Tennessee needs a governor willing to stand at the state line and guard against federal incursions in areas ranging from guns to environmental enforcement, Republican gubernatorial hopeful Zach Wamp said Monday.
"Part of the reason I'm running for governor is because states are going to need to declare their sovereignty, stick together with other governors to protect freedom in our states and be willing to meet the federal government at the state line whether it's environmental regulations, the speed limit, gun laws, whatever the federal government's doing that's onerous," the Chattanooga congressman said.
States "need to stand up ... and say, 'No - we're going to meet you at the state line and negotiate with you, but you're not going to run all over us anymore," U.S. Rep. Wamp said. "We need tough strong governors who will stand up against the federal government."
Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester later charged U.S. Rep. Wamp "is pandering to the extreme right and that at the end of the day, if he is the nominee, average Tennesseans won't ascribe to his viewpoint in any shape or fashion."
U.S. Rep. Wamp's comments came in remarks to reporters shortly before he spoke to hundreds of supporters attending the seven-term lawmaker's free, annual Labor Day picnic. The 5 to 7 p.m. event, held at the farm of former Hamilton County Commission Chairman Harold Coker and wife, Lil, in Tyner, attracted an estimated 1,500 friends and supporters by 6 p.m., a campaign spokesman said. Some 2,000 people indicated they intended to come, supporters said.
Earlier, U.S. Rep. Wamp said President Barack Obama needs to "push the restart button" on health care reform and press for incremental change because "we're not ready for a government takeover of our health care system or any part of it because we know that'll be the part that will grow."
He said the opposition to President Obama that flared during the August recess "is the strangest situation I've seen where you've had this much of a negative reaction this early in an administration." The Tea Party movement of protest against the president, U.S. Rep. Wamp said, "is a true grass-roots movement against Washington, and Washington is more and more out of touch with the American people."
Citing the example of Texas Gov. Rick Perry, U.S. Rep. Wamp said "we need two dozen governors that will stand together and say the 10th Amendment has been run over too long. We're going to protect freedom in our states and we don't want the federal government running all over us."
The 10th Amendment states the principle of federalism by declaring powers not granted to the federal government or prohibited to states are reserved to the states or the people. Texas Gov. Perry last spring touched off a flap when he told Tea Party protesters, who shouted out calls for secession, that "there's a lot of different scenarios. We've got a great union. There's absolutely no reason to dissolve it. But if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, you know, who knows what might come out of that."
U.S. Rep. Wamp said he was not talking about secession.
Democratic Chairman Forrester said the congressman's remarks seem like "plain and simple grandstanding and sort of reminiscent to the civil rights battles of George Wallace and others who refused to desegregate public schools, the sort of behavior for a Tennessee governor that would be inexcusable."
During the event, supporters chowed down on barbecue and sipped on water, tea or lemonade. U.S. Rep. Wamp eyed a brewing thunderstorm and raced through his comments to supporters, noting, "I'm going to move fast. If I get struck by lightening, I did it with ... love in my heart and a smile on my face."
Larry Gatlin, a Grammy Award winner who is part of the Gatlin Brothers, was Rep. Wamp's musical guest. Nashville-based conservative radio talk show host Steve Gill was the event's emcee.
Chattanoogan Stefanie Wittler, who recently was crowned Miss Tennessee, performed the National Anthem.
Many in the crowd were from Chattanooga and other parts of Southeast Tennessee. But a bus from Middle Tennessee's Williamson County brought some 60 supporters to the event.
"The grass-roots are really coming out," said businessman Corky Coker, Mr. Wamp's Hamilton County finance committee chairman whose family hosted the event.
Mr. Coker said the campaign had received 2,020 responses to the event, the same figure used in Wamp's 2020 slogan, referring to the campaign's 20/20 Vision of what Tennesseans want the state to become between now and the year 2020.
Campaign officials said more than 1,500 had arrived at the free event by 6 p.m. before the thunderstorm erupted, sending many to their cars.
U.S. Rep. Wamp said the turnout was "really special."
"I'm excited," he said. "We've got 10 months until people start voting. But I've got a very, very good chance of being the first governor from Southeast Tennessee in 105 years."
Rep. Wamp, 51, is one of four candidates with name recognition seeking the GOP gubernatorial nomination next August. Also running in the primary are Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam and Shelby County District Attorney Bill Gibbons.