Appearing at a rally in Bartlett’s Freeman Park after a long day of barnstorming through the state, three of Tennessee’s major Republican office-holders — Governor Bill Haslam, U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander, and 8th District congressman Stephen Fincher — expressed satisfaction with the large Republican turnout in early voting statewide.
“There’s been a lot of debate about whether we should have closed primaries,” Haslam said. “The more we’ve opened our doors, the more success we’ve had. To have 750,000 to vote in the Republican primary, I think, is an extraordinary accomplishment.”
The same tack was taken by Alexander, the only one of the three with significant GOP primary opposition (in the Senator’s case from state Rep. Joe Carr of Lascassas and physician/businessman George Flinn of Memphis.
Asked about a charge by Carr that Flinn’s presence in the race was in collusion with Alexander so as to draw anti-incumbent votes away from Carr, Alexander answered, “Dr Flinn has a chance to run, and it’s a free country. All of us do. As the governor was saying, we have an open primary, and as a result of our open door, we have many candidates….The result is a larger Republican Party, a more conservative party, and a more successful Republican Party.”
Fincher, who has several opponents, acknowledged that he hadn’t seen many of them on the stump. Nor has Haslam been sorely troubled by his nominal opponents. The governor’s concerns seemed clearly to lie more with the result of judicial retention elections, particular as regards the three state Supeme Court Justices — Gary Wade, Connie Clark, and Sharon Lee — who have been targeted by a well-funded campaign against their retention spearheaded by Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey.
Asked about TV commercials favoring retention that quote him as warning of “danger” in the anti-retention campaign, Haslam said that his worries run more to the effect of the campaign on the ultimate passage of Amendment #2 on the November election ballot, which revises the current method of selecting appellate judges but leaves the appointive power in the governor’s hands.
Wade, Clark, and Lee campaigned in Memphis this past weekend and were welcomed at several stops with support from local officials, including 9th District congressman Steve Cohen, a Democrat, and Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell, a Republican.