that would ease the load on emergency rooms and save taxpayers’ money all at the same time.

Ramsey said the idea is an example of thinking outside the box on how to restructure state government. Under Ramsey’s plan, health departments in the 95 counties would serve as the primary care provider for patients who are often prone to use emergency rooms as their point of primary care, which is enormously expensive, he said.

“I’ve been trying to examine what I’m going to do as the next governor to really restructure state government, because that’s going to happen,” Ramsey said. “One of the biggest expenses is our TennCare Medicaid program, and one of the biggest expenses there is that those who are on TennCare use our emergency rooms as our primary provider.”

Ramsey said his plan would use medical schools in each of its three grand divisions, the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis, Meharry Medical College in Nashville and the East Tennessee State University James H. Quillen College of Medicine in Johnson City. Ramsey would have the medical schools’ students staff the health departments.

“I think this could really work and not only provide better care for people instead of ending up in emergency rooms but also saving taxpayers’ money,” Ramsey said.

Ramsey said he had talked with several health directors in the state and that he expects some will be helping him with the plan. He said he has also talked to the Tennessee Medical Association about the plan to see if it will work.

“I do think the majority of people think it will work,” he said.

The plan came from a sort of brainstorming session Ramsey had with other state senators one night, he said.

“I can remember when I was a young man, and I got my immunizations and I got my primary care, we went to those county health departments,” Ramsey said. “I’m 55 years old. Yet when TennCare came in in the early 90s, we basically neutered those health departments just to draw that money into the central system, to draw down more federal funds.

“I think it wouldn’t be that hard to go back to that system to where we have those patients across the state using that as primary care. You can imagine the savings that would be.”

The cost of health care continues to be a major headache for the state. The troubles of TennCare are well known, although there seems to be a general feeling that TennCare costs are under far better control now than in years past. That has not erased concerns about people who need coverage, however. And the federal health care reform law, unless adjusted, is expected to have a large impact on states, where complaints of unfunded mandates on expanding coverage have risen.

“If you go into an emergency room in particular, first of all, they’re going to run all kinds of tests just to cover themselves because of lawsuits on hospitals,” Ramsey said. “Those on a primary system, through that screening system, if it’s only the sniffles or a headache or stuffy nose, they could treat it there. But if it’s something more important, they can send them on to another doctor.”

Categories
Liberty and Justice News Transparency and Elections

Gubernatorial Hopefuls Targeting Gun-Rights Cred

U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp does not have a gun-carry permit.

Neither does Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam. Nor does businessman Mike McWherter.

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey has one. But therein lies only one way of measuring the intentions of candidates who will be judged by gun-rights advocates in the race to be the next governor of Tennessee.

The three Republican gubernatorial candidates will attend a banquet of Friends of NRA, a gun rights organization, Saturday in Nashville. And the candidates’ positions on the Second Amendment are certain to get plenty of attention.

Wamp, Haslam and Ramsey are the Republicans in the race. McWherter is the lone Democrat, but McWherter will be unable to attend the event Saturday. McWherter’s staff said Tuesday that he had a prior engagement but has attended Friends of NRA events in the past, including one in Henry County a few months ago.

McWherter does have a hunting license and is a lifetime member of the NRA, his campaign said, adding that the Democrat is a strong supporter of Second Amendment rights and will work to ensure those rights are protected.

Wamp quickly acknowledged this week that he does not have a carry permit, although he frequently speaks in support of Second Amendment rights. Ramsey, who voted to override Gov. Phil Bredesen’s veto of the guns-in-bars bill before the close of the legislative session, says he falls squarely in line with gun-rights advocates as a candidate for governor. Haslam says he doesn’t know of any differences between his positions on gun rights and the pro-gun stands of his Republican opponents, but Haslam has been criticized for some of his past positions.

Ramsey said Haslam was once a member of the Mayors Against Illegal Guns program. Haslam had joined the group of 700-plus mayors but left the organization saying it went astray from its original mission.

“I’m the only one to actually sponsor legislation to promote Second Amendment rights,” Ramsey said of the gubernatorial field. “Congressman Wamp and Washington, D.C. in their own way may have voted in favor of such things, but let me assure you I carried the bill that gives gun-carry permits in Tennessee. I carried the bill that kept cities and counties from suing manufacturers of firearms in the late ’90s.

“I’ve not just been one to talk the talk, I’ve walked the walk. I have a lifetime hunting license. I own lots of guns myself, because I’m a collector, and I’m a hunter.”

Ramsey won’t be outdone in voicing support for Second Amendment rights, however, if Wamp can help it.

“I have a long history of supporting gun rights,” Wamp said. “They know I’m their friend. To be honest with you, if Ron weren’t running, I would have incredible support from gun owners, gun organizations, gun activists. Frankly, they have two people in this race that have both been their faithful supporters. And as a result, they’re all out.”

Wamp was referring to Ramsey and himself as supporters and gun-rights advocates keeping their powder dry in the primary.

“That’s unfortunate, I guess, if either one of us would like to solidify that particular element of the vote, because it’s substantial in our state,” Wamp said.

Wamp said he is a longstanding gun owner.

“I’ve had many guns of all different flavors in my life. I’m an active shooter,” Wamp said. But when asked exactly what he owns, Wamp replied, “I’m like Fred Thompson. I don’t tell anybody what I have.”

Wamp has said publicly that he sleeps with a gun near his head.

“It’s in the bedside table,” he said. “I don’t mean like in bed with me. It’s within a lean and a reach.”

Haslam said he is convinced that gun-rights activists just want to know his policy convictions.

“I think the main things the NRA is concerned about is where I stand on the protection of Second Amendment rights,” Haslam said. “And I think they’re very comfortable with that. I’ve had lots of conversations, and I think they are very comfortable with my commitment to the Second Amendment.”

When asked if he could distinguish his views on guns from his opponents, Haslam said, “I don’t know that there are any big differences. I really don’t. I don’t think there’s a nickel’s worth of difference between us.”

One of the issues that has surfaced over guns is whether the state’s database on those who have gun-carry permits should be part of public record.

“We need to have the same protections on gun-carry permits we have on driver’s licenses,” Ramsey said. “They should never be allowed to be published in newspapers to search in databases. I think no public good comes out of that, yet at the same time the police departments and others should have access to those.

“But I think what that really does is proves the responsibility that handgun carry permit holders do have.”

Haslam said he doesn’t think the data should be publicly accessible.

“I don’t think so, for a lot of reasons,” he said. “I would be against that.”

Wamp said he does not want the data to be public, noting it’s an important element of the gun debate.

“Even getting a right to carry permit, pure Second Amendment protectors are concerned that once you have a right-to-carry permit the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms is going to have your information about what you have,” Wamp said.

Uncompromising Second Amendment protectors believe even a right-to-carry permit is an invasion of Second Amendment rights, Wamp said. He noted the position of the underfunded fourth Republican candidate in the race, Joe Kirkpatrick, a constitutional conservative who has said the Second Amendment is itself the only right-to-carry “permit” Americans should really ever need.