- Associated Press - Thursday, September 11, 2014

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey on Thursday voiced support for Republican state attorney general candidates, while refusing to divulge how much he spent on trying to oust members of the Supreme Court who will decide the next AG.

“Do I feel good for the fact that there are at least three good Republicans being considered for this? Absolutely,” the Blountville Republican told reporters following a State Building Commission meeting.

Of the six candidates vying for the post, most have Republican ties. Incumbent AG Bob Cooper, a Democrat whose term ended last month, is seeking reappointment. The three Republican candidates whom Ramsey singled out Thursday are Sen. Doug Overbey of Maryville; Herbert Slatery, Gov. Bill Haslam’s top legal adviser; and courts administrator Bill Young.

Tennessee Supreme Court justices held a public hearing and interviewed the candidates earlier this week. They plan to announce their choice on Monday.

Cooper prevailed among 14 applicants for the position in 2006. He previously served as legal counsel to then-Gov. Phil Bredesen, a Democrat, who appointed the three Democratic justices. The other two justices are Republicans who were appointed by Haslam, a Republican.

The Democratic justices won their retention elections last month following a contentious campaign spearheaded by Ramsey to defeat them and give Republicans control of the state’s highest court.

Ramsey’s campaign heavily focused on Cooper’s role as attorney general, including his refusal to join a lawsuit against President Barack Obama’s health care law.

Cooper said during the public hearing that he decided not to participate in the legal challenge because he didn’t think it would be a wise use of state money, and that “its only purpose would have been to make a partisan political statement on a divisive national issue.”

Ramsey said Thursday that he’s actually good friends with Cooper, and didn’t say that Cooper is doing a bad job when a reporter noted some of Cooper’s successes, including $150 million in Medicaid fraud recovered through an initiative he started.

“At the same time, if he’s been doing a good job, I feel confident one of the three I … mentioned can do as good or a better job,” Ramsey said.

Before Thursday, Ramsey had pretty much been quiet about last month’s election. When asked about it, he said “people learned more about their Supreme Court than they would have if it had just been a rubber-stamp election.”

“The people spoke,” said Ramsey, who wouldn’t say how much money he spent on the campaign. “Their message that we don’t want partisan politics in the judiciary won out.”

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