NASHVILLE - Hoping to seize on voter discontent with illegal immigration, Republican gubernatorial hopefuls Ron Ramsey and Bill Haslam are airing television ads in which they say they back Arizona-style crackdowns.
The third Republican candidate, U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn., has his own ad, which is scheduled to begin running today.
The spot from Lt. Gov. Ramsey's campaign, which began airing over the weekend, has an announcer saying, "Washington refuses to secure our border ... and now President Obama's filed suit to stop Arizona from enforcing immigration laws. Liberals want amnesty. Even though 10 percent of Tennesseans are out of work.
"It's time to draw the line," the ad continues. "And Ron Ramsey will. As governor, Ron Ramsey will require police to check the citizenship of everyone they arrest. If you want a governor who will stand up to President Obama ... there's only one choice: Ron Ramsey. Conservative for governor."
The Haslam campaign, meanwhile has its own 30-second ad in which Knoxville Mayor Haslam asks: "Is illegal immigration really a problem in Tennessee? You'd better believe it is."
Mr. Haslam goes on to say, "We're all paying a price for the federal government's failure to secure our borders." He cites the Arizona law and says "Tennessee should do the same. Protecting Tennessee jobs. That's what matters now."
The Arizona law requires police to question people they suspect are here illegally and take them into custody if they are unable to prove they are in the United States legally. The U.S. Justice Department has filed suit challenging the law.
In his ad, Rep. Wamp says, "Immigration has made America strong and great. But illegal immigration hurts our schools, hospitals and public safety. We need a law like Arizona has. Firm but fair. If you break the law and you're not here legally, you'll be detained and deported.
"If the federal government won't enforce the law, then as governor I will," Rep. Wamp says in ad. "Because with high unemployment, Tennessee families must come first for every job we have."
Democrat Mike McWherter, who is running for governor, has yet to run any ads in his campaign. But last week he issued a statement saying the Obama administration is "wrong" in opposing the Arizona law.
"Arizona's trying to get a handle on the immigration policy because of Washington's total failure to deal with the real problem," he said. "We need to control the border, crack down on businesses that employ illegal workers and give businesses the tools to quickly and reliably verify a job applicant's status."