Republicans running for the Sixth District U.S. House of Representatives seat were the keynote speakers at Bedford County Republican Party's annual banquet Saturday night at the Blue Ribbon Circle on the Celebration grounds.
Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, a candidate for governor, also attended the banquet, as did representatives of two other candidates: Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam and U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp.
The candidates drew numbers for speaking order. They were told to hold their remarks to five minutes, but almost all ran over.
Zelenik pointed out her involvement with a Tea Party rally which drew thousands last year in Murfreesboro, just days after a tornado had ripped through the city, and said it was attended by a number of Bedford County residents as well.
"Washington needs a large dose of Tennessee values," said Zelenik, who called herself "Nancy Pelosi's worst nightmare."
"Bart got the message," said Evans. Evans said that "corruption abounds" in Congress.
"The Constitution has been trampled by both parties in Washington," he said. "The primary role of our government is to protect the people -- and they're not doing that."
"You have to follow the money," he said. He said he would take no contributions from anyone but individuals.
He said that conservative talk show host Steve Gill has concentrated his coverage of the race on Black, Tracy and Zelenik. When Mann asked him why, Gill told Mann point blank that he had no chance to win.
"That's kind of the problem," said Mann.
"This country's in trouble," said Tracy. "It's going down the wrong track."
Tracy said he opposes taxpayer-funded abortions and illegal aliens being eligible for health care.
"The health care bill was not about health care," said Tracy. "It was about the government taking over one sixth of our economy."
Tracy also noted the relevance of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which regulates horse shows, to the horse industry.
Black decried the national debt, saying America has had to borrow from "countries that don't even like us" including China and nations from the Middle East. She said she would support a Constitutional amendment to require a balanced budget.
Black also said she would support a bill to penalize Congressional salaries for any delay in passing the federal budget, noting that the emergency spending bills which result when the budget is not passed on time are often a way to hide pork-barrel expenses.
"That explains a lot, doesn't it?" he asked. He said his family's share of the national debt is $250,000.
"You're not going to solve a spending problem by continuing to spend money," he said.
He said he has personally been on the verge of filing for bankruptcy but was able to reject that solution and turn his finances around, experience he said would be an advantage in dealing with the federal budget.
Ramsey said it would be up to the state's next governor to push back against federal mandates such as the health care bill. He also noted that stimulus funding for the states will run out in January 2011 -- the same month the new governor takes office.
Chad White spoke on behalf of Wamp, and Carter Lawrence appeared on behalf of Haslam.
Local GOP chairman Frank Reagor emceed the banquet, with Republican Women's Club president Barbara Blanton introducing the House candidates.
The local Democratic Party will hold its banquet Thursday night at the American Legion hall.