Republican gubernatorial candidate and Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam said Monday he is not making a veiled jab at his primary opponents with one of his recent campaign ads.
The ad, titled "Proven Conservative Leadership," does not specifically mention his two main GOP rivals, U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn., and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville.
"Tennessee is facing a budget crisis, almost a billion and a half dollars," the ad says. "And Washington is making it worse. It's a time for proven conservative leadership. ... Tennessee needs a governor who's done it before."
Mr. Haslam, who was in Chattanooga Monday, said the ad promotes his view that "it matters more than ever" that the next governor be someone who has been in charge of budgets.
Rep. Wamp's campaign struck back at Mr. Haslam's ad, saying it leaves out important information.
"What Mayor Haslam does not tell you is his experience in Knoxville also includes an historic property tax increase -- the largest in the city's history -- that he pushed through after just four months on the job," Wamp spokesman Sam Edelen said in an e-mail.
Lt. Gov. Ramsey said he did not know whether Mr. Haslam's ad partly was aimed at him. He said he agrees the federal budget is "a mess," but that the state budget is not as bad as Mr. Haslam claims.
"We're kind of a model of sanity right now in a nation that's gone crazy," he said. "We're passing balanced budgets."
On Monday, Mr. Haslam toured the Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy, asking questions and learning a bit more about the new charter school.
He spent about an hour on Monday meeting with the employees and students of the Girls Leadership Academy, a middle-high school that opened last summer. The all-girls academy focuses on science, technology, engineering and mathematics using smaller student-to-teacher ratios.
Anita Bordeaux, the school's executive director, said they want Mr. Haslam to have a good sense of the school's mission and vision.
Mr. Haslam predicted the school would succeed in its long-term goals and said that when it comes to education there is not a "one size fits all" approach.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mike McWherter said he generally supports the concept of charter schools.
"I think it's important that, in the interest of ensuring all students are receiving a quality education, that we step back and measure the success of existing charter schools before we press ahead to expand with more," he said in an e-mail statement.
Mr. Ramsey was enthusiastic about charter schools.
"Love 'em," he said. "I'm the only one on the stump that's actually been talking about charter schools."
Rep. Wamp's campaign also praised charter schools.
"Zach Wamp is a strong advocate for charter schools as a way to bring innovation and improvement to K-12 education," Mr. Edelen said.