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Gubernatorial Candidates Cammack and Wamp Are Different Strokers


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Before it's all over -- more than a year and a half from now -- the 2010 gubernatorial race will have exposed a number of different personalities to the view of Tennessee voters. But none so different -- at least among mainstream candidates -- as Democrat Ward Cammack and Republican Zach Wamp.

Nashvillian Cammack and Chattanoogan Wamp were not alone in making local appearances last week. Along with Wamp, two other Republican hopefuls – District Attorney General Bill Gibbons of Memphis and Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam – were on the bill at the Shelby County GOP's annual Lincoln Day Dinner at the University of Memphia-area Holiday Inn on Central.

But Cammack and Wamp, mindful of their status as Unknown Quantities in Memphis and Shelby County, were at pains to make themselves available for private interviews. And, while there was some degree of overlap between them – both, for example, emphasize recruiting new industry and oppose a state income tax as contrary to the competitive interests of Tennessee – each said something unexpected that was sure to distinguish them from their rivals.

'We'be obfuscated change for so long on so many different fronts'

There won't be many other candidates of either party who would second Cammack, a recently retired veteran of the investment finance world, in saying this: “We're hearing a lot of argument about 'socialism.' The socialism we're seeing, so-called., is really just cleaning up the mess made by freemarkets, so-called. 'Free markets' is really a misnomer. Markets are not entirely efficient. They probe in various directions until they find they can't go any further.”

And, while other Democratic candidates will, like Cammack, profess themselves to be pro-choice on abortion, few would go on to endorse, as he does, the concept of adoption rights for gay parents. “We've got to move the line of adoption as far forward as we possibly can. We have to recognize that people have different lifestyles, but that does not keep them from being capable, loving parents.”

Cammack sees many of today's economic problems – those of the slumping automobile and housing industries, for example -- as stemming from having converted all businesses into “finance industries” rather than focusing on innovation and technological change. Though he prefers to use terms like “energy grid” rather than the current nonce-word“green,” he proposes to deal with problems of industry and business from the standpoint of reducing costs and respecting the reality of “finite resources.”

“We've obfuscated change for so long on so many fronts,” says Cammack, who proposes that Tennessee set out to lead the nation on exploring the uses of renewable energy. Cammack, who grew up Republican and has taken some flak of late from Democratic Party purists for having contributed to GOP candidates in the past, unabashedly calls himself a “convert” who can bring back into the Democratic fold “those who have left.”

'The states need to start learning to say no to Washington'

As for Wamp, who represents the state's 3rd District in the U.S. House of Representatives, the Chattanoogan owns impeccable conservative credentials but boasts of having been sent “to the woodshed” by former House majority leader Tom DeLay of Texas on grounds of collaborating with Democrats on issues like campaign finance reform, a patients' bill of rights, and the federal inheritance tax.

Like most Republicans, Wamp will call the latter revenue source “the death tax,” but he refers to the state equivalent by its right name and, pointing out that the Tennessee inheritence tax nets the state some $93 million annually, wonders if it might not continue to be a useful revenue tool.

He notes, too, that the state gasoline tax has “never been indexed.” That, he says, would be “a reasonable thing.” – to allow a fluctuating tax rate in accordance with rising or falling prices rather than assessing a fixed per-gallon figure, as at present. And he is aware, of course, than an opponent might accuse him of the un-Republican sin of raising taxes for merely talking about such a change.

Where Wamp sounds most different from other candidates, though, is on issues like state sovereignty and immigration.

The federal government is “upside down,” revenue-wise, he says. Consequently, “The states need to start learning to say no to Washington, and we're not going to give you our money. We're going to have to almost establish the sovereignty of the state of Tennessee under the 10th amendment. We're going to do XYZ and we want to go forward more on our own. We're going to raise the money for it, and we don't want your help, and we don't want your mandates.”

Wamp would attempt to “close our borders” to illegal immigrants. How? By employing the Department of Homeland Security's E-Verify system to identify illegals and to “make sure illegal immigrant parents do not have a job.” That would ultimately spare the state the expense of providing education and health care to such migrants.

Polar opposites

In many ways, of course, Wamp and Cammack are polar opposites, reflecting the distinctions between their parties.Wamp rests his case, finally, on five issues: “life,protection of life; the marriage of man and woman; gun rights, the 2nd amendment.; taxes; and immigration.” Cammack observes dispassionately (and somewhat ambiguously), “Moral entitlement doesn't get anybody very far.”

Though each man's views might prove offensive to members of the opposite party – or even to some within their own parties – each is willing to operate on the edge of ideology. And that's one way of enlarging the political dialogue in a time when change of one sort or another clearly beckons.

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