Zach Wamp has decided to wage an improbable populist campaign for the Republican nomination for governor--he's running as an underfunded underdog fighting to save the GOP from those evil oil and drug companies. Not coincidentally, two of his main rivals are tied to those industries. Bill Haslam's family founded Pilot Oil and Ron Ramsey's sugar daddy is John Gregory of King Pharmaceuticals.
Here's the feisty Wamp telling Capitol reporters this morning that his campaign will go after "ordinary, taxpaying wagon-pulling families." (The wagon-pulling family vote must be a new political demographic of which we are unaware, kind of like soccer moms a few years ago.)
The question is, who is our standard bearer for Republicans? If that standard bearer is someone who connects with ordinary taxpaying, wagon-pulling families, We got a chance to grow this party. If that is somebody who narrows our appeal to one of those elite special interests, we're going to go backwards. We actually will narrow our appeal. That's what I'm talking about, and I don't mean that in an ugly way. I love profit if it's philanthropic responsibly turned back into good things for good people. I'm a free enterpriser. And I'm not going to get into class war but this is about who is our party going to nominate for the highest office in our state and it ought to be somebody who can appeal to our working families and not a very narrow group of people.
Wamp also revealed that, if elected governor, he would embark on an ambitious program to force every child in Tennessee to exercise: "Sweat is the best anti-depressant on earth."
More Wampisms after the jump.
: If you're going to run a populist campaign, will you limit your own special-interest contributions? Wamp
: I'm going to be so grossly outspent. I better be very careful to limit my campaign dollars. Let me tell you I better be real careful on any limits because I'm going to be grossly outspent. I'm in this to win. This is not a hobby for me. This is not something that they found for me to do. This is a passion. This is a calling, and I'm going to fight with every ounce of my energy to win this nomination and to take our state forward.Q:
What exactly do you have against Big Oil and drug companies?Wamp
: He [Haslam] is just asking to be our party's standard bearer and I just think that's problematic. Whether it's Wall Street, whether it's pharmaceuticals, it's frankly just the biggest of business where our party has gotten a rap for being in bed with these special interests. Those people will always be in good shape politically because it doesn't matter who's in power. It's middle-class, small business working families that need leadership. They need representation at every level. I'm going to make that compelling case. And let me tell the grassroots love it. And frankly, a lot of them are saying to me, 'You go get 'em man,' and that's what this is going to be all about.Q
: Are you worried that Haslam will pay for his campaign out of his own pocket?Wamp:
People talk about the money chase and y'all are going to cover the horse race, but the fact is they can have a family meeting and raise three times as much money as I'm going to raise over the entire course of this primary, which is $5 million. I think I can raise $5 million and I'm well on my way. I don't have a Nantucket Club that I can call on for financing, but I've got a real colorful group of Tennesseans who believe in me. And some of them have resources and we're going to be able to compete at a reasonable level, but not an outrageous level. I would also say this, there's a point of diminishing returns for super wealthy candidates, that the more you spend the more ridiculous it gets. There will be a point where they will say, 'Are we over the top?'Q
: Are you going to start wearing a coonskin cap and walking around with a musket?Wamp:
This is going to be a populist, firebrand, work-for-it kind of campaign. And I gotta go.