published Saturday, February 4th, 2012

Hamilton County Democratic Party apologizes for name-calling


by Chris Carroll

The Hamilton County Democratic Party has apologized for dubbing Republican congressional opponents “Do-Nothing Chuck, Little Prince Wamp and the Milkman.”

At a recent party meeting, Vice Chairman Rodney Strong used those monikers for U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn.; Weston Wamp, the 24-year-old son of former congressman Zach Wamp who is challenging Fleischmann in the GOP primary; and Scottie Mayfield, the dairy mogul who entered the race Friday.

The apology came in a letter posted on a local news site.

“On behalf of the Hamilton County Democratic Party, I would like to express our apologies to those who were offended by comments made recently in our executive committee meeting, which was open to the public and the press,” wrote Chairman Paul Smith. “Civility in public discourse, though admittedly difficult to find in the rough-and-tumble world of American politics, is absolutely something to strive for.”

In an interview, Strong said he stood behind Smith’s apology, denying that the party chairman undercut what was meant to be a laugh line.

“The way it came out, reading it flat, it could be taken as just a negative, name-calling kind of thing,” said Strong, an assistant district attorney for Hamilton County. “That’s not the political person I’d like to be.”

Much of the rest of Smith’s letter lays out “legitimate concerns” about the Republican candidates, including a question about Wamp’s lack of experience and a swipe at Fleischmann’s first year in Congress as the representative from Tennessee’s 3rd District — “his record of voting against anything proposed by the Obama administration simply because it was proposed by the administration has hindered recovery efforts.”

Maynardville, Tenn., physician Dr. Mary Headrick and Chattanooga businessman Bill Taylor, the two Democrats vying for a 3rd Congressional District primary win to face the GOP winner, aren’t mentioned until the letter’s final paragraph.

Headrick and Taylor have vowed to refrain from negative advertising.

“Let’s move forward in a spirit of offering all voters a chance to hear the views that really matter to them and their families,” Smith wrote. “Perhaps we can become a model for the 2012 election season.”

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