U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn., said today he expects to run for governor of Tennessee in 2010 if former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist does not enter the race.
“I think I am the best person to serve our state in our state if Sen. Frist decides not to run,” Rep. Wamp said today. “It is a difficult decision, but one where my family believes I should follow my heart, which is to run.”
The 50-year-old Republican is running this year for his eighth term in Congress, which he said he would complete before taking any other job. But Rep. Wamp said he is likely to announce his decision on whether he will run for governor in 2010 by next February.
“We will not make a decision with finality until after the fall election, but I am hoping to get confirmation on Sen. Frist’s plans sometime between now and the election this fall,” he said.
Rep. Wamp, who considered running for the U.S. Senate three years ago before agreeing to back fellow Chattanoogan Bob Corker instead, acknowledged that Sen. Frist “would be very hard to beat.”
“As a national candidate, he has a national organization of more than 300,000 donors and he has a tremendous amount of political capital in our state. It was a practical decision to say to Sen. Frist, “If you run, I support you,’” Rep. Wamp said.
But Rep. Wamp said he is preparing for the possibility of running for governor to succeed Phil Bredesen, the Democratic governor whose term expires in January 2011.
Mr. Wamp said Tennessee historically has selected governors every eight years from different parties, so Republicans should have an advantage in 2010. Rep. Wamp’s sprawling 10-county congressional district includes much of the two biggest media markets in East Tennessee — Chattanooga and Knoxville — with some of the state’s heaviest concentrations of Republican voters.
Rep. Wamp was elected to Congress in 1994 after he narrowly lost to former Rep. Marilyn Lloyd in 1992 in the 3rd district of East Tennessee. Mr. Wamp began in politics as precinct vice chairman for the 1983 Chattanooga mayoral campaign of Gene Roberts. He later was elected chairman of the Hamilton County Republican Party, then regional director for the state GOP.
For complete details, see tomorrow’s Chattanooga Times Free Press.