(CNN) - Polls are open in Tennessee, where a Republican gubernatorial battle and some contentious House nomination fights are in the spotlight in Thursday's primary.
Five candidates are on the ballot in the GOP contest for governor, but recent polls indicate it's a three-man race between Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam, Rep. Zach Wamp and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey. The race grabbed national attention last month because of controversial comments by two of the candidates.
Last month Wamp appeared to suggest that Tennessee should consider secession in light of mandates forced on the states by the Obama administration's health care bill. The eight-term congressman later walked back from those comments.
Ramsey also drew attention to himself last month after he was seen in a You Tube video questioning whether Islam is a religion while expressing his opposition to the expansion of a mosque in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, which has become a hot-button issue in the city about 35 miles southeast of Nashville.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/07/27/art.ronramsey.file2.ramsey.jpg caption ="A Republican running in Tennessee's gubernatorial election is taking heat after some controversial comments he made about Islam surfaced online."](CNN) – A Republican running in Tennessee's gubernatorial election is taking heat after comments he made earlier this month questioning whether Islam is a religion surfaced online.
In a YouTube video posted July 15 and reported by the liberal website Talking Points Memo Monday, Tennessee Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey is seen at a campaign event expressing his opposition to an expansion of a mosque in Murfressboro, Tennessee.
The proposed expansion has become a hot-button issue in the city about 35 miles southeast of Nashville, with supporters alleging that opponents are displaying religious intolerance, while people fighting the mosque say zoning concerns and worries about Islamic radicalism are their chief concerns.
Ramsey, who has been endorsed by 20 Tea Party organizations, said he is a supporter of religious freedoms but such protections may not extend to facilitating "shariah [Islamic] law into the state of Tennessee. . .into the United States."
"Now, you could even argue whether being a Muslim is actually a religion, or is it a nationality, way of life, a cult, whatever you want to call it," he continued. "But certainly we do protect our religions, but at the same time, this is something we are going to have to face."
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/07/23/art.wamp.file.gi.jpg caption ="Tennessee Congressman Zach Wamp argued that mandates forced on the states by the Obama administration's health care bill have put secession on the table."]
(CNN) - Texas Gov. Rick Perry's suggestion in April 2009 that his state might consider secession drew a round of mockery nationwide, but his blustery populist rhetoric earned him serious traction among GOP primary voters in his re-election fight against Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.
Perry, riding a tide of anti-Washington sentiment, went on to trounce Hutchison and another candidate in the Republican primary earlier this year.
Now another gubernatorial hopeful is test-driving a similar message.
Rep. Zach Wamp, one of three candidates seeking the GOP gubernatorial nomination in Tennessee, told Hotline OnCall that Perry had the right idea. Wamp argued that mandates forced on the states by the Obama administration's health care bill have put secession on the table.
"I hope that the American people will go to the ballot box in 2010 and 2012 so that states are not forced to consider separation from this government," Wamp told Hotline OnCall Friday.