Fleischmann aides: Congressman ready for challenge

Fleischmann aides: Congressman ready for challenge

January 13th, 2014 by Andy Sher in Local Regional News

Rep. Chuck Fleischmann

Photo by Dan Henry/Times Free Press.

An adviser to Republican U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann says the Chattanooga congressman is in a strong position financially to fend off a primary challenge from Weston Wamp.

In an interview Sunday, Fleischmann adviser John "Chip" Saltsman said the two-term incumbent raised "well over" $600,000 since the last campaign. Records showed the exact figure was $606,000 raised to date in the 2014 election cycle and $411,000 cash on hand as of Dec. 31.

Wamp, who ran unsuccessfully for the 3rd District congressional seat in 2012, is planning an announcement at 10 a.m. today about his political future.

If Weston Wamp, the 26-year-old son of Fleischmann's predecessor, Rep. Zach Wamp, does announce a second challenge to Fleischmann, it won't be a surprise, Saltsman said.

"Of course not," Saltsman said. "Wamp never called Chuck to concede after the last race" in 2012. "Never endorsed, which we expected. No call on election night.

"We always expected he'd run again because that's what Wamps do," Saltsman said. "And I know Weston's in a hurry to be something, to be somebody."

Saltsman added, "My guess is what he's going to be known as is the first millennial perennial candidate."

Wamp has called a news conference for today and is expected to announce another run at the seat his father held for 16 years. In November, Wamp said a Wilkins Research survey he commissioned last fall showed that only 38 percent of 3rd District Republicans supported Fleischmann in a potential Wamp-Fleischmann match-up.

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

He is the principal partner in Wamp Strategy, a public relations and marketing firm that operates out of the Lamp Post Group in downtown Chattanooga, where he will make his announcement today.

Fleischmann's finance chairman, Tom Decosimo, said he's confident the congressman will have a well-funded campaign."We have had a great response from across the district in support of Chuck," Decosimo said. "We've added to our number of contributors, including many who previously supported Weston. We're very, very comfortable with the great work that Chuck has done and with the support he enjoys across the 3rd District." Decosimo said the take to date is "pretty good since up to now we haven't even had an opponent." "We'll raise what it takes to make sure Chuck is re-elected," Decosimo said.

Wamp was 24 when he announced in late 2011 that he would try to upset Fleischmann's bid for a second term. Then businessman Scottie Mayfield jumped in, his decades of being the public face of Mayfield Dairy giving him a huge advantage in name identification.

But Fleischmann won with a plurality of votes. Wamp finished third.

Mayfield has said he won't run again and Wamp has told supporters he sees an easier path to victory in the sprawling district this year.

Fleischmann forces believe they'll far outdistance Wamp in fundraising and point out that Wamp raised $664,000 during his entire campaign last time, a figure Fleischmann is already close to matching with more fundraising planned.

Staff writers Andy Sher, Dave Flessner and Judy Walton contributed to this report.