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VOL. 125 | NO. 62 | Wednesday, March 31, 2010

McWherter Gives $1M to His Tenn. Gubernatorial Bid

ERIK SCHELZIG | Associated Press Writer

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Democrat Mike McWherter is giving his Tennessee gubernatorial bid $1 million, his campaign confirmed Tuesday.

McWherter, a Jackson businessman and son of former Gov. Ned McWherter, is one of two Democrats remaining in the race to succeed term-limited Gov. Phil Bredesen. The current fundraising period ends Wednesday.

"Mike is in this race because the people of Tennessee are hurting, and they need a governor who knows how to create jobs," said campaign manager Kim Sasser Hayden. "This contribution is a reflection of his commitment to the race."

The big donation coincided with a more aggressive stance taken in a gubernatorial candidate forum hosted by the Tennessee Health Care Association.

McWherter called the health care overhaul signed by Democratic President Barack Obama last week "the law of the land," and criticized Republicans for urging the state to join a lawsuit seeking to block the law.

"Access to affordable, adequate health care is something that every Tennessean ought to have," McWherter said. "And this should not be an issue that we politically grandstand about."

McWherter singled out U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp, a Chattanooga Republican who has called for Tennessee to join 14 other states seeking to mount a legal challenge on health care.

"Wamp is about to tell you something about you can meet them at the state line and how he's going to fight this issue all the way through," McWherter said. "But that is not how you solve problems."

Wamp said McWherter shouldn't "just roll over and play dead in the name of politics."

"This is a defining moment in the history of our country," Wamp said. "And I'm sorry, we shouldn't just accept it."

Wamp cited examples of what he called federal government failures ranging from last year's Cash for Clunkers money-back program for cars and trucks, to an inability to supply ice to victims of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.

"This is the government that we want to turn over more and more of our health care to?" Wamp said. "Sorry, Mike."

McWherter, who runs a beer distribution business in Jackson and is chairman of Union City-based First State Bank, had raised about $1 million through the end of the last reporting period in January. That was the most among Democrats, but far behind the leading three Republicans in the race, Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam, state Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey of Blountville and Wamp.

A fourth Republican, Memphis prosecutor Bill Gibbons, dropped out of the race this week due to lackluster fundraising. State Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle, also of Memphis, abandoned his Democratic gubernatorial bid last month largely for the same reason.

McWherter's lone remaining opponent for the Democratic nomination is former state House Majority Leader Kim McMillan of Clarksville, who has also struggled to keep pace on campaign contributions.

McMillan's campaign did not immediately return a message seeking comment Tuesday, but she said after a gubernatorial forum in Franklin last week that she's more concerned with meeting voters than raising money.

"Having people support your efforts is what makes the difference," she said.

Ramsey spokesman Brad Todd said McWherter's campaign cash infusion illustrates that the "Democratic field has failed to catch on with Tennesseans."

"Tennesseans aren't going to risk electing a governor who will take our state the same direction as President Obama has taken Washington," Todd said.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

PROPERTY SALES 70 70 16,267
MORTGAGES 30 30 10,117
BUILDING PERMITS 297 297 38,841
BANKRUPTCIES 44 44 7,641