NASHVILLE (AP) — At least two chapters of the Tennessee Republican Party say Gov. Bill Haslam seems to be consistently lacking conservative values and have passed resolutions calling on state party leaders to sanction him.
GOP leaders told The Tennessean the resolutions were initiated by tea party activists and passed by members at recent county party meetings.
They condemn the Republican governor for policies that include the hiring of gay individuals, Democrats and a Muslim-American lawyer.
Republicans in Stewart and Carroll counties in rural western Tennessee passed nearly identical resolutions that say Haslam’s actions “have forced this GOP organization to lose the confidence in our governor during an election year.”
In Williamson County, the Republican Party passed a more narrow resolution that criticizes the governor for hiring a Muslim lawyer from Tennessee to serve as the Department of Economic and Community Development’s international director.
The Williamson County GOP does not call for any sanction against Haslam. But the resolution it passed last week criticizes the governor for hiring a “Sharia complaint finance specialist” in the department, a reference to the attorney’s prior work as a financial adviser to Muslim-owned companies.
Republicans in Stewart and Carroll counties listed several grievances that include Haslam’s decisions to retain personnel hired by his Democratic predecessor, Gov. Phil Bredesen; and allowing openly gay individuals to make policy decisions in the Department of Children’s Services.
The county chapters also criticized the governor for not supporting gun legislation and for refusing to sign a legislative resolution that condemns Agenda 21, a 20-year-old United Nations policy document that Republicans consider a veiled attempt to strip property rights.
The chapters say Haslam’s “policies are worse than the actions of Kent Williams,” the Elizabethton lawmaker who broke from the Republican Caucus in 2009 to elect himself speaker in an evenly divided Legislature. And they call on the Tennessee Republican Executive Committee, the board that oversees the state party, to take action against the governor.
The chapters do not specify what that action might be, but the executive committee stripped Williams of his Republican Party credentials after his election to the speakership.
Haslam spokesman David Smith downplayed the resolutions, noting a recent “poll shows that 79 percent of conservative Republicans approve of the job he’s doing.”
“The governor continues to focus on attracting and growing Tennessee jobs, improving education and making Tennessee the best managed state in the country,” Smith said in a statement.
Groups like the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition and the Tennessee Equality Project, a gay rights organization, say they support Haslam’s hiring policies.
“These attacks are based on fear, ignorance and hatred,” said Chris Sanders, who heads the Equality Project.
State Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney urged party members to remain united in an election year.
“All Republicans should stand together on the core Republican principles that unite us,” he said. “Anything else is just a distraction.”