by Charles Lemos, Fri Aug 06, 2010 at 03:43:36 AM EDT
In an election marred by a computer glitch that prevented several thousand in the Volunteer State from voting, Tennesseans voted in a closely watched GOP gubernatorial primary to see who would earn the right to face Democratic nominee businessman Mike McWherter who was unopposed. Mike McWherter is also the son of former Gov. Ned McWherter
Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam easily won the Republican nomination for Governor Thursday, trouncing his more conservative GOP rivals the secession minded US Rep. Zach Wamp (TN-03), and the Islamophobe Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey from Blountville. Haslam took just over half the vote with Wamp garnering 27 percent and Ramsey 21 percent. The other Republican candidate, Basil Marceaux(.com) of Soddy-Daisy who became an Internet sensation with his bizarre rants about traffic light slavery and guns for everyone, received less than 1 percent of the vote.
Rep. Wamp had generated controversy last month when he seemed to suggest that Tennessee should consider secession in light of the Federal mandates contained in the Democrats' healthcare reform bill. "I hope that the American people will go to the ballot box in 2010 and 2012 so that states are not forced to consider separation from this government," he said. The eight-term congressman later backed away from those comments.
Ramsey, meanwhile, couldn't determine whether Islam was a religion, a nationality, a way of life or a cult before adding that he didn't believe that Islam deserves to be a Constitutionally protected religion. Ramsey also had the support from various Tea Party groups in the state.
Like other GOP primaries this electoral season, Republicans in Tennessee spent most of their time arguing over who the most conservative candidate was. In the end the 'moderate who lurched to the right' won. The race was an expensive one by Tennessee standards. Spending by the top three major Republican candidates hit $14.7 million by the end of July. Haslam, a businessman prior to his six years as Mayor of Knoxville, spent $8.8 million, including more than a million of his own money, more than twice the combined total of his two rivals.
One other wrinkle in this Tennessee election: this was the first election where early voting was allowed. More than 540,000 Tennesseans took advantage and had cast their ballots by August 2.
Phil Bredesen, the popular Democratic governor, is term limited and cannot seek a third term.
Chattanooga attorney Chuck Fleischmann defeated rival Robin Smith, a Hixson health care consultant and former Republican state chairwoman, in a bitterly contested GOP primary election in East Tennessee’s Third Congressional District for the seat being vacated by Rep. Zach Wamp.
With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Fleischmann led Smith by 1,409 votes, according to the Associated Press. He won 30 percent of Thursday’s vote to her 28 percent, the AP reported.
Fleischmann faces Democrat John Wolfe, a 56-year-old Chattanooga attorney who outdistanced three Democratic opponents with 39 percent of the vote after 99 percent of the precincts had reported, according to the New York Times. The seat is a likely hold for the GOP.
In the Tennessee Fourth Congressional District, Democratic Congressman Lincoln Davis will face Scott DesJarlais, a physician, who won the GOP primary with 35 percent of the vote over four other candidates.
In the Tennessee Sixth Congressional District, the seat being vacated by Blue Dog Rep. Barton Gordon after 13 terms, Bret Carter, an attorney and Iraq War veteran, won the Democratic primary narrowly over Marine Cpt. Benjamin Leming and Henry Clay Barry who sadly isn't from Kentucky. The vote was split 30 percent for Carter and 29 percent apiece for Leming and Barry. With 96 percent of the precincts reporting, Carter led by only 158 votes! Carter now faces Diane Black, currently serving in the State Senate, who also narrowly won the GOP primary beating two other candidates finishing just 800 votes ahead of her nearest rival.
In the Tennessee Eighth Congressional District, the seat being vacated by the retiring Rep. John Tanner, State Sen. Roy Herron from Dresden, a 23 year veteran of the Tennessee legislature, easily won the Democratic nod. The more interesting race was on the GOP side where agribusiness farmer and gospel singer Stephen Fincher from rural Crockett County beat four other challengers capturing about half the vote. In the Fall, however, the Democrats may be able to hold the seat since there are two other independent candidates running including a Tea Party activist named Donn James, a Navy veteran.