Gov. Bill Haslam greeted about 1,200 supporters at the Loveless Barn Saturday morning as he launched his campaign for a second term.
Backers of the Republican governor crowded the music venue for the free event, where they heard him deliver a 15-minute speech, were entertained by a string band and snacked on biscuits, Moonpies and iced tea served in souvenir red cups.
Facing only nominal competition in the August primary and November general election, Haslam focused on his first-term record, rather than what he'd do with a second term.
The kickoff comes notably later than the launch of his first campaign. Haslam spent close to two years running for governor before winning in 2010, but he has scheduled only six months for his re-election bid.
Haslam told supporters that four years ago he was "not a safe bet," a reference to the competition he faced from Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, then U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp and businessman Mike McWherter, the son of popular Democratic Gov. Ned Ray McWherter.
This time, Haslam's best-known competition appears to be John Jay Hooker, a two-time Democratic nominee for governor. Hooker is running this year as an independent, mainly to draw attention to his ongoing support for electing appeals court judges.
In his speech, Haslam touted Tennessee Promise, the free community college plan he pushed through the legislature, as well as the state's rising K-12 education rankings. He also presented himself as a champion of effective government.
Haslam singled out adoption initiatives in the Department of Children's Services and efforts to provide customized wheelchairs by the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities for praise. Critics have said both departments have been mismanaged during his first term.
But mostly, Haslam urged supporters not to be complacent about his re-election chances. He acknowledged his second gubernatorial campaign will be notably shorter than his first, but he said it will be intense nonetheless.
Haslam has raised more than $5 million, he said. He plans to start airing TV advertisements this summer.
"We'll campaign to remind people to vote again," he said. "Don't ever treat it like it's a slam dunk."