U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp said Friday that Tennessee voters' attention in the 2008 election to what he called "constitutional issues," such as abortion, gay marriage and gun rights, will help in his 2010 gubernatorial run.
Rep. Wamp, R-Tenn., told the Times Free Press editorial board that voters' emphasis on those issues, which he said were "paramount to Tennesseans" in 2008, comes from "a world view that sees the Bible as the foundation."
"That's really going to give me a great base of support in our state, because that's the way I see the world," he said.
But Rep. Wamp cautioned that social issues are not his top issues in the governor's race.
He laid out his main three issues as education, economic development and health care. Rep. Wamp stressed a holistic approach to education, "from conception to the grave," rather than just a focus on K-12 and higher education.
Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam, who also has filed the paperwork to run for governor in the 2010 GOP primary, said values issues are important campaign issues that he will address. Still, he said, they won't be the main focus for voters.
"I think that the key issues to Republican voters and and voters in the general election are going to revolve around the economy and the state budget," he said.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Gibbons, attorney general for Shelby County, said he would aim for getting the state back to "basic things," namely safer communities, better schools and a low tax rate. Mr. Gibbons said those things would lead to more jobs and a better economy.
Values issues are "moving along pretty well," Mr. Gibbons said, noting the state's marriage amendment, which defines marriage as between one man and one woman.
Former state Rep. Kim McMillan, D-Clarksville, said conversations with voters have led her to believe they will focus on issues "that unite us, not divide us," such as economic issues.
At Friday's meeting, Rep. Wamp also positioned himself as a candidate for governor who will look out for the middle class.
"I'm kind of the underdog's guy, the middle-class guy, the fighter," he said.
Rep. Wamp said he will to have to raise at least $5 million for the primary. He said he expects to be outspent in the race but predicted he would raise enough money to be competitive.
Mr. Haslam, whose family owns the Pilot Corp. chain of travel centers, has said spending his own personal wealth for his bid is "not the best way to run a campaign."