GOP Candidates Straw Poll Could Cause Heartburn, Enmity

When conservatives gather for the buffet at the Crowne Plaza tonight, the prospect of a straw poll on the Republican gubernatorial primary will give the candidates heartburn, but may be more stressful for other elected officials. The annual Reagan Day Dinner, sponsored by the Tennessee Conservative Union, will have a secret ballot at each table. But if they follow through with the current plan, then someone at each table will stand to deliver the results, like the roll call of states at a convention. ("Misterrr Chairman, the people of the great table of Number Eight cast 10 votes for the Honorable..." )

But many tables are purchased by elected officials and each table is full of their family, friends, and supporters. If everyone at the table votes for one of the gubernatorial candidates it is likely to earn some enmity from the other candidates. And the results will be announced publicly.

Lloyd Daugherty, chair of the TCU, said the menu will include chicken on the bone, ribs on the bone, and catfish on the bone, and that is the theme of the evening. "We're looking for a candidate for governor with a backbone."

The group had pre-sold more than 300 tickets early this week and candidates Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, Congressman Zach Wamp, and Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam all signed on as $2,500 sponsors for the event, said Daugherty.