A large and enthusiastic crowd greeted Republican gubernatorial nominee Bill Lee at the Tennessee GOP Unity Rally at the Musicians Hall of Fame in Nashville Saturday afternoon.
Earlier in the day, the three rivals Lee defeated in Thursday’s GOP primary, along with Gov. Bill Haslam, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), and Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), and GOP U.S. Senate nominee Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN-07), attended a news conference to demonstrate party unity heading into the November election, as the Associated Press reported:
Tennessee’s Republican political leaders and candidates held a carefully choreographed news conference Saturday to project unity as they look toward competitive November elections after a rough primary for governor.
Addressing reporters before multiple GOP unity events, term-limited Gov. Bill Haslam, Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, Senate nominee Rep. Marsha Blackburn and gubernatorial nominee Bill Lee spoke about a unified party. The three opponents whom Lee defeated — former state economic development Commissioner Randy Boyd, U.S. Rep. Diane Black and state House Speaker Beth Harwell — stood behind the speakers and didn’t make comments themselves. No questions were taken from reporters at the news conference.
Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Scott Golden served as master of ceremonies for the rally, which included short speeches praising GOP gubernatorial nominee Lee from State Senator Jack Johnson (R-Franklin), Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R-TN-02), and 6th Congressional District nominee John Rose. Judge Bob Corlew, who lost on Thursday to Rose, was also in attendance, as were former Tennessee Republican Party chairman Robin Smith, State Rep. Sheila Butt (R-Columbia), and former Nashville mayoral candidate and former Vanderbilt professor Carol Swain.
A clearly ebullient Lee mingled with the crowd before the official program began, sharing laughs with supporters and posing for innumerable photographs.
In his remarks, Lee continued with the positive message that gave him a 13 point blowout victory in a crowded field on Thursday.
With election day now just three months away, all the speakers at the event emphasized the need for Republicans to unite around Lee in his campaign for governor against Democrat nominee Karl Dean, and Blackburn in her campaign for the U.S. Senate against Democrat nominee Phil Bredesen.
“There is a quick sprint to early voting so Lee and his team need to find a way to develop real unity quickly,” Tennessee Star Political Editor Steve Gill said.
“It won’t be easy, and the large base of Republican votes in the deep red state give them some margin for error. They need to quickly finish their primary victory lap and re-focus,” Gill added.