A couple of candidates for governor seemed to go to places in campaign rhetoric Thursday they had rarely been before.
Zach Wamp said it’s the “silly season” in governor’s race, and Bill Haslam brought out proverbs as part of his presentation to the Tennessee Education Association forum at the Embassy Suites in Franklin.
“I know these campaigns are kind of goofy from y’all’s standpoint,” Wamp, Republican congressman from Chattanooga, said in his closing statement. “We think so too. This is the silly season. From here on, people will say things they don’t even believe about each other, and then one person wins, and they get to serve.
“And so I’ll see y’all in a little while.”
There was no elaboration from Wamp about how it might go when “people will say things they don’t even believe about each other.” But it sure sounded ominous, like maybe somebody might sorta kinda go negative. But as is frequent with Wamp, he leaves a lot to be interpreted. And Thursday he scurried out a side door of the room immediately after the forum, presumably to maintain a busy campaign schedule.
But while that comment was a head-scratcher, Haslam, the Republican mayor of Knoxville, went proverbial on the educators.
In his opening statement, Haslam recited a Chinese proverb and quoted an African proverb shortly thereafter.
“A Chinese proverb says, ‘May you live in interesting times,'” Haslam said. “It’s not just a wish. We are living in interesting times. We have twin challenges. We’re trying to raise standards. We’re also trying to battle the issue of 28,000 kids who dropped out of school without graduating this past year.”
And yet, as he explained, the state’s budget pressures will be intense. Fixing those problems won’t be easy. Haslam pointed out how federal stimulus funds and rainy day funds used for the current budget won’t be around on a recurring basis and said people might look back and talk about what should have been done.
“An African proverb says, ‘The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is today,'” Haslam said.
So it’s time to plant the proverbial seeds of education.
After the forum, Haslam was asked if Republicans felt accepted addressing the TEA, because Democrat Mike McWherter seemed to get a few more rounds of applause than the Republicans on Thursday, which included state Sen. Jack Johnson pinch-hitting for Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey.
“If you went in there and asked what party you typically vote for, there are probably more Democrats,” Haslam said. “That’s OK. I’m not sure if that’s true among teachers across the state, but that’s the group the teachers elected to represent them.
“We need the feedback. You’ve been at events where others get the applause. That’s part of democracy. People have a lot of different viewpoints. And as governor you’re going to represent all of them.”
Wamp’s latest television ad uses the same theme the candidate used throughout Thursday’s forum — focusing on education, especially in regard to early childhood reading — and is anything but silly.
There’s a proverb in there somewhere, because declaring this the silly season and saying people will say things they don’t believe, all while laying out in detail how to enhance a child’s ability to learn, well, you put that all together, and it makes for interesting times.