Gubernatorial candidates debate at Gatlinburg tea party

By: Sara Shookman Email
By: Sara Shookman Email

GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WVLT) -- Tea party participants in Gatlinburg got a close up look at seven candidates for our state’s highest office.

They aren't Republicans, Democrats or Independents. They're just concerned.
“We've come at it, 'The government's getting too big, are you going to protect us as a Tennessee state resident?’” said Leah Moore of Greeneville.

Tea partiers listened closely as gubernatorial hopefuls debated on stage Sunday. It's the issues that these voters say will earn their vote -- like jobs.

“We can grow our state's economy based on the strengths of limited governments. No state income tax. Right to work status. Pro-free enterprise,” said Republican candidate Congressman Zach Wamp, who currently represents Tennessee’s 3rd District.

“Our only choice is to shrink the size of the state government,” said Republican candidate Bill Haslam, mayor of Knoxville.

The four Republicans and three Independents discussed the Constitution.

“We've got to quit turning our back on God. We've got to quit turning our back on the constitution, and we can make the changes that we need,” said Dr. Brandon Dodds of Newburn, an Independent.
“Anyone who puts their hand on a bible and swears an oath to support and defend the Constitution, and doesn't do it is guilty of one of two things. Ignorance or treason,” said Republican candidate Joe Kirkpatrick of Nashville.

And whom they'll work to represent. “I'll take Democrat governors if they think like us, or Independents for that matter, to start pushing back on federal government and saying enough is enough,” said Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, another Republican candidate.

"But I'm tired of giving money to the King. I do intend to damage the revenue of the King,” said Samuel Duck, an Independent.

“The laws for illegal aliens. Maybe a little bit tougher. Maybe there is less incentive to come here,” said Bayron Binkley, an Independent candidate.

Immigration, education and health care reform were all hot topics. Some said a clear winner never emerged, but many said they'll support one of these men to the finish.

“It's a strong field, and I don't think there's a question that one of those people up there is going to be governor,” said voter Glen Ellington of Jefferson City.

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