In a three-way Tennessee Republican gubernatorial primary to be held this Thursday, two right-wing candidates have been splitting what Monty Python would call the “silly vote,” leaving Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam as the de facto “sensible candidate,” and thus making him the frontrunner.
A recent Mason-Dixon poll gave Haslam the lead with 36%, followed by Rep. Zach Wamp at 25% and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey with 20%. To be sure, Haslam has tacked right somewhat. For example, he used to be a member of New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s (I) Mayors Against Illegal Guns coalition. But in early 2009 he left the group and joined the National Rifle Association.
But with that said, there’s nothing that Haslam has done or said that compares to the other two. Let’s take a look.
In late July, Wamp warned that a bad election result in 2010 and 2012, and failure to repeal the new health care reform law, could result in secession: “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.”
Since then, Wamp has stated clearly that he is not suggesting that Tennessee should secede (again). In fact, he’s accusing Haslam and his wealthy family’s business connections of spreading that idea around: “Again, their reach is so extensive with their $37 billion empire, they’re able to make things look like they’re not.”
Ramsey, meanwhile, has played to the hysteria in Tennessee about the construction of a Muslim community center in the city of Murfreesboro. (Apparently even Tennessee is within the “mosque exclusion zone” emanating from Ground Zero in New York.) Most notably, he suggested that Islam should perhaps not be protected by the First Amendment’s guarantee of the freedom of religion at all.
“Now, you could even argue whether being a Muslim is actually a religion, or is it a nationality, way of life, cult whatever you want to call it,” Ramsey said. “Now certainly we do protect our religions, but at the same time this is something we are going to have to face.”
This came after Wamp had already pitched in on the subject, telling a crowd of Republicans in Murfreesboro: “I will stand as governor against any spread of Sharia law in this state or in this nation. It is a threat. It is a threat to our freedom.”
In response to Ramsey’s comments, the reply from Haslam’s spokesperson was, dare we say, sensible: “The mayor’s faith is very important to him, and he respects the right of others to practice their faith, so long as they are respectful of the communities in which they live and the laws of the land.”
And now here is the Monty Python sketch that inspired the hook for this post, in which a British election night shows Sensible Party candidates facing off for Parliamentary seats against the Silly Party — with the occasional “Very Silly” or “Slightly Silly” extra candidates to split the vote: