Three More Governor's Races Set
By John Gramlich, Staff Writer
A high-profile Republican gubernatorial primary in Tennessee on Thursday (Aug. 5) ended with Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam easily defeating a pair of formidable opponents. Haslam, Knoxville's mayor for seven years, beat U.S. Representative Zach Wamp and Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey, along with two lesser-known candidates.
Haslam, who enjoyed a substantial fundraising advantage in the GOP primary, will face off in November against Mike McWherter, who ran unopposed for the Democrats. McWherter is the son of a former governor Ned McWherter and — despite his familiar name in Tennessee politics — is running as an outsider, promising to bring a " fresh, outside perspective as a businessman " to Nashville.
Current Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen, a Democrat, is term-limited, and with Republicans in control of both houses of the General Assembly, the GOP is seeking a lock on state government in the fall.
The Republican primary drew national attention in recent weeks for the perceived missteps of several candidates. Wamp raised eyebrows when he suggested in an interview with National Journal that states should consider seceding from the federal government, The Tennessean reported . The paper noted that Ramsey "caused an uproar just days later when a national Muslim rights group drew attention to a YouTube video of him positing that Islam may be more of a cult than a religion."
Meanwhile, Basil Marceaux, another Republican, captured the attention of late-night TV comedians for what The New York Times called "his odd campaign videos and vows to fine anyone who does not own a gun."
Tennessee wasn't the only state with a closely watched Republican primary this week.
Michigan Republicans on Tuesday (Aug. 3) surprised many observers by choosing venture capitalist Rick Snyder — a self-described "tough nerd" — in the hopes of retaking the governor's office from Democrats as term-limited Jennifer Granholm exits. Like Haslam in Tennessee, Snyder defeated several strong candidates, including Attorney General Mike Cox and U.S. Representative Pete Hoekstra.
Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero — a Democrat with his own nickname as the "Angry Mayor" — awaits Snyder in November. Bernero, the Detroit Free Press noted , is known nationally for his "rants" in support of federal bailouts for the Michigan automakers.
In Kansas, meanwhile, U.S. Senator Sam Brownback easily won the GOP nomination and will face Tom Holland, a state senator who ran unopposed for the Democrats. Like the open governor's seats in Tennessee and Michigan, the Kansas seat is being vacated by a Democrat, Mark Parkinson.