‘Don’t carry a grudge,” would-be Tennessee governor and Chattanooga native Zach Wamp told a room packed with his supporters Thursday night after calling opponent Bill Haslam to congratulate him on his victory.
Mayor Haslam won with 342,499 votes, while Rep. Wamp had 209,562 and Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey tallied 159,236.
“The sun’s gonna come up again tomorrow,” the outgoing Republican said. “We came up short in this race, but we’re gonna go on.”
About an hour after polls closed in Hamilton County, where his support was strong, a party planned to celebrate the victory Rep. Wamp had been hoping for had turned into a prayer meeting.
The crowd in a ballroom at the Chattanoogan hotel was still gathered around giant television screens, quietly watching political prognosticators’ prediction that Pilot Oil heir Haslam would win, when Rep. Wamp strode into the room around 9 p.m. and went to the podium.
“This has got to be our lowest point,” he told supporters, many of whom had worked hard for him during his 19-month gubernatorial campaign. “But you know, life goes on . . . When God closes one door, He opens another.”
He added, "We thought that we had enough, but we didn't have enough."
Telling the crowd the race has strengthened his already fervent religious beliefs, he asked them to join him in spending a few minutes celebrating God’s goodness.
He said he lost because of being heavily outspent and the “onslaught of negative advertising with those unlimited resources.”
He added, "I also couldn’t control the people’s angst about Washington, D.C. I have a very good record, one that I’m proud of. We really fought the good fight in this country for 15 ½ years. It’s been an incredible privilege for my family to serve the Third Congressional District of Tennessee. But there’s a lot of anxiety and anger about what’s happening in Washington, D.C., and I couldn’t control that. Frankly, at the end of the day, a lot of that rubbed off on me, whether I was responsible for it or not. These things are just realities. … The best candidate doesn’t always win. Here’s my heart, from the heart. Don’t carry any grudges. Keep a short list. Turn the other cheek.”
Supporters, many wearing “We back Zach” T-shirts, listened intently as Rep. Wamp and others testified about their faith and then joined together in singing “How Great Thou Art.”
Fifteen minutes later, the band was playing again and the party resumed as the crowd continued monitoring the big-screen TVs, hoping election results would turn in their favor before the evening was over.
Senator Lamar Alexander said, "The maturity and leadership that Bill Haslam demonstrated in winning the Republican nomination are the qualities Tennesseans need in our next governor. I congratulate Bill, as well as Zach Wamp, Ron Ramsey and Bill Gibbons for their strong campaigns."
Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney said, "Bill Haslam will be elected the next governor of Tennessee. His experience in the private sector and leadership in local government has yielded a solid record of job creation and economic growth. Bill understands the challenges facing our state and has the knowledge, experience, and resolve to tackle those challenges head on. I congratulate Bill on his nomination and am looking forward to seeing him sworn in as Tennessee's next governor.
"I'd also like to congratulate Lt. Gov. Ramsey and Congressman Wamp on an extremely hard-fought race. Both men are dedicated public servants who have demonstrated time and again their commitment to making Tennessee a better place for families and businesses. I commend them both for their hard work on this campaign and extend my sincerest gratitude for the extraordinary leadership they will continue to provide the state of Tennessee."
Republican Governors Association spokesman Tim Murtaugh said, “Bill Haslam emerges as a strong candidate headed toward November, having beaten a pair of qualified office holders in a spirited primary. As Tennessee faces great economic challenges, Bill Haslam will be a strong voice for job creation, fiscal restraint and individual freedom. A successful mayor and businessman, he has the leadership experience necessary to create jobs and grow the economy. We look forward to seeing him elected the next governor of Tennessee.”
In Hamilton County it was:
Bill Haslam 14866 36.62%
Joe Kirkpatrick 92 0.23%
Basil Marceaux, Sr. 281 0.69%
Ron Ramsey 1685 4.15%
Zach Wamp 23639 58.24%
Write-in Votes 27 0.07%
Rep. Wamp also prevailed in Bradley County:
BILL HASLAM 6145
JOE KIRKPATRICK 86
BASIL MARCEAUX, SR. 46
RON RAMSEY 585
ZACH WAMP 9185
The Tennessee Secretary of State office planned to have online election results statewide. But the site crashed with all the election attention.
"Due to the unprecedented volume of traffic on our web site, our servers have crashed," said Blake Fontenay, spokesman for the Division of Elections. "As a result, we will not be able to continue to offer updates on election results throughout the evening.
"This service was something new that we tried this year - and we apologize for the inconvenience. When we receive the final results, we will post them online in a PDF format, as we have in years past."