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NASHVILLE - Newly elected Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney said today he will take no sides in the GOP's 2010 gubernatorial primary.

"I have no dog in the hunt," Mr. Devaney, of Lookout Mountain, said following a narrow 28-25 state GOP Executive Committee victory over fellow Lookout Mountain resident Oscar Brock.

Mr. Devaney said, "I just want to support the Republican nominee. My only agenda again is to win state legislative races and help the governor's candidate where we can."

He replaces Robin Smith of Hixson as chairman. Mrs. Smith is exploring running for the Republican nomination in Tennessee's 3rd Congressional District.

On Friday, an e-mail in support of Mr. Brock, written by National Republican Committeeman John Ryder and former U.S. Rep. Van Hilleary, R-Tenn., appeared to imply Mr. Brock might be more objective than rivals Mr. Devaney and state Rep. Eric Swafford, R-Pikeville, when it comes to the GOP gubernatorial primary.

"We must have a chairman who will be an unbiased, honest broker with our state party's resources during the upcoming primary elections," the e-mail said. "This will be especially true for what will no doubt be a hard fought Republican Primary for governor next year."

The e-mail said Mr. Brock would "absolutely be that chairman on whom we can count to be neutral in all primaries, but ferocious in the general election for our Republican nominees to all offices."

Mr. Devaney, a former state GOP executive director, is currently state director for U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.

One of the GOP gubernatorial candidates, Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam, is the brother of Jim Haslam II, who was Sen. Corker's college roommate and served at the senator's 2006 campaign finance chairman. Sen. Corker has maintained he is taking no sides in the contest.

On another front, Mr. Devaney expressed openness to talking with state House Speaker Kent Williams of Elizabethton.

Mrs. Smith has barred Rep. Williams, a Republican, from running for re-election to the House as a Republican next year after he broke ranks with fellow Republicans and added his vote to all 49 Democrats to become speaker in January.

Mrs. Smith invoked a party rule to say Speaker Williams was no longer a "bona fide" Republican.

"Our bylaws have consequences," Mr. Devaney noted when asked about Speaker Williams. "Nothing has come to us yet. We'll have to look at that when it comes. I do think that we do have an obligation to speak to Speaker Williams if he comes to us, but right now that's just hypothetical."

The Knoxville News Sentinel quoted Mayor Haslam saying Speaker Williams should be able to run for re-election as a Republican.

"While I didn't like the whole process involved in his selection, I don't think throwing someone out of the party is the answer," the mayor was quoted saying.

A Tri-Cities television station last week reported U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn., a Chattanoogan running for the 2010 GOP gubernatorial nomination, visited Rep. Williams' restaurant "to express his support" for the speaker.

The e-mail from Mr. Ryder and Mr. Hilleary is one of several that flew during the course of the campaign. After assertions were made by one GOP executive committee that the state party under Mrs. Smith was essentially broke, Executive Committee member and the GOP's finance committee chairman, Frank Colvett, accused "supporters of Chris Devaney" of having "taken to questioning Robin's management of the party."

Mr. Colvett defended Mrs. Smith's actions, as did Executive Director Mark Winslow in a letter of his own.

Mr. Brock, meanwhile, found himself declaring he had not made himself clear enough when discussing his views about Speaker Williams.

Mr. Brock told the AP he was "not in the business of throwing anybody out of the party" and, according to the AP, expressed openness to reinstating him.

He later issued a statement saying, "I am manifestly opposed to allowing Kent Williams to run as a Republican next year. Williams used deception to gain power. He abused the public trust."

Following Saturday's election, Mr. Brock said he didn't think the AP story had "any effect whatsoever" in his contest.

He said Mr. Devaney made a "very compelling case" to other executive committee members.

"I think he's going to be an effective chairman," Mr. Brock said.

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