Haslam cites diverse support

Haslam cites diverse support

September 24th, 2010 by Andy Sher in Politics State

NASHVILLE - Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Haslam has released a list of 105 Democratic and independent "leaders" who are supporting his bid over Democrat Mike McWherter.

Among them are former Chattanooga Mayor Jon Kinsey, a Democrat whose development company has done business with the city of Knoxville, where Haslam is mayor.

Besides Kinsey, other Chattanooga Democrats or independents backing Haslam are attorney Lee Davis and Chattanooga-based BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee President Vicky Gregg. The state contracts with BlueCross to provide a large amount of its health care insurance coverage.

Statewide, those on the list released Thursday include at least five former Cabinet-level officials in the administration of Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen, who has endorsed McWherter. Among those is just-departed Revenue Commissioner Reagan Farr and his predecessor, Loren Chumley, and Will Pinkston, a former senior Bredesen adviser who helped run Bredesen's 2006 campaign.

Several Democrats who lobby the state are on it, too, as is former Tennessee Valley Authority Chairman Craven Crowell, a one-time chief of staff to former U.S. Sen. Jim Sasser, D-Tenn.

Haslam, who was attacked for being a moderate during the GOP primary, said he "is grateful for the Democrats and independents who have voiced their public support for me, because I've always worked to build a broad consensus when governing."

McWherter's office had no comment. He is trailing in recent public polls.

Earlier in the day, Bredesen told reporters he has asked current administration members to stay out of the contest. But as for those who have left, he said he has "no objection to them playing whatever role they think is appropriate."

Citing the support he garnered in his 2002 and 2006 campaigns, Bredesen said, "Tennessee is a state where if you're going to be elected you have to have your own party and you've got to also reach deeply into independents and people from the other party."

Crowell, who came under frequent fire from Republicans when he headed TVA, said that, "regardless of your party affiliation, the fact is Bill Haslam is the leader that Tennessee needs now."

Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney gloated over Haslam's list, saying in a news release that "If Mike McWherter can't seal the deal with key members of his own party, how can anyone expect him to attract the independent voters who are important to winning elections in Tennessee?"

The other former members of Bredesen's administration who are endorsing Haslam are Betsy Child, a one-time environment and conservation commissioner; and former Education Commissioner Lana Seviers.

Bredesen is barred from seeking a third term. The election is Nov. 2.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Contact Andy Sher at asher@timesfreepress.com or 615-255-0550.