AOL News has a new home! The Huffington Post.Click here to visit the new home of Politics Daily!
Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam handily won the Republican nomination for governor of Tennessee on Thursday, beating two more conservative opponents in a primary that also decided the candidates for three U.S. House seats that the GOP believes it is poised to win.
With less than five percent of the votes counted, The Associated Press called the race for Haslam, who led second-place Rep. Zack Wamp 52 to 27 percent. Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey ran third in the battle for the nomination to replace two-term Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen, who is barred by term limits from running again.
Haslam advances to the general election, where he will take on Democratic beer businessman Mike McWherter, the son of former Gov. Ned McWherter.
"Haslam emerges as a strong candidate headed toward November, having beaten a pair of qualified office holders in a spirited primary," Republican Governors Association spokesman Tim Murtaugh said in a statement obtained by Nashville's Tennessean.
Ramsey and Wamp ran to the right of Haslam, each accusing the centrist mayor of not being conservative enough.
Haslam, who outraised and outspent his competitors during the 19-month campaign, deflected attacks that referred to him as an "oil billionaire" while touting his experience as executive of Tennessee's third-largest city and as head of his family's company, the Pilot truck stop chain.
Ramsey's candidacy hit some trouble late last month when he questioned whether Islam is a "cult." And Wamp came under criticism when he seemed to suggest during an interview that he would support secession if the new federal health care law wasn't changed, Politico reported.
Tennessee's GOP Chairman Chris Devaney said the party will have no trouble uniting for the general election after a hard-fought primary.
"Certainly, the tone of some has gotten fairly intense, but at the end of the day, all of these candidates are professionals and they're respected in their communities, and they understand what's at stake for the country and for our state, and they're going to get behind the nominee," said Devaney.
Among the lesser known Republican candidates in the race was retired Marine Basil Marceaux, who became an Internet star when WSMV-TV in Nashville gave him equal time to lay out his platform on air. The video, in which he referred to himself as "Basil Marceaux.com," became a YouTube sensation and led to an appearance on Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report." He'd registered only 784 votes by the time the AP declared Haslam the winner, according to The Hill.
In other big Volunteer State races Thursday, three U.S. House seats were up for grabs as incumbents step aside.
A closely-watched battle was in Western Tennessee, where Democratic Rep. John Tanner is retiring after 11 terms. Considered a potential pickup for Republicans, the winner in the GOP primary was a gospel-singing farmer from Frog Jump named Stephen Fincher, The Washington Post reported. Fincher beat physician Ron Kirkland and Shelby County Commissioner George Flinn, also a doctor, who both poured their own money into a race that featured nasty attack ads in recent weeks. State Sen. Roy Herron, who has a substantial campaign war chest, will try to hold the seat for Democrats in November.
In the Chattanooga-based 3rd District, where Wamp gave up his position after 14 years to run for governor, Republican Chuck Fleischmann squeaked by Club for Growth candidate Robin Smith in a crowded GOP primary, the Post said.
It was a close one in the 6th District, in north-central Tennessee, where Democratic Rep. Bart Gordon is retiring. State Sen. Diane Black, who was endorsed by Mitt Romney, beat Tea Party favorite Lou Ann Zelenik and state Sen. Jim Tracy. Black will go up against Democrat Brett Carter in the general election.
News From Our Partners
More on Aol
Sites and Services