That’s why we use secret ballots.
At the Reagan Day dinner in Knoxville, attended by about 400 people, only 274 participated in the straw poll on the gubernatorial race. That may be because people at each table rose to announce the table choices and many of the tables included public officials and their friends, unwilling to publicly commit to a particular candidate. There were lots of abstentions. Bob Griffiths, at the table for Congressman Jimmy Duncan, for instance, rose to announce that his table supported the “nominee of the Republican Party.” Whoever that might be.
Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, the only candidate to attend the dinner, led the voting with 123. To the surprise of some conservatives, Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam, considered to be the least conservative of the Republican candidates, was second with 80. Also a surprise was Congressman Zach Wamp coming in third, at 70 votes. Lloyd Daugherty, chair of the sponsoring Tennessee Conservative Union, said a lot of local conservatives complain that the only time they see Wamp is his picture in the paper presenting a government check to someone in Oak Ridge.
Haslam was helped by having state Rep. Bill Dunn speak on his behalf. The Haslam table chairs were full, though some people chuckled at one of the chairs being filled by City Councilman Chris Woodhull. Woodhull began his public service partnering with former City Councilman Danny Mayfield to start Tribe One. Though we guess that is a faith-based initiative.
Bill Gibbons sent a friend to represent him at the dinner. So Gibbons got one vote in the straw poll.
Out in West Tennessee, where they call county Lincoln Day dinners “Reagan Day dinners” but aren’t associated with the TCU event, Haslam took a straw poll win in Dyersburg with 95 votes. Gibbons did much better close to his Shelby County home, by coming second at 60. Ramsey had 38 and Wamp only had three.
Wamp ran third with conservatives in Knoxville and fourth in West Tennessee, while he was busy in Washington voting against President Obama’s health-care reform bill.