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Who will be Tennessee’s Next Governor?

Who will be Tennessee’s next governor? The top contenders to succeed term-limited Democrat Phil Bredesen next year include a handful of lawmakers, a mayor and a businessman.

AARP members want to know more about the candidates and the candidates need to know more about AARP. So, AARP volunteers are having ``conversations with candidates.’’ These meetings allow members to talk directly with the candidates from their communities.

The first such conversation was with Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam, who is seeking the Republican nomination.

Topics included long-term care services available in both homes and nursing facilities; making communities more livable for Tennesseans of all ages and abilities; consolidation of services for older Tennesseans under one department; health information technology and the fairness of the senior property tax freeze.
Attending the meeting were Knoxville Regional Impact Team Leader Bill Schall, Harry Bannon from Roane County, Judy Poulson from Cedar Bluff, James Pointer of South Knox County, Edwin Whiting of Cedar Bluff and AARP Tennessee Advocacy Director Patrick Willard.

AARP Tennessee State Director Rebecca Kelly and key volunteer leaders, including State President Margot Seay and Tri-Cities leaders Judy Barrett and Joan Johnson, met with Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, the Republican Senate speaker who is seeking the GOP nomination.

Seay talked at length with Ramsey about AARP’s efforts to make our communities more livable for folks as they age, as well as other priorities for 50+ Tennesseans.

Similar conversations were planned with other candidates.

Why does it matter? The governor controls the money for critical programs and services for Tennesseans of all ages, but those directly affecting 50+ Tennesseans include long-term care and health services.

As a non-profit non-partisan membership organization, AARP does not endorse candidates but believes voters should have information to make their choices. To receive our advocacy updates, email us at

Below are brief biographies of top candidates and links to their web sites:

Bill Haslam (Knoxville Republican)
Bill Haslam is in his second term as Mayor of Knoxville and previously served as President of Pilot Travel Centers. He emphasizes his public/private business experience and says the next governor must focus on job creation, improving education and providing sound fiscal stewardship.
Mike McWherter (Jackson Democrat)
Mike McWherter operates a beer distributorship and is the son of former Tennessee Gov. Ned McWherter. He emphasizes his business skills, especially as they relate to budgeting, fiscal transparency and jobs.

Ron Ramsey (Blountville Republican)
Ramsey, a real estate auctioneer who has served in the General Assembly since 1993, was first elected Speaker of the Tennessee Senate in 2007, which also granted him the title of Tennessee’s lieutenant governor. He emphasizes his legislative and small business background and a focus on economic growth.

Zach Wamp (Chattanooga Republican)
Zach Wamp has spent 14 years as a U.S. Representative from Tennessee, and prior to that worked in commercial real estate. He emphasizes his role in economic development and the importance of education as a workforce development tool. 

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