Two GOP groups attack Haslam on conservative values

Two GOP groups attack Haslam on conservative values

July 17th, 2012 by Andy Sher in Local - Breaking News

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

NASHVILLE - Local GOP organizations in at least two Tennessee counties have adopted proposed resolutions circulating throughout the state that denounce Republican Gov. Bill Haslam for having "demonstrated a consistent lack of conservative values."

The resolution also calls on the state Republican Party's Executive Committee "to take meaningful action against" his administration.

Objectionable policies cited by the Republican parties in Stewart and Carroll counties include Haslam's retention of gays or Democrats as state workers and the hiring by state economic development officials of a Muslim-American lawyer.

Meanwhile, two other Republican parties in Grundy and Williamson counties have passed scaled-down versions of the tea party-fueled resolutions.

These focus on one theme common to the others: Concerns about Sharia law and the state Department of Economic and Community Development having hired Samar Ali, who grew up in Waverly, Tenn. But the Grundy and Williamson resolutions do not attack Haslam personally.

Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney has been busy trying to put out the fires that have been breaking out in local GOP circles in the past few weeks.

"From what I can tell, it's only a very small group of counties across the state," Devaney said. "I've been calling county party chairmen and talking to them."

Devaney said "a lot of this is misinformation" from the Internet "and whether they intend to or not [the resolutions] are distracting from the main purpose."

That would be the Aug. 2 general election for county offices and state and federal primaries as well as the Nov. 6 general elections, Devaney said.

Haslam spokesman David Smith said in a statement that Haslam "continues to focus on attracting and growing Tennessee jobs, improving education and making Tennessee the best managed state in the country."

He said as the governor travels the state to discuss those types of issues, "he appreciates the broad support he's receiving from Tennesseans, and a recent poll shows that 79 percent of conservative Republicans approve of the job he's doing."

The tea party-fueled resolutions have been emailed to county GOP parties across the state. The chairman of the Stewart County Republican Party, Kyle Mallory, said he thinks nine have acted, but at least one, Putnam County, has not at this point and is weighing a narrower resolution.

"I want Bill Haslam to be successful personally, to be a good governor," Mallory said. "But until he has a housecleaning [firing Democrats], he's going to be less than effective."

He wouldn't say whether his goal is to have the GOP's State Executive Committee declare that Haslam is not a "bonafide" Republican.

"It's up to them how they handle it," he said. "The State Executive Committee needs to prod him to clean house."

The Stewart and Carroll county resolutions also take issue with Haslam on gun issues and his failure to sign a legislative resolution that attacks the United Nations Agenda 21 policy on the environment and sustainable development.

All eight "actions or inactions have forced this GOP organization to lose the confidence in our Governor during an election year," the resolution says.

Grundy County Republican Party Chairman Iva Michelle Russell said she and local Republican activists were emailed the resolutions and accompanying documents.

"We're a big fan of Gov. Haslam," Russell said and added, "he was there to provide jobs" through economic development efforts. "We're not criticizing Gov. Halsam on pretty much anything but these Sharia appointment that he made."

Sharia, or Islamic law, influences the legal code in most Muslim countries, according to the nonpartisan Washington, D.C., Council on Foreign Relations.

Activists complain Ali's legal resume includes work as a "Shariah compliant" specialist in international dealings for a Washington-based law firm.

The concern appears that Ali, the Department of Economic Development's international director, is working to make the department or even the state Shariah compliant.

That is not the case, said Clinton Brewer, an assistant commissioner.

"It's just not accurate," he said. "She's certainly not doing any Sharia finance for us ... She has a broad band of experience from her time working overseas and she's eminently qualified to serve the people of our state."

She manages a state export program aimed at helping Tennessee companies find business overseas, Brewer said. She also oversees employees working at the state's international offices in Germany, Canada, Japan and China.

"Ms. Ali is one of us," Brewer said. "She's as Tennessee as they come. She's 30 years old. She grew up in Waverly, was a delegate at Girls State, a 4-H team leader, graduated from Waverly Central High."

She attended Vanderbilt University where she was a member of the Young Republicans as well as student body president.

"She's Tennessee through and through and these accusations just don't hold up," Brewer said.

Contact staff writer Andy Sher at asher@timesfreepress.com or 615-255-0550.