Commissioner-elect Terry Roland, who helped organize the mass endorsement, which was announced last week by the Wamp campaign, disputes Bunker’s account, contending that the commissioner had consented to join the others in an endorsement but theorized his colleague-to-be had changed his mind after “hearing from some of his donors.”
Bunker, like Roland and Wamp a Republican, insisted that he never made any commitment and intended, at least for the time being, to remain neutral in the governor’s race. “They’re all good guys,” he said, referring to Wamp, Knoxville mayor Bill Haslam, and Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey of Blountville,
Commissioner-elect Heidi Shafer said her name, too, had been used by the Wamp campaign without her permission, but she added that she had resolved to endorse the Chattanooga congressman, anyhow, so didn't object.
Wamp earned public and apparently sincere plaudits from Shelby County commissioners of both parties after his announcement two weeks ago that he would sign a pledge of full support for the Med that the commission had requested of all gubernatorial candidates.
The pledge obliges Wamp, as governor, to allocate to the Med all monies received by the state from the federal government in reimbursement for uncompensated patient care performed by the Med, a trauma center which doubles as a charity hospital.
Such a move would amount to an estimated $50 million additional annually for the Med — enough, it is generally conceded, to resolve all the beleaguered hospital’s recurrent financial woes.
No other candidate — not Haslam nor Ramsey nor Democrat Mike McWherter of Jackson — had been willing to make such a firm declaration of guaranteed support for the Med.
The six commission names circulated by the Wamp campaign last week as endorsers of the congressman— besides Bunker, Shafer, and Roland (the latter a declared member of Wamp’s campaign team) — were commission chair Joyce Avery, Commissioner Mike Ritz, and Commissioner-elect Chris Thomas.
Wamp himself was in Shelby County on Wednesday for a joint appearance, along with rivals Haslam and Ramsey, at a luncheon of rhe Republican Women of Purpose in Collierville. Asked about the endorsement imbroglio involving Bunker and Shafer, the congressman seemed genuinely surprised.
"I don't doubt that they've come under a lot of pressure from people trying to get them to take it back," Wamp said. "But I'm convnced that all the endorsements were genuine and freely offered." He said he had personally talked with Shafer and had been assured of her desire to be counted a public supporter.
Earlier,in his address to the luncheon audience, Wamp had proudly cited the six commission endorsements as a response to his "Memphis Matters" initiative.