(Note: Updates and expands earlier post)
CROSSVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Bill Haslam and Zach Wamp are drawing on the help of some prominent friends as they hit the trail for the last days of the Republican gubernatorial campaign in Tennessee.
Haslam is being joined by University of Tennessee men’s basketball coach Bruce Pearl, while Wamp is bringing along bluegrass star Ricky Skaggs in the run-up to the Thursday primary.
Rival GOP hopeful Ron Ramsey, meanwhile, is dismissing the move as “absolute gimmickry.”
“Who cares who the basketball coach is for?” Ramsey said at a weekend GOP picnic in Crossville. “I’ve got the Gun Owners of America for me.”
Wamp, a congressman from Chattanooga, said in a Monday morning Twitter post that as the parent of a UT student and supporter of the school, he believes “Bruce Pearl has no business endorsing candidates for state office.”
Haslam said Pearl, who was scheduled to ride on the campaign bus on Monday and Tuesday, asked to participate in the campaign.
“Bruce has been saying, ‘I’d love to help, give me a way I can really help,'” Haslam said. “And we said, ‘Great!'”
Wamp, who has earned the support of country and Christian artists like John Rich and Michael W. Smith, said at the Crossville picnic that Skaggs has become a “close family friend” and that he will perform at campaign stops on Wednesday and Thursday.
“We’re doing five events with him in Middle and West Tennessee, because he asked to,” Wamp said. “He wanted to.”
All three of the candidates were scheduled to stump in each grand division of the state before ending up in their respective home towns.
Haslam said he would spend Thursday morning attending to mayoral duties in Knoxville before heading to Nashville, while Ramsey also planned to travel from his home in Blountville to the state capital to watch the election returns.
Wamp planned to spend the primary night in Chattanooga.
Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen can’t run for re-election because of term limits. Jackson businessman Mike McWherter, son of former Gov. Ned McWherter, is the lone Democrat running.