Monday, November 10, 2008
- by Rep. Zach Wamp
Before the analysts and pundits completely misread the state of the Republican Party in America, folks need to look at what happened last week in the previously bellwether state of Tennessee. With a strong mother and businesswoman turned political activist at the helm of the Tennessee Republican Party, Chairwoman Robin Smith led the GOP to a historic new majority in the General Assembly.
Under Smith’s leadership and with the help of many quality new candidates like country music singer Terri Lynn Weaver and young entrepreneur Josh Evans, the Tennessee GOP captured 14 non-incumbent seats in the State House and State Senate to win the first constitutional majority in both bodies since Reconstruction. Former House minority leader Jason Mumpower now stands ready to be the Speaker of the house and Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey increased the majority in the State Senate necessary to keep him in that post dramatically changing the future of Tennessee politics as the 2010 census draws near.
This victory comes without any coattails from John McCain. President George W. Bush won Tennessee in 2000 and 2004 and didn’t really impact the outcome of the Democratic majority in the General Assembly. President-elect Obama came within 1 percent of the vote that former presidential candidate John Kerry did in 2004. In a year where Tennessee experienced record voter turnout, this was not a coattails election.
Nor was the Tennessee outcome about race. Two years ago Harold Ford, Jr. ran a very competitive state-wide campaign in Tennessee for the U.S. Senate. Having been in politics in Tennessee for over 25 years, I can assure you that Colin Powell, J.C. Watts or Condoleezza Rice would have carried our state had they run for President.
The winning approach for the Tennessee GOP was recruiting excellent candidates and articulating a consistent message. Standing on conservative principles with a positive platform, Tennessee Republicans have changed the status quo. This election basically rolled out the “good old boy” leadership of our state legislature, replacing it with fresh people. The message from the candidates was one that included limited government and low taxes, but took the position of funding education before all of the other priorities are decided upon. This pro-education message for primary, secondary and higher education funding levels, in addition to the social and values issues important to our voters brought about this stunning result.
While the GOP experiences huge branding challenges in our nation, a state like Tennessee with a simple message, outstanding candidates and hard work at the local level serves as an example to the nation how to win the old fashioned way-earn it.
Rep. Zach Wamp