Weston Wamp to challenge Chuck Fleischmann again

Weston Wamp to challenge Chuck Fleischmann again

January 11th, 2014 by Dave Flessner in Local Regional News

POLL: Can Weston Wamp beat Chuck Fleischmann?

Weston Wamp and Chuck Fleischmann

Weston Wamp and Chuck Fleischmann

Republican Weston Wamp plans to mount another attempt this year to unseat two-term Rep. Chuck Fleischmann in Tennessee's 3rd Congressional District.

Wamp, the 26-year-old son of former U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp, is expected to launch his second congressional campaign Monday to challenge Fleischmann in the Aug. 7 congressional GOP primary.

Wamp declined Friday to discuss his political plans in advance of a news conference he has called Monday morning at the Lamp Post Group, where Wamp has operated his communications and marketing company, Wamp Strategy, for the past three years. But Wamp has been talking with potential supporters for the past couple of months and said he is encouraged by a survey he conducted last fall that showed most East Tennessee Republicans might want another congressman.

"I've always been in a group of people who believe our district deserves better representation," Wamp said Friday.

His father served 16 years in the U.S. House before running unsuccessfully for Tennessee governor in 2010. Fleischmann succeeded the elder Wamp four years ago by winning a 30 percent plurality of the GOP vote in August 2010 and then won a second term in 2012, after winning with a 39 percent plurality of the GOP vote.

Wamp finished third in the four-man Republican primary in 2012 behind both Fleischmann and former Mayfield Dairy Co. President Scottie Mayfield. But Wamp won the most votes in Hamilton County, the largest in the sprawling 11-county district, and still captured nearly 29 percent of the total GOP primary vote.

In an email to his supporters in November, Wamp said he "probably would be a U.S. Congressman today if it were not for Scottie Mayfield's late entrance into the race." In a head-to-head matchup with Fleischmann, a survey of Third District Republicans last fall by Wilkins Research showed that only 38 percent of the respondents would favor Fleischmann.

But Fleischmann's supporters insist that the incumbent congressman has picked up support from two years ago and contend his conservative voting record and membership on the key House Appropriations Committee makes him a valuable member of Congress.

"We just feel like the business community is solidly behind Chuck and we've picked up a lot of new supporters, many of whom came from Weston's camp," said Tom Decosimo, finance chairman for Fleischmann. "We're ready to return Chuck to Congress."

Fleischmann was elected four years ago along with Scott Desjarlais in the neighboring Fourth Congressional District, but both Republicans are facing potentially strong primary challenges this year. Desjarlais, a Jasper physician, is being challenged by state Sen. Jim Tracy, who has picked up the support of many GOP legislative leaders after Desjarlais revealed that he had sexual affairs with several women and encouraged one to have an abortion.

"Most of the Republicans in the country being challenged within their own party are facing opponents who contend that the incumbents are not conservative enough, but I don't think anyone is claiming that either Desjarlais or Fleischmann haven't been conservative with their votes," said David Brodsky, UTC professor of political science. "There is a lot of sentiment against Congress, but usually when people go to vote they do tend to vote for their representative, especially if he or she is in the same party."

But after only two terms in Congress, Fleischmann can't point to major signature achievements and he has been unable so far to get funding for projects such as the Chickamauga Lock replacement, Brodsky said.

"Wamp enjoys a lot of recognition and support from his father's days in Congress, although some may criticize him for trying to take advantage of his father's name," Brodsky said.

No other Republicans have announced plans yet to challenge Fleischmann.

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or at 757-6340.