Three days after his Democratic opponent attacked him for his alleged tea party connections, Republican 3rd Congressional District candidate Chuck Fleischmann has yet to respond to the statements.
Democrat John Wolfe made his comments Tuesday while speaking to the Greater Chattanooga Democratic Women’s Club.
Neither Fleischmann, a Chattanooga-based attorney, nor his spokesman Jordan Powell returned repeated calls and e-mails last week seeking comment. His campaign office in Chattanooga was closed Friday morning.
Delores Vinson, the Hamilton County Republican Party chairwoman, said she has not heard about anything that would prevent Fleisch-mann or his staff from responding to questions.
“I am puzzled by that,” she said. “I just don’t have any explanation.”
Wolfe believes Fleischmann will remain silent while he looks for the political middle ground because he went too far to the right in the primary.
“He’s got to reconcile the tough talk in the primary with the necessity of trying to appear to be somebody who can govern,” Wolfe said.
But the Fleischmann campaign continues to roll along. Fleischmann updated his Twitter and Facebook accounts Friday, telling people the U.S. Constitution means limited federal government.
The same day, he posted an article on his website on the same topic. Earlier Friday, Fleischmann tweeted about attending a meeting of the East Tennessee Economic Council in Oak Ridge.
On Wednesday, the campaign sent out a news release announcing that Fleischmann picked up the endorsement of the National Right to Life Committee.
Whether Fleischmann has ties with the tea party is open to interpretation.
On April 15, Fleischmann announced on his website that he would attend the Tax Day Tea Party.
Chattanooga Tea Party President Mark West said he was amused by discussion of Fleischmann’s allegiance to his group’s ideas. He said Fleischmann treated his attendance at tea party events as “campaign stops.”
“Attending one or two meetings to which a person was directly invited does not make one a member of an organization any more than walking into a garage makes one a car,” West said in an e-mail.
Two political science professors, Richard Wilson at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and Bruce Oppenheimer at Vanderbilt University, were equally confused by Fleischmann’s media strategy.
“There is the strategy that if you’re well ahead sometimes you ignore and don’t give any attention to what your opponent is saying,” Oppenheimer said.
Wilson speculated that Fleischmann may feel so far ahead of his opponent, he doesn’t feel he needs to respond to accusations or questions.
“That is stretching his good will a bit to not answer phone calls,” Wilson said.
Follow Dan on Twitter by following this link.
Dan Whisenhunt covers Hamilton County government for the Times Free Press. A native of Mobile, Ala., Dan earned a degree in broadcast journalism from the University of Alabama. He won first place for best in-depth news coverage in the 2010 Alabama Press Association contest; the FOI-First Amendment Award in the 2007 Alabama Press Association contest; first place for best public service story in the Alabama AP Managing Editors contest in 2009 for economic coverage; and ...