• April 5: Qualifying deadline
• Aug. 2: Primary election
• Nov. 6: General election
Standing a stone's throw from a former eight-term Republican congressman -- his father -- Weston Wamp attacked "the same stale rhetoric that prevails in Washington" as he delivered the first major policy speech of his congressional campaign.
"My generation says that worn-out, lame political rhetoric doesn't solve problems," Wamp, 24, said Monday, just before employing two political slogans.
"It just kicks the can further down the road," he said. "Enough is enough."
The last line is the formal name of Wamp's platform, an ambitious seven-point plan he revealed Monday to applause at the Hamilton County Pachyderm Club. It includes promises to pare down congressional pensions, withhold paychecks from members of Congress and reduce foreign debt.
"I don't know about y'all," Wamp told a packed meeting of the local GOP group, "but I'm not OK at any point in my life being a servant to the Chinese."
Wamp's plan surfaced four months after he challenged U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, the Republican incumbent in Tennessee's 3rd Congressional District.
The Pachyderm Club appearance was intended to distinguish Wamp from his father, U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp. But the candidate occasionally took cues from the elder Wamp, who at one point motioned for his son to bring a handheld microphone closer to his mouth so the whole room could hear him.
"Obviously Zach's in the background," Siskin Steel and Supply Co. President and Wamp donor Paul Loftin said after the 24-minute speech. "That is a benefit, but Weston is on his own. He's well-versed on all the subjects, and I think he'll stand on his own two feet."
Among his policy ideas, Wamp said he would propose legislation that would "end congressional pensions projectively into the future."
Asked later to clarify, Wamp said his pension legislation would affect only those elected in 2012 and beyond.
"That may be the day you actually see Congress' approval rating begin to go up," he said.
Pensions for past and existing members of Congress -- anyone elected before November 2012 -- would not be affected, he said.
"It would unfortunately be unrealistic to expect sitting members of Congress to vote to end their own pensions," Wamp said.
Wamp said he would cut corporate tax rates and reduce the overall size of the federal government by 5 percent. He also said he would propose legislation that would withhold paychecks for members of Congress until a budget is passed, something the Senate hasn't done in more than 1,000 days.
"I guarantee we'll get a budget on time every single year," he said.
Several times during the speech, Wamp attempted to address what he said were the two main criticisms leveled at his candidacy: Being young and being Zach Wamp's son.
Wamp won't reach the eligible age for Congress until he turns 25 in late March. He compared his congressional bid to young adults serving in the military, developing personal computers and inventing the airplane.
"Young men in this country believed that man could fly, even when other people thought they were crazy," he said.
On the topic of his father, Wamp said, "I'll never apologize for being Zach Wamp's son." He said he grew up on Capitol Hill, at one point referring to House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland as "Steny," a moment that wasn't lost on several attendees.
"Just because he knows some of the older gentlemen doesn't mean he's going to be taken seriously by them when he walks into their office," said Kayte Locke, a local AFLAC employee.
"Once you get in with the big dogs, I wonder how his lack of experience or age would maybe hinder him in getting some of these wonderful things he [proposed]," said Billie Jo Bowes, a Chattanooga homemaker.
Both Locke and Bowes said they hadn't decided who would get their vote in the upcoming primary.
In an interview after his son's speech, Zach Wamp said Weston would gain voters' trust, "especially in front of the other candidates."
"It'll be a stark contrast," he said. "He does a lot better job answering questions than I did because I would go on too long, and he just answers the questions short and sweet, which is refreshing."
Daphne Kirksay, district director for Fleischmann, attended the speech, along with several elected officials including state Rep. Vince Dean, R-East Ridge, and Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond.
Ron Bhalla, Jean Howard-Hill and Scottie Mayfield also are challenging Fleischmann, who declined comment through a spokesman, for the GOP nomination. Mary Headrick and Bill Taylor are the Democrats in the race.
Contact staff writer Chris Carroll at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6610.
Chris Carroll covers federal politics for the Times Free Press. A Chattanooga native, he went to Red Bank High School and graduated with honors from East Tennessee State University. Chris investigated violent crime, municipal government and hospitals before taking the political beat. For tornado coverage, he and Pam Sohn won a first-place Tennessee Associated Press Managing Editors deadline reporting award. In 2010, Chris won the Golden Press Card Award of Merit and another deadline reporting ...
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