NASHVILLE - Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, announced Thursday that he is forming an exploratory committee to "test the waters" for a governor's race in 2010.
His news release says that, as the "second highest elected official in Tennessee, an official entrance into the race would vault Lt. Governor Ramsey to the front of the pack in the Republican primary."
Lt. Gov. Ramsey, who as Senate speaker carries the title of lieutenant governor, said in the release that "after prayerful consideration with my family, I have formed an exploratory committee to talk to people across the state about running for governor in 2010.
"I believe the next governor will have to have a proven record of bringing good jobs to Tennessee and a record of managing the state budget with conservative principles," he said.
His GOP primary rivals include U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn., who is from Chattanooga.
Fellow Chattanoogan Corky Coker, a top Wamp adviser who is involved in the candidate's fundraising effort, called Lt. Gov. Ramsey a "great leader" and "tremendous lieutenant governor, and I think it's really the smart thing for him to do to consider staying there."
He said the congressman remains committed to running for governor.
"The most important thing I have to say is, prayerfully and with the future of the state of Tennessee and how we can do better, Zach is running for governor and full steam ahead," Mr. Coker said.
The 53-year-old Ramsey is touting his work in securing the GOP Senate majority as the "biggest Republican achievement in state politics in the last 15 years."
The Blountville businessman and his wife, Sindy, run a successful real estate and auction business in upper East Tennessee. According to the exploratory committee, he has been a "leading voice for pro-growth policies in the legislature."
He said he intends to tour the state and build support for his bid before launching his campaign formally.
Republican political operative Brad Todd is assisting the Ramsey effort.
Knoxville Mayor Jim Haslam is also running for GOP nomination. Democrats running include Nashville businessman and millionaire Ward Camack and former state Rep. Kim McMillan of Clarksville.
State Sen. Andy Berke, D-Chattanooga, is considering a bid as is former Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Doug Horne, another millionaire, and Dredsen businessman Mike McWherter, son of former Gov. Ned McWherter.
State Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle of Memphis is weighing a race, and so is state Senate Democratic Caucus Chairman Roy Herron of Dresden.