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VOL. 129 | NO. 92 | Monday, May 12, 2014

Haslam Vows ‘Full Effort’ for Re-Election

By Bill Dries

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As Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam seeks re-election, he has some challengers in the statewide August Republican primary and he’ll face a Democratic opponent in the November general election.


But Haslam’s path to re-election in 2014 should be an easy one. He is heavily favored as the incumbent with no Democratic contender who is backed by the state Democratic Party establishment.

Nevertheless, Haslam will be campaigning, not so much for re-election but to keep Republican turnout numbers up in local elections across the state.

“A lot of people have made note that it could impact the Republican turnout in August in Shelby County,” Haslam said last week after speaking at a luncheon of the Republican National Commission Spring Meeting in Memphis. “I’m still going to be actively engaged in campaigning this summer for the primary as well as the general. … I think you’ll see a full effort at least on our part to have a real campaign this summer.”

Four years ago, with no incumbent governor seeking re-election, the Republican primary for governor was a lively contest among Haslam, U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey in which all three campaigned frequently in Shelby County.

The 2014 campaign will be much different.

Haslam won’t be campaigning in the August Tennessee Supreme Court retention races in which Ramsey has targeted three of the justices for defeat. Haslam says his position is a “fairly unique situation.”

“If they are replaced I would be the person making the appointment for their replacements,” he told reporters.

He will be campaigning for a November statewide ballot question that would change the Tennessee Constitution’s method of selecting appeals court judges to require confirmation by the legislature similar to U.S. Senate approval required for presidential nominations to the federal court bench followed by retention elections for a second eight-year term of office.

Speaking Thursday, May 8, to a ballroom of 300 party leaders at The Peabody hotel, Haslam called for Republicans nationwide to “have a stronger voice than we do” on the issues of big government and income inequality in a different way.

Haslam said income inequality is a real problem with fundamental differences in the approach of the two parties.

“Democrats’ answer is they say, ‘We’ll just tax people more. If we can tax people more and redistribute it that way, that will solve the problem,’” Haslam told the group. “But guess what? The math doesn’t work. There are not enough rich people you can tax enough to make up that gap.”

He said the Republican position should be a repudiation of the legacy of the Johnson White House’s “war on poverty.”

“There’s a lot of us who are saying the key to providing more opportunities for people in this country is about providing better educational opportunities in this country,” Haslam said. “Folks on the other side, a lot of those on the left, say that doesn’t work. You are never ever going to fix education until you fix poverty. … They’ve got that mixed up. We are never going to fix poverty until we fix education.”

It’s not a new position for Haslam, who has linked his push for rapid changes in education to a belief that underlying problems including poverty don’t have to be resolved before education reforms can begin.

Haslam also urged Republicans at last week’s gathering to fight the party’s image as being against government in general.

“Republicans look at government like you do fire. Out of control it’s a horrible thing. … Under control, fire is one of the world’s greatest things,” he began. “As Republicans, we don’t hate government. We just think it should be efficient and effective, and when people pay us tax dollars we should give them full value back for every dollar they give us.”

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