The drive over was delayed between 1.5 – 2 hours, getting stuck in 2 stopped incidents on I-40W. We arrived about 45 minutes before the start of the dinner, in spite of the democrat Governor’s delaying I-40 traffic in an attempt to keep the attendance down.
Upon entry to the Opryland. The first person I saw and talked to was Tennessee House Republican Minority Leader Bill Dunn. I then talked with the Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Bob Davis, Jr and State Senator and Gubernatorial candidate Jim Bryson. Senator Bryson expressed what a great rally we had in Knox County Thursday night and how he was pleased with the warm reception he had received.
I witnessed a table with the number 119 on it. There may have been more. That is the largest number that I saw. There were 10 chairs and place settings at each table and there was not an empty seat in the house. I was blessed to be at the table closest to stage. An excellent view, (no table between our table and the stage) less than 25 feet from the the stage and podium.
Robyn Smith, our Tennessee Republican Party Vice-Chairman had the invocation and was awesome. State Senator Don McLeary was introduced and got a re-sounding welcome as he walked to podium to lead the group in the Pledge of Allegiance. Prior to the Pledge, he said “It took me awhile to get here, but I am here and feel welcomed” State Senator McLeary was a member of the opposition and in February changed parties. I said it February and I will say it again. Welcome Senator McLeary. His former party left him and their loss is our gain. John Moravec led the National Anthem and he was Great.
Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn, Congressmen Zach Wamp, our own Jimmy Duncan and Bill Jenkins were introduced. Congresswoman Blackburn was first with a speech about sending a message to the San Francisco Chronicle and New York Times that we Tennesseans will determine the political outcome of our state. She also encouraged everyone to get out and prove to everyone that Al Gore and Hillary Clinton do not control the election outcomes in our state. Congressman Wamp was next with a speech about the war on terror and the need to have Republican control at the conclusion of his remarks, he pulled out a check for $10,000.00 to give to the state’s Victory campaign and remarked about going 100 days to Victory. Our own Congressman Jimmy Duncan talked about Retirement Security and the need for Republican control of the House and Senate. He remarked about the 10 year service of Congressman Bill Jenkins, he introduced and presented the highest honor of the TN Republican Party to Congressman Jenkins. Congressman Jenkins accepted the award and spoke about his service and the need to continue with Republican leadership. He vowed to continue being active, tough he is retiring from the U.S. Congress.
Tennessee’s next Lt. Governor, State Senate Majority Leader Ron Ramsey then introduced the Tennessee Statesmen of the Year winners. In our 2nd district Dean Rice was awarded the Statesmen of the Year. I first met Dean in 1994 during Fred Thompson’s successful run for the U.S. Senate. Dean has worked for Senator Thompson, Congressman Duncan and many others. Dean is very deserving of this award and if you know Dean be sure and Congratulate him. In the 5th district Tootie Haskins, former assistant to State Senator Ben Atchley was awarded Statesman of the year. Two districts had two Statesmen of the Year, So a total of 11 statesmen were awarded last evening.
Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Bob Davis, Jr. talked about the family and how Bryant, Corker and Hilleary have looked him in the eye and pledged to campaign for the winner of the primary. Chairman Davis introduced State Senator Jim Bryson, he listed many of his accomplishments in Nashville and announced that Bryson is running for Governor. At which point Bryson received a hearty applause including a standing ovation from everyone in attendance.
U.S. Senator Fred Thompson was then introduced and talked about Howard Baker, Jr and Bill Frist. He gave a heart warming speech. U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander was then introduced and talked about filling Fred Thompson’s shoes and working with Bill Frist. Senator Alexander then remarked “Senator Frist has treated me as an equal and I have treated him as the Majority Leader.”
Former U.S. Senator and U.S. Senate Majority Leader and former Chief of Staff to President Ronald Reagan Howard H. Baker, Jr. was unable to attend.
A video message from President George W. Bush was then presented. The president talked of his work with Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. It was a heart stirring message.
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Dr. Bill Frist, M.D. was then introduced. He first talked about his first statesman’s Dinner 12 years ago when he was a candidate for U.S. Senate. He talked about Howard Baker, Jr. He talked about asking for help 12 years ago, he asked the party for help 6 years ago and he said he was asking again and his request is to vote for the Republican candidate against Harold Ford, Jr. out. Make Harold Ford, Jr. find a real job, elect a new Governor, majorities in the state house and senate and forever secure Tennessee as a RED state.
Terri Lynn Weaver, a candidate for Tennessee House of Representatives sang “God Bless America” It was moving.
Congressman Hilleary had an after dinner reception with Krispy Kreme Glazed doughnuts. State Senator Jim Bryson had an after dinner reception. I went to speak to Senator Bryson, drank a cup of coffee as I left the Bryson reception, the crowd was packed on the balcony to get in to see Senator Bryson.
In addition to all the others I have already mentioned it was great to see Randall Parker, Republican candidate for Knox County’s TN House district 13, Susan Richardson Williams and Halley, Tammy White Miller, Jo Catlett and Suzanne Dewar. I met alot of new friends as well.
This was an excellent kick-off to the Republican campaign to take back Tennessee. We then drove back to Knoxville, I-40E was clear from Briley Parkway all the way to Knox County. We stopped in Crossville to grab a cup of coffee around the time Sunday morning started.
UPDATE: Several people have emailed asking if Mark Albertini was present. Mr. Albertini was not seen at the dinner.