NASHVILLE - The action in Tennessee's gubernatorial primary is here in Music City Saturday, where all three Republican candidates are to greet and speak at the Davidson County GOP Picnic in Centennial Park, under a pavilion near the Parthenon, from 11:30 to 1:30.
We'll have a report on that online Saturday afternoon and in the newspaper Sunday morning.
With only a week to go before the onset of early voting July 16, the GOP primary is entering its final stretch. The candidates have to file their campaign financial disclosures next week.
After the Nashville picnic, state Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey heads to Somerville for a gathering at Woodbridge General Store on the courthouse square at 5:30 p.m., according to his website. Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam will knock on doors in a Murfreesboro neighborhood, then campaign in Williamson County. And Congressman Zach Wamp heads to McMinn County.
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The last major statewide televised debate of the primary is set for Monday night, with all four candidates scheduled to participate: Democrat Mike McWherter and Republicans Bill Haslam, Ron Ramsey and Zach Wamp.
Monday night's meeting is actually more of a town hall forum-style event than a debate. It originates from Nashville's Belmont University and will be aired live from 7 to 8 p.m. on WMC-TV, Channel 5, in Memphis.
Several University of Memphis political science students and faculty members are gathering to watch the debate on the U of M campus and will be connected via Skype, to Belmont.
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Of the candidates who have released next week's campaign schedules by late Friday afternoon, Congressman Wamp of Chattanooga plans visits to Big Shelby - on Tuesday and Wednesday.
He plans to attend a meet and greet with Shelby County Republicans at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday at LaHacienda, 3491 Poplar, followed by "multiple campaign and finance meetings in Shelby County" Wednesday morning. Past experience indicates that those events are usually closed to the general public and the media - but if the Wamp camp releases any public stops, we'll let you know.
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Wamp picked up the endorsement today of Murfreesboro gun manufacturer Ronnie Barrett, whose Barrett Firearms manufactures large-caliber rifles used by the U.S. military. Barrett's name became well known around the State Capitol this year when he got into it with the Tennessee Department of Transportation over its refusal to grant an easement for a new access road to his plant alongside Interstate 24. He asked the state legislature to force TDOT to grant approval for the new access.
The failure of the measure may have contributed to his backing of Wamp over Senate Speaker Ramsey, who last week won the endorsement of the Gun Owners Association of America. Citing his work in the legislature to loosen longstanding restrictions on guns, Ramsey has campaigned hard for the support of gun activists, including the state's 300,000 handgun-carry permit holders.
Barrett is quoted in Wamp's press release:
"Whenever Tennessee sportsmen and gun owners needed a friend in Congress, Zach Wamp stood strong with us to protect and defend our 2nd Amendment rights, (and) that's why he's always received an A rating from the National Rifle Association. We need that same strong backbone and consistent support from our next Governor, and I'm convinced that Zach Wamp will be that man."
Ramsey spent Friday in his home region, the Tri-Cities, where several Republican state legislators from the area endorsed him. They included Sens. Rusty Crowe of Johnson City, Mike Faulk, Kingsport, and Steve Southerland, Morristown, and Reps. Dale Ford, Jonesborough, Matthew Hill, Jonesborough, John Lundberg, Bristol, Jason Mumpower, Bristol, and Tony Shipley, Kingsport.