During last year's Republican gubernatorial primary, Tennessee Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey attacked rival Bill Haslam for backing Democrat Al Gore's 1988 presidential bid, though Haslam took issue with the claim. Now Ramsey is dismissing any criticism of Texas Gov. Rick Perry for backing Gore that year as "silly."
Ramsey on Thursday issued a "strong statement of support" for Perry to seek the Republican presidential nomination after what he described as a private meeting with the governor in San Antonio. The Blountville Republican said any concerns over Perry's one-time support for Gore are misguided.
"That's just silly. The Al Gore of 1988 wasn't the Al Gore of today or even the Al Gore of 2000," Ramsey said. "Al Gore is a political chameleon and back in the 80s he was doing everything he could to convince conservatives that he was their representative in the Democratic Party."
Gore, then representing Tennessee in the U.S. Senate, fell short in his bid for the 1988 presidential nomination but became Bill Clinton's running mate four years later. Perry switched parties to become a Republican in 1989.
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Ramsey last year ran television ads hitting Haslam for a $1,000 donation to Gore following the 1988 campaign. The Haslam campaign at the time insisted that their candidate never supported Gore's presidential bid, and that he only gave "a fellow Tennessean $1,000 to retire some campaign debt after his candidacy ended."
Ramsey placed a distant third in the 2010 Republican gubernatorial primary, and Haslam went on to win the general election in a landslide.
The governor's office declined to comment Thursday. Ramsey said in a statement to The Associated Press on Thursday afternoon that he now accepts both men's explanations for their one-time support for Gore.
"Rick Perry was a Texas Democrat who supported a person of his party who claimed to be a conservative. Governor Haslam has said he helped a fellow Tennessean retire campaign debt and never supported Gore period," Ramsey said. "They are both men of honor whose word I trust."