published Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

Huckabee's push for Fleischmann flies into flak

NASHVILLE -- Republican Chuck Fleischmann said Tuesday he is looking forward to 2008 presidential candidate Mike Huckabee campaigning with him today in Southeast Tennessee and dismissed a rival campaign's suggestion that Mr. Huckabee's support carries a financial price tag.

"No, sir. Not at all," the 3rd Congressional District hopeful said when asked if Mr. Huckabee, a former Arkansas governor, was charging his campaign a fee. "This is done out of the kindness of the governor's heart and his support for me. I know we're not paying any speaking fees or any lodging fees or anything like that."

Earlier Tuesday, Republican Robin Smith's campaign manager Chris Meekins raised the issue in a new release.

The Smith campaign also lobbed shots on another front by rounding up one-time supporters of Mr. Huckabee, a current Fox News host, to appear in a campaign Web site video backing Mrs. Smith.

Mr. Huckabee will fly into Chattanooga today, hold a news conference with Mr. Fleischmann and later appear with the candidate in a 2 p.m. rally at Lee University in Cleveland.

Smith campaign manager Chris Meekins sought to raise questions about Mr. Huckabee's support of Mr. Fleischmann, an attorney, in a news release labeled "Seven Questions for "Huck and Chuck," dubbing the two "Tennessee's newest political odd couple."

"Chuck -- Did you pay Mike Huckabee to come to Tennessee and speak on your behalf as did candidate Les Phillips (sic) in Alabama?" the news release states.

The e-mail refers to an Aug. 1, 2009, article in The Huntsville Times regarding Alabama 5th Congressional District GOP candidate Les Phillip. Mr. Phillip, the newspaper reported, paid Mr. Huckabee $33,990 to speak at a campaign fundraiser.

Mr. Huckabee's daughter was quoted in the article saying the fee was for a speaking engagement but her father's endorsement was not for sale.

Mr. Fleischmann said of Mrs. Smith, a former Tennessee Republican Party chairman, that "desperate, losing candidates will take desperate, losing measures -- and that's what she is ... I really kind of feel sorry for her. It's an act of despair."

The Smith campaign also poses a question to Mr. Huckabee, asking if he still believes as he said "repeatedly" in his 2008 race that voters should reject "self-funders" who are trying to "auction candidates" for office.

WATCH THE VIDEO

To view the video from the Smith campaign, go to youtube.com/robinfortennessee.

Mr. Fleischmann has loaned his campaign some $544,000, or 75 percent of what his campaign has raised, records show. Mr. Fleischmann recently began airing television ads.

On Tuesday, the Smith campaign posted a video on YouTube featuring Tennessee supporters of Mr. Huckabee's 2008 presidential campaign expressing their support for Mrs. Smith.

Mr. Huckabee won the Feb. 5, 2008, GOP presidential primary in Tennessee with slightly more than one third of the vote, edging second-place finisher U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

Continue reading by following these links to related stories:

Article: Eagle Forum endorses Robin Smith in Tennessee’s Third Congressional District

Article: No. 2 U.S. House Republican endorses Robin Smith

Article: Tennessee's top Democrat calls Robin Smith racist

about Andy Sher...

Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...

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