State Democratic Party chair Chip Forrester says he's pulling for Zach Wamp or Ron Ramsey to win the Republican gubernatorial nomination because they belong to “the fringe right, what I call the nutjobs” and would scare away voters.
In unusual comments from a party chair, who normally won’t publicly name preferences in political opponents, Forrester said the Democratic nominee—whoever it may be—would fare better in the 2010 election against Wamp or Ramsey rather than Bill Haslam, the Knoxville mayor who is widely seen as the leading Republican contender.
“They’re coming from the fringe right, what I call the nutjobs,” Forrester told the City Paper this week. “Take Zach Wamp. Either he truly believes the stuff he’s saying, which I think he actually does, or he’s pandering. He’s a very, very far right Republican candidate.”
“I kind of hope one of those guys [Wamp or Ramsey] is their nominee because I think the average Tennessean is going to be scared when they hear them ranting and raving. With these guys, we’re still fighting the Civil War,” he said.
The Wamp and Ramsey campaigns reacted with disdain to Forrester’s comments.
“Instead of trying to be a political analyst, Chip Forester should keep his day job and go recruit even one Democrat candidate for governor who could beat any of the Republicans. He doesn't have one yet,” Ramsey spokesman Brad Todd says.
“If I had to defend a White House and a Congress as unpopular as Obama and Pelosi are in Tennessee right now, I'd probably be yelling childish insults too.”
Says Wamp spokesman John Crisp: "No one really cares what Chip has to say because he is just playing politics and trying to divert attention from the fact that he and so many in his party would like to impose a state income tax on working Tennesseans. Beyond that, this is ridiculous and doesn't deserve a comment."
Both Wamp, a congressman from Chattanooga, and Ramsey, the state Senate speaker and lieutenant governor, have tried to appeal to Tea Party activists during their campaigns this summer.
At his Labor Day picnic, Wamp aligned himself with Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who suggested last spring his state could secede from the union. "We're going to protect freedom in our states and we don't want the federal government running all over us," Wamp declared.
Previously on the stump, he vowed to meet Barack Obama at the state line if the president comes to confiscate our weapons.
Ramsey has joined Wamp in emphasizing states’ rights. "I'm frightened by the direction of this country," he told a Tea Party rally on Labor Day. Tennessee's "an island of sanity in our nation right now," he said. "The 10th Amendment means the 10th Amendment."