Republicans rally

Alexander calls for new energy commitment at Lincoln Day Dinner

If U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander has his way, in five years people will be plugging in rather than filling up.

During the annual Blount County Republican Lincoln Day Dinner on May 9, Alexander proposed a second “Manhattan Project” to create clean energy and cut the amount of oil the country buys from foreign sources. The original “Manhattan Project” in 1941 was to build the atomic bond to help end World War II.

Alexander said gas prices are on everyone’s minds and he pointed to the Democrats as being the party that didn’t allow progress to help alleviate oil dependency

“People can say Democrats are responsible,” Alexander said, referring to high gas prices. “They want to tax it, regulate it or blame it on George Bush,” he said.

The senator said when a vote came up to drill 50 miles off the coast of Virginia, the measure failed along party lines, 54-47 with Democrats prevailing. “If Democrats stood in a puddle of oil, they wouldn’t use it,” he said.

Alexander said there was one solution. “We need to use less of it or find more of it,” he said.

The senator suggested a new course. “I believe the U.S. should create a new Manhattan Project for clean energy independence,” he said.

The senator said that by independence, he didn’t mean that the country wouldn’t buy more oil. “It just means you don’t have someone holding you hostage,” he said.

Alexander suggested building more nuclear plants; promoting more conservation and drilling for more oil. “We could be on a path to clean energy independence,” he said. “In five years we should make plug-in electric cars and trucks. By 2010, Toyota, Nissan, GM and Ford will have electric cars and trucks you can plug into the wall.”

Earlier Friday, Alexander unveiled his Manhattan Project II in a speech at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. He called for a five-year project that included making plug-in hybrid cars common, capturing and storing carbon for coal-burning power plants, developing more cost-effective solar power, safely processing and storing nuclear waste, making advanced biofuels cost-competitive, speeding up the development of nuclear fusion as an energy source and building new green buildings.

Alexander did not give a price tag for his plan, but said at the Lincoln Dinner that the Tennessee Valley Authority could offer power at a reduced rate for nighttime charging of plug-in vehicles, and this could help make fuel more affordable. “We could reduce our overseas spending (for oil) from $500 billion to $250 billion,” he said. “I believe we can achieve great things, including clean energy independence with a Manhattan Project II.”

U.S. Rep. John J. (Jimmy) Duncan also addressed high gas prices in his remarks to the Republican gathering. The congressman said the current crisis with rising gasoline prices could have been avoided.

“Republicans passed a bill 10 or 12 years ago that would have resulted in 1 to 1.5 million barrels of oil a day, but President Clinton vetoed it,” he said of legislation that would’ve allowed drilling in Alaska.

The congressman said the solution to the crisis is to start drilling for oil and stop buying so much from the Middle East. “We can do this in an environmentally responsible way,” he said.

Duncan also discussed the presidential election, criticizing Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama as being too liberal. “He’s further left than Ted Kennedy,” Duncan said. “We’ve got to get that message out.”

Local Republicans also denounced national and local Democrats. Republican party chair Dave Bennett introduced County Mayor Jerry Cunningham with a story about Cunningham’s relating his reasons for running for office at a lunch before the 2006 election.

Bennett said Cunningham recalled a firefight he was in during the Vietnam War. “Amidst all the mortars blowing up, he said, ‘God, you get me home, I’m going to make a difference,’” Bennett said of the mayor. “He did it for the people of Blount County. That’s the kind of man we’ve got as mayor.”

Cunningham took the podium and joked that “I think there are Democrats on the commission who wish God had kept me there.”

The mayor talked about how the “political complexion” of Blount County had changed in the past 10 years and said the Democratic Party had changed drastically. He said in years past the Democratic Party in Blount County, while conservative in nature, opposed the Republican Party on issues. In the past few years, said Cunningham, the Democratic Party has become more liberal. “If you don’t believe it, come to one of my county commission meetings and watch them perform...

“They hit the county line coming into Blount County criticizing everything that moves.”

Cunningham said in the last commission election, Democrats “sneaked up” on Republicans. “We’ve got three on the county commission, and it’s a disaster,” he said.

The mayor joked that when he was leaving his house the evening of one committee meeting, his wife, Janice, asked where he was going.

“It was one of those nights when I was mad at those three on the commission, and I had a committee meeting and all three of them were on it,” he said. “And I said, ‘Well, I’ll go to the bottom of the hill, and I can turn right and go to the Knoxville Zoo, or I can turn left and go to that committee meeting. And I can see the monkeys at the zoo, or I can see them at the committee meeting.”

The mayor rallied the party faithful to help the Republican party. “Do them a favor and turn those three Democrats out to pasture,” he said.

Cunningham praised General Sessions Judge and Circuit Court candidate David Duggan. “His philosophy ... and his interpretation of the law is so dramatically different from the man who he is running against,” he said. “I think you can judge the man who he is running against by his handlers, and his handlers are those three durn commissioners that I’ve been talking about.”

In his address, Duggan acknowledged his pride in being a Republican, but said that political affiliations of a judge play no role in court.

“We can not properly have a political agenda,” Duggan said of candidates for judgeships. “We do not build political coalitions to achieve legislative goals. A judge merely waits for disputes to be brought before the court and then impartially and without bias applies the law to the case and not the law as the judge might wish it to be.”

Duggan said his political affiliations play no role in deciding court cases. “They never have for me, and they never will,” he said. “I am, however, proud to stand before you as a Republican.”

Duggan said he believes a judge should be fair and impartial, not use his or her position as a platform to push a political agenda or provide a political balance. A judge, said Duggan, should strictly interpret the law, require all people to practice personal responsibility, have a demeanor and temperament to treat people with dignity and respect, including the clerks and court reporters. A judge should protect and respect not only the rights of defendants but also victims and the community, he said.

“No one has anything to fear from conservative jurisprudence because it is founded on only one thing - a commitment to the law and to nothing else,” he said.

Party chair and assistant county mayor Dave Bennett said that the Blount County Republican party had been attacked as being corrupt, but he said he wasn’t going to attack those criticizing the party. “I’m proud to be a Republican. I’m proud because each and everyone of you share the same beliefs,” he said. “That’s why we’re Republicans.”

Bennett said the party believes in family values and that people have fought hard for the freedoms they have. Republicans don’t want the government to give them anything but rather they want the government to get out of their way so they can live their lives and make their own decisions, he said. Bennett encouraged those at the banquet to consider how they could make the county a better place to live. “That’s what it’s all about, helping one another,” he said. “You can change the world by one act of random kindness at a time.”

Those attending the dinner indicated support for the call to action to get the Republican message to the voters. Peggy Lambert said she enjoyed the dinners because they are a time to meet and greet, renew friendships and “remember why we’re Republicans.”

“We work long and hard for our candidates,” she said. Lambert said the individuals at the dinner are “free-will Republicans” and were at the event because they wanted to be. “They approve of our platform and have sincere beliefs. That’s why we’re Republicans,” she said.

State Rep. Doug Overbey said gatherings like the Lincoln Day Dinner are important. “I think it’s important for any group or political party to come together and talk about the things we hold in common.”

Tona Monroe-Ball said the event helps members reaffirm their beliefs in the platform of conservative fiscal responsibility and government accountability. “It reaffirms what you stand for,” she said of the banquet.

Sen. Raymond Finney said he enjoyed the dinner, adding that “It promotes party unity. That’s the whole reason for it.”

Grace Cabage said the Lincoln Day dinners were important because party members get to the candidates.

“Everyone needs to know the kind of character they’re voting for,” she said.

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