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Bryant campaign gets boost from anti-tax group
Aug 05, 2005 12:00 am
August 3, 2005
MT. JULIET — Ed Bryant's quest to stake a claim as the most conservative candidate in the Republican U.S. Senate primary got a boost from one of the nation's most high-profile anti-tax groups Tuesday.
Bryant appeared in Mt. Juliet with Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist for the "tax relief" activist to laud Bryant's anti-tax record.
Standing with two GOP State House members – Mt. Juliet's Susan Lynn and Hendersonville's Debra Maggart – Bryant signed again the organization's Taxpayer Protection Pledge with a small crowd of area consevatives watching.
"I have to thank Ed Bryant for his leadership in signing the Taxpayer Protection Pledge," Norquist told the crowd. " … It takes tax increases off the table at the national level."
State anti-tax activist Ben Cunningham of Tennessee Tax Revolt also applauded Bryant's decision to sign the pledge, something the candidate later admitted his other opponents in the primary signed as well.
"This pledge is absolutely essential to let us know how a candidate feels about the growth of government," Cunningham said. "Ed Bryant has proven by signing this pledge he is a man who will stand up for the family budget of Tennesseans."
Bryant, a former four-term congressman, is in a pitched battle for the GOP nomination for Tennessee's open Senate seat, facing former Chattanooga mayor Bob Corker and former fellow House member Van Hilleary.
Bryant took the tax pledge event as an opportunity to question the tax records of the leading Democrat in the race, Congressman Harold Ford Jr., and the man leading the GOP pack in fund raising, Corker.
Bryant's campaign issued a release claiming Ford "is already openly talking about raising taxes if he were elected to the Senate."
Bryant's staff said the accusations against Ford were based on a report from the Kingsport Times-News newspaper in Upper East Tennessee where Ford said he would favor a Social Security payroll tax increase on wealthier Americans over privatizing Social Security to keep the program from running out of money.
Ford Campaign Manager Jim Hester dismissed Bryant's release on Ford as "false charges."
"While Ed Bryant holds press conferences to level false charges against his opponents, Congressman Ford is spending his time talking to Tennesseans about the issues that matter most to them," Hester said. "Congressman Harold Ford has spent the past three days traveling throughout Middle Tennessee talking about balancing the federal budget, ending our addiction to foreign oil and creating jobs to make our economy stronger. If Ed Bryant succeeds in his primary, Congressman Ford will welcome the chance talk about these and other issues that are important to Tennesseans."
Bryant told The Lebanon Democrat he had questions about Corker's record on taxes when a reporter pointed out Corker once worked in the administration of former Gov. Don Sundquist. The Republican former governor proposed a state income tax in Tennessee.
"I certainly have a clear and transparent record on taxes after literally thousands of votes in Congress," Bryant said. "I think there are questions about what the former mayor will do given his prior record and history."
A Corker representative pointed out the former mayor had signed the very same pledge.
"We've made a similar commitment and have a similar position in regards to taxes," Corker Campaign Manager Ben Mitchell said late Tuesday. "Last week, it was announced Chattanooga will have the lowest property tax rate since the1950s. That validates Bob Corker's record as mayor and shows a solid record of fiscal conservativism."
The GOP field in the Senate race is openly jockeying for support and endorsements from leading state conservartives.
Neither Lynn nor Maggart would commit to supporting or endorsing Bryant, though both said he would make a good senator.
"My personal opinion is that Ed Bryant would make a wonderful senator," Lynn said.
Managing Editor Clint Brewer can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 13 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.