MEMPHIS - Republican gubernatorial candidate Zach Wamp says he does not support secession from the union after a news article said he suggested Tennessee and other states may have to consider seceding.
Speaking in Memphis, U.S. Rep. Wamp, R-Tenn., did not deny the accuracy of the quote, but said he doesn't know how the writer of the article posted on National Journal.com was able to "extrapolate" from an interview that he suggested secession could be considered in response to federal mandates like the Obama administration's health care law.
"No one wants even talk of secession; no one wants that," Rep. Wamp said. "But the fact is we have a conflict and we need to resolve the conflict, and we need strong tough governors to step up."
The article quotes Rep. Wamp as saying, "I hope that the American people will go to the ballot box in 2010 and 2012 so that states are not forced to consider separation from this government."
The Chattanooga congressman, who is running for the Republican nomination for governor, also was quoted by Hotline OnCall, part of NationalJournal.com.
In the article, he praised Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who first broached the idea of secession in April 2009, for leading the opposition against health care reform and said he hopes voters "will send people to Washington that will, in 2010 and 2012, strictly adhere" to the U.S. Constitution's proscribed roles for the federal government.
"Patriots like Rick Perry have talked about these issues because the federal government is putting us in an untenable position at the state level," the congressman was quoted saying.
Rep. Wamp's opponents for the GOP nomination - Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey of Blountville - were quick to pounce on the comments.
"I can assure you if I'm elected governor, we won't secede from the union. Period," Mr. Haslam said at a campaign stop in Columbia. "You know, the country had that experiment 150 years ago ... I think most Tennesseans are committed to making America better, not leaving it."
Lt. Gov. Ramsey, in an e-mail to Hotline OnCall, said Rep. Wamp's comments are an example of his "trademark over-the-top temperament and overheated, sometimes crazy rhetoric." He said he expects Tennessee Republicans to "prefer my sincere, but seasoned and experienced conservative approach to leading our state."
During a Labor Day event last year, Rep. Wamp said 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."
In response to a Times Free Press query at the time, he said he was not talking about secession.