NASHVILLE - U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn., said Monday his Republican rivals in the 2010 gubernatorial primary "don't have enough backbone" to stand up to the federal government's "nanny state" intrusions on states' rights.
The Chattanooga congressman said his U.S. House experience makes him best suited among his rivals when it comes to defending Tennesseans on 10th Amendment issues pertaining to states' rights.
"My knowledge of the world, our country, the federal government, the Congress, the executive branch and history make me far and away the best candidate to be governor of our state," the Chattanooga congressman said, asserting he has "scars on my back" from standing up to Washington pressure, including from top GOP leaders, when necessary.
Other candidates "don't have enough experience to know what's going to happen, and they don't have enough backbone to be the kind of leaders that we need going forward," U.S. Rep. Wamp said. "I'm not being critical. I'm just talking about who's ready to lead our state in these very difficult times. I know that my experience is far and away the best."
U.S. Rep. Wamp, who previously has said he would meet federal officials intruding on states' rights issues at the "state border," was responding to questions raised by Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville. The lieutenant governor has poked fun at how a congressman can make a case about defending states' rights.
"He is the federal government," Lt. Gov. Ramsey told reporters recently. "Who's he going to meet (at the state line)? Himself?"
Spokesman for GOP rivals Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam and Shelby County District Attorney Bill Gibbons all took issue with U.S. Rep. Wamp's statements on Monday.
Gibbons spokeswoman Bonny Kinney said that as a prosecutor, "Bill makes tough decisions every day.
"He's not just someone who shows up and casts a vote," she said. "He deals with very complex problems on a daily basis. He makes decision that affects people's lives every day he goes to work."
Ramsey adviser Brad Todd said that while Republicans "are very frustrated" with what the federal government and President Barack Obama are doing, "Tennessee Republicans also know that the big spending didn't start with the Democrats. The truth is that both parties over the past four years have been guilty of too much spending in Washington.
"We need someone at the helm of Tennessee government who is ready to hold the line on spending, hold the line on taxes and promote economic growth," Mr. Todd said. "There's only one person who's proven he can do that from Day One, and that's Lt. Gov. Ramsey."
Haslam campaign manager Mark Cate said that when it comes to fiscal management, business recruitment and creating jobs, "we know that no one matches Mr. Haslam's experience on those fronts. We certainly feel like the experience question will be answered when everybody sees what all (candidates) have done in the past."
During his remarks earlier, Rep. Wamp also talked about job creation needs, saying he was well suited to help the state.
He also said there needs to be "strong governors all across our country to push back against this federal nanny state raining down on us." He noted Gov. Phil Bredesen, a Democrat, is "leading the charge with seven Democratic governors against the national health care plan" because of its costs on states.
U.S. Rep. Wamp's remarks were made to reporters after a closed-door meeting with country and Christian music artists and industry figures. He was accompanied by country music star John Rich, who is hosting a fundraiser for the congressman this Saturday.
"This is the man," said Mr. Rich, noting he agreed with the congressman's positions on the Tenth Amendment. "I've said it before. He's got a backbone. He's got that look in his eye. He's got that fire in his heart. And he's going to do the right thing for us in this state."