SMITH’S E-MAIL TO FLEISCHMANN
Sorry for the delayed response. I just received your e-mail address as requested of Mr. Powell. I will be corresponding in writing to prevent any misunderstandings or miscommunication.
Thank you for your call on Saturday after your breakfast. As you know, my daughter’s assigned move-in day was that morning and I enjoyed three flights of stairs for four hours.
I am happy to meet with you. I think it will be beneficial to include Chairman Delores Vinson and any other officers she would be inclined to invite. I would also like to include any members of your staff as well as mine to have absolute clarity upon the conclusion of this meeting.
I will not be available in Chattanooga until Thursday of this week due to obligations with work.
Former 3rd Congressional District candidate Robin Smith sent an e-mail Monday to her Aug. 5 primary election rival, first-place GOP finisher Chuck Fleischmann, saying she would be “happy” to meet with him, implying she is willing to reconcile after a bitter campaign.
Smith, a Hixson health care consultant and former state Republican Party chairwoman, said in the e-mail that she would not be available to meet until Thursday because of work obligations. A Chatanooga Times Free Press reporter obtained a copy of the e-mail.
Smith also said it would be “beneficial” to include Hamilton County Republican Party Chairwoman Delores Vinson and members of the Fleischmann and Smith staffs in the meeting to have “absolute clarity upon the conclusion.”
Fleischmann strategist Chip Saltsman said Monday that Fleischmann would not “comment on a private e-mail between him and former candidates.”
Also Monday, Smith would say only that she is looking forward to “meeting with Mr. Fleischmann and his team” and moving forward so that both camps “are on the same page.”
A Smith campaign insider who asked not to be named said Monday that Smith wants to discuss the “truth” about issues Fleischmann raised in television advertising about Smith’s handling of GOP finances during her time as state party leader.
Fleischmann maintained that she left the party with a financial shortfall when she handed over the reins in 2009. Her campaign contended the party owed vendors for previous contracts and that the debt was retired a few months later at a party function after an election year in which the GOP took control of the General Assembly for the first time since the 1800s.
If Smith and Fleischmann resolve campaign issues, that would lead to an endorsement from Smith, the campaign insider said.
Smith did not attend a GOP unity breakfast held for Fleischmann on Saturday at the Country Place restaurant on Shallowford Road. Vinson, whose daughter worked on Smith’s campaign, brought a letter to the unity event in which Smith expressed regret at being unable to attend. Smith said she was helping her daughter move into a university dorm Saturday morning.
Vinson said Monday it was appropriate for Fleischmann to phone Smith on Saturday, as Smith’s e-mail indicates happened.
“I think Chuck did reach out,” Vinson said. “I think she is responding appropriately.”
Vinson said the meeting should have a “calming” effect on the local party, especially since supporters from different camps have kept the “bitterness” alive on social-media sites such as Facebook.
Fleischmann, a Chattanooga attorney, received 30 percent of the vote in an 11-person GOP field and will face Democratic primary winner John Wolfe, also a Chattanooga attorney, in the Nov. 2 general election. Smith defeated Fleischmann in Hamilton County but finished second overall with 28 percent of the vote.
The 3rd District stretches from the Georgia to Kentucky borders and includes Chattanooga, Cleveland and Oak Ridge. U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp has held the seat since 1995 but ran for governor this year instead of seeking re-election. He finished second in the GOP primary to Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam, who faces Jackson, Tenn., beer distributor Mike McWherter in the November general election.