The Republican governor's race suddenly came alive Wednesday with Ron Ramsey airing his first TV ad and candidates sniping at each other over which one is most like a big-spending, tax-happy Washington politician.
Ramsey's 30-second ad shows the Senate speaker climbing the stairs inside the Capitol as he complains about the "Washington way" of governance.
"The Tennessee way says tighten your belts, be conservative, live within your means. If you'll hang tough with me, we'll keep running our state the Tennessee way," Ramsey says in the spot, adding as he stomps his cowboy boot: "If those guys in Washington don't like it, well, we'll just give 'em the boot."
Congressman Zach Wamp decided the ad was aimed at him as the only one of Ramsey's rivals who works in Washington, and his campaign fired back in a statement:
“Ron Ramsey obviously is trying to rewrite history. The ad fails to mention that state spending has nearly tripled since he joined the legislature, from $11 billion to $29 billion a year, and state government has added more than 10,000 workers to the payroll on his watch.
“Let's be clear. When Sen. Ramsey had a chance to slow the runaway growth of state government, he voted to pass the largest tax increase in Tennessee history, and even flirted with a new state income tax along the way. Now that may be Ron Ramsey's way, but it's the wrong way for Tennessee taxpayers.”
Also on Wednesday, the third candidate in the GOP primary, Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam, put out an innocuous news release promising to conduct "a top-to-bottom review" of state government spending. Ramsey's campaign went on the attack then, too.
“It’s troubling that Mayor Haslam is simply delegating the crucial job of cutting waste to a task force," campaign spokeswoman Rachel Taylor said. "Assigning a task force and passing the buck is the Washington way, just look at Obama’s debt commission. Tennessee doesn’t need a commission or a task force to reduce the size of government, we need a governor who has experience in state government, knows the budget, and can do the job on his very first day. Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey is the only candidate in this race with the experience and the leadership skills to enable him to meet this task head-on.”