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Haslam in crossfire; Bredesen says state is a star

Republican Bill Haslam addresses a Tennessee Business Roundtable education summit Tuesday in Nashville.
Republican Bill Haslam addresses a Tennessee Business Roundtable education summit Tuesday in Nashville.

A midweek political noteload:

The smoke still hadn't settled on The Gun Issue in the governor's race Tuesday, Gov. Phil Bredesen said the state is being treated like a "superstar" in education and Republican congressional candidate Scott DesJarlais was scheduled to host one of Washington's rising stars Wednesday in Chattanooga.

Election Day is Nov. 2.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mike McWherter spent time Tuesday explaining his business policy for workers with guns. McWherter is enjoying something of an advantage on the issue simply because Republican Bill Haslam finds himself tangled up in a controversy that's not entirely of his making.

Haslam says gun owners should be able to have their weapons in their cars in their employers' parking lots. The Associated Press reported Tuesday that Pilot Corp., the Haslam family business, does not allow its 20,000 employees to have weapons on company property. Haslam, former president of the company, said Monday he was unaware of what the company's policy is.

The revelation that Pilot forbids what Haslam wants to allow would appear on one hand to be a contradiction between his public stand and his business's practice, but it could also be considered proof that Haslam is not tied closely to Pilot's business decisions.

Nevertheless, details on guns continue to be a focus in the waning days of the campaign, since Haslam stirred reaction at a recent meeting with the Tennessee Firearms Association by saying if the legislature passed a bill doing away with gun-carry permits he would sign the bill.

But he immediately amended that remark by saying he does not personally advocate such legislation, plus he doesn't think the legislature would pass such a measure anyway.

McWherter, who owns a beer distributorship, said Tuesday he lets his workers have guns in their vehicles outside the building.

"That's always been my policy in my business," McWherter said. "I have a lot of people who work there who are avid hunters. We have a policy that they can't bring them into the building, but if they want to bring them onto the parking lot, leave them locked up there, that's fine.

"Because it's just not practical to think you're going to go duck hunting in the morning, drive home, drop off your gun, come back to the office and be there on time. So we've always had a practical policy about that."

Basically, Haslam's positions on gun issues have been consistent, although he says he misunderstood a question on Monday about employers, and he and McWherter agree on the parking lot issue. But the attention to precisely what Haslam believes on guns would probably follow him into office if he is elected. Haslam has been under watch by gun advocates since the primary began. . .

. . . Bredesen has basked in the glow of the state's Race to the Top victory worth $501 million, and he's still crowing about it for the state, including telling the Tennessee Business Rountable's Complete College Tennessee Summit on Tuesday that Tennessee is considered a "superstar" by people outside the state.

Bredesen told the group at the Loew's Vanderbilt Hotel the state got high marks when he went to New York recently for an education confab with MSNBC.

After his speech, Bredesen said he was pleasantly surprised.

"I was amazed at the number of people who knew exactly what was going on in Tennessee and the high regard in which they held it," Bredesen said. "I sat at dinner with Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York, who I wasn't sure knew where Tennessee was. And he knew all about what we had done and had actually put some personal money, as it turned out, into one of the foundations that helped us to get this.

"I was very pleased that the work going on here is really getting people's attention around the country, and I think that's great for Tennessee." . . .

. . . Bredesen says he has learned something about the publishing world with his new book, Fresh Medicine: How To Fix, Reform and Build a Sustainable Health Care System.

"One of the things I've discovered as a new author is that lots more people talk about your book than have actually read it," he said. But he said the reaction so far has been "pretty positive."

Bredesen seems to have no illusions that he -- or anyone else -- has found a quick remedy for the health care system. He says the issue isn't going away anytime soon.

"The fact that reform was passed, whatever you think of it, it was passed with these very partisan lines," he said. "No Republicans voted for it. I think it just guarantees that it's going to be talked about in political campaigns and an issue for a long time to come.

"That's very different from what happened with Medicare and Social Security that were contentious at the time, but in the end they passed with half the Republicans voting for it, which takes it off the table as a political issue."

Bredesen said he sees the book as part of a need for more discussion on the issue.

"The basic thing I was trying to do is say, 'Look, we need other voices,'" he said. "Congressional staffers are fine, and they're smart people. They've got a point of view. These advocacy groups that are so important to this have a point of view. This is a sixth of the economy. It's a big set of changes.

"I just think you need some voices from other people who are out in the country and have got some different kinds of experience, and if this book provides one of those points maybe it induces some others to step forward to say, 'Well, I don't necessarily agree with what Phil did here, specifically on this, but let me tell you what my take on it is.' I think that is a very healthy thing. This is not over yet."

Bredesen also had a recent op-ed column published in the Wall Street Journal on the issue. . . .

. . . McWherter continues to sing the praises of a job creation program in Illinois, and he was asked Tuesday why other states don't seem to be as inspired by Illinois as he is.

"I can't speak for them," he said. "It's obvious what they've done in Illinois. I think you'll see other states follow their lead."

McWherter proposes a tax break for job creation, similar to an Illinois plan. The Illinois program gives a $2,500 tax credit for a new job that pays at least $25,000 a year, and the worker has to stay on the payroll for 12 months.

McWherter said he began following the proposal in the Illinois legislature last year. McWherter announced his plans for a tax break when he formally announced his run for governor on April 1. While Illinois' plan applies to its payroll tax, which Tennessee does not have, McWherter has said it could apply in Tennessee to the franchise and excise taxes. . . .

. . . DesJarlais, who is attempting to unseat U.S. Rep. Lincoln Davis in the 4th District, will host Republican Whip Eric Cantor of Virginia at an event Wednesday in Chattanooga. They will be at the Mountain City Club downtown.

DesJarlais has emerged as a threat to Davis in a fierce battle that has included attack ads by Davis digging into a DesJarlais divorce years ago.

CQ Politics, the Cook Political Report and the Rothenberg Political Report call the 4th District race a toss-up. Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball still has the district leaning to Davis. . . .

. . . 5th District U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, Democrat from Nashville, is touting endorsements from The City Paper and the Green Hills News. He earlier received the endorsement of The Tennessean in Nashville.

"This is only the second time in 20 years that the Green Hills News has endorsed political candidates, and I am humbled by the honor," Cooper said in a formal statement.

Cooper's Republican opponent is David Hall, who surprised many people by winning the primary in a crowded field. Cooper is favored. . .

. . .Republicans need to pick up 39 seats on Nov. 2 to gain majority status in the House. The Cook Political Report on Tuesday predicted Republicans will gain 48-60 seats.


  • mickeywhite 4 years ago

    See, it is ok for PRIVATE business’ to do this, it is not ok for the Government to do this to PRIVATE business.
    Keep concealed carry, and also pass Open Carry and also pass Government parking lots are allowed to have Guns in Cars! If it is government or ‘public’, then allow! Private, it is up to the OWNER.

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