GOP HQ reopens

Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Don Jeeter of Mooresville, left, exchanges views with Kerry Roberts, center, and Gary Mann, right. Roberts and Mann are candidates for the GOP nomination to run for Congress.

Marshall County Republicans opened a new location for their party office on Lewisburg's public square Saturday when, after the festivities, those still in attendance exchanged views on issues lingering in Middle Tennessee.

One is jobs. Another is the constitutional debate, or trade-off - depending on your views on freedom of religion and security. A few threatening calls were received on Monday by staffers campaigning for Lou Ann Zelenik's nomination to be the GOP candidate for Congress and, according to the Nashville daily, a third Islamic center has drawn attention since Zelenik cautioned Rutherford County commissioners against permitting a new mosque there.

"We took several thousand phone calls over the weekend and 99 percent thanked Lou Ann for taking a stand" against plans for a mosque near Murfreesboro, Zelenik spokesman Jay Hine said Tuesday. "At the very most, a dozen" threatening calls were received.

Zelenik and a host of other candidates celebrated the Republican Party Headquarters opening on the square here since '50s and Fiddles opened where the GOP was. Homemade cookies, brownies, soft drinks and conversation dominated the opening after candidates left for other events on Saturday.

But it was the Murfreesboro Republican running to succeed U.S. Rep. Bart Gordon who attracted broader attention with remarks against "the idea of an Islamic training center being built in" Rutherford County.

"This 'Islamic Center' is not part of a religious movement," she's said on her web site. "It is a political movement designed to fracture the moral and political foundation of Middle Tennessee."

Gary Mann, another Republican campaigning for the GOP nomination on Aug. 5, stayed at the party office Saturday afternoon when he was asked what he hears on the campaign trail.

Aside from a distrust of politicians, Mann said, "It's jobs, health care, the economy... It's how it affects people... They're not buying into the stimulus package..."

Zelenik had left for another campaign event, but Don Jeeter of Mooresville stayed at the narrow office and expressed opinions similar to those of Zelenik.

She said, "We Americans pride ourselves on being a tolerant people, but tolerance does not require naiveté. Our nation is at war with Islamic extremists. Radical Muslims are killing our servicemen and servicewomen every day. They say they want to kill us, and time and again they have backed up their words with action."

Jeeter, who was reluctant to be photographed, questioned whether Americans still have religious freedom. Issues of political correctness were mentioned, but Mann disagreed.

"I think we do have freedom of religion," he said, turning to issues surrounding the mosque planned in Rutherford County. "If you tell them you can't, then how long will it be before they tell me and my family that we can't worship in our church?"

Jeeter is an engineer. He said he worked for Chrysler in the space program, and while working in Alabama, he read many books to satisfy his curiosity about Islam. Muslims views of property rights are different, he said, offering an example.

"If you run him off (from your land) he will leave, but if he stays overnight, he will fight because Allah gave it to him," Jeeter said of his views on Islam that also included the nature of heaven.

Jeeter and Mann discussed personal family relations under American traditions and Muslum beliefs and seemed to find only minor common ground.

Mann's "biggest problem" with issues surrounding the proposed Islamic center at Rutherford County "is that it doesn't seem like proper protocol. It seems short cuts were taken.. but you get in trouble if you tell people they can't worship what they want."

Jeeter countered: "Every time they establish a mosque, they demand Sharia law," and it leads to conflict when taken to extremes on how one is admitted to heaven.

Muslims believe Sharia is God's law, but they have differences between themselves as to exactly what it entails, according to Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia on the Internet.

Three days after the GOP opened its new office on the square, Ben Leming, another Murfreesboro candidate running to become the 6th District congressman, was campaigning on Lewisburg's public square where he was asked about the proposal for an Islamic Center in his home county.

Leming is a Democrat.

"I was flabbergasted" by the news about his county commissioners' meeting and statements about the proposed mosque. "I heard vitriolic and intolerant things."

Leming recently mustered out of the Marine Corps. He was a helicopter pilot serving in Iraq. He felt an obligation "to our military folk" to speak out on the issue.

"What do we do?" he asked about the military. "We support our constitutional rights. If you support the military, you should do this," meaning, speak up for rights.

"You know, we're over there fighting for Muslims to have a society that's tolerant," Leming said.

"I'm tired of fear mongering," the retired Marine captain said. "People need to be courageous. Americans are, so let's do that and show how we're not afraid of this boogieman... We're a nation of all religions."

During the Jeeter-Mann conversation at GOP headquarters, Roberts, the Springfield man running for the nomination to succeed Gordon, listened and spoke with a few others present, including Lewisburg businessman Jim Moon, vice chairman of the local GOP.

"Everything is an economic issue," said Roberts, pointing out he's the only certified accountant running for the nomination and, if elected, he may become one of only five in the House.

Roberts spoke of: Illegal immigration, "It's bleeding our economy;" Jobs, "The free enterprise system is more efficient in redistributing wealth;" and a school offered to prospective candidates, "It was the beginning of the indoctrination."

Other candidates at the party headquarters here Saturday included state Sen. Bill Ketron of Murfreesboro.

Speaking for Zelenik on Tuesday, Hine said his candidate wants to return to her big issues of cutting spending and creating the environment to create jobs.