Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey sought Thursday to quash speculation that he might try to unseat Gov. Bill Haslam in 2014 and accused the news media of exaggerating any differences between the two.
Ramsey, a Tea Party Republican who lost to Haslam in their party’s gubernatorial primary last summer, is butting heads with the governor on the most controversial issues before the legislature. That has led to talk that he might run against his old foe again.
Asked by reporters whether he would run for governor in 2014, Ramsey said, “No. Period. Under no circumstances. It’s not even on my radar screen. No. I mean, I had a wonderful experience running for governor in 2010. If anything, Governor Haslam and I became better friends through that process. I cannot see any circumstance where I’d run for governor again.”
Among the points of disagreement between Haslam and Ramsey are collective bargaining for teachers, tort reform and election of the state attorney general and Supreme Court judges. Ramsey generally takes a more conservative, harder line.
In addition, Ramsey seemingly has tried to upstage the new governor. Only last week, he announced the creation of a website to give Tennesseans a venue to vent their frustration over government red tape. Haslam has vowed to rid the state of burdensome business regulations.
Ramsey conceded Haslam expressed concerns about the website to the Senate speaker before the announcement.
“I guess the only concern he had at all was legitimate in the fact that those departments where we’re going to cut the red tape are now his departments,” Ramsey said. “But I explained to him that I think this is the perfect time to do it because he hasn’t put his stamp on those departments yet, and this is something on which we can work in unison to make sure we can accomplish his goal of cutting red tape.”
Ramsey said reporters are “driving that wedge” between Republican Party factions.
“There’s nothing wrong with it. That’s what your job is,” he said. “The press in general, now that there’s a solid majority in both houses, the story has to be driving that wedge. If there were no disagreements, the story would be that the Republicans were walking in lockstep like stormtroopers or something like that. The story’s got to be either way. Either we’re in lockstep or we’re not. And that’s fine. I could not have a better relationship with the governor than I do.”