Santorum backs Wamp; Fleischmann mailer under fire

Santorum backs Wamp; Fleischmann mailer under fire

July 26th, 2014 by Tim Omarzu in Local Regional News

Weston Wamp and Chuck Fleischmann

Weston Wamp is a member of the generation of "millennials" born since 1981 that, according a Pew Research Center poll last year, supports same-sex marriage by 70 percent.

Still, the 27-year-old Wamp, who hopes to unseat incumbent Chuck Fleischmann in the Aug. 7 Republican primary for Tennessee's 3rd Congressional District, was enthusiastic to announce Friday he'd gotten the endorsement of former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum.

The conservative Pennsylvania lawmaker came in second in the 2012 Republican presidential primary -- and caught flak for his staunch opposition to gay marriage and abortion, even in cases of incest or rape.

"Sen. Santorum and I are totally committed to the sanctity of human life and the strengthening of our families," Wamp said in a news release.

It quoted Santorum as saying, "Weston is exactly the kind of person we desperately need in Washington right now."

Santorum's endorsement came on the same day that Fleischmann came under fire from Chattanooga's public television station for using its logo on a mailer titled "Weston Wamp Supports Amnesty for Illegal Immigration."

"We are disappointed that the Fleischmann campaign has used our logo on a mailer," WTCI President and CEO Paul Grove said.

The mailer, paid for by the Chuck Fleischmann for Congress Committee, has an apparently Photoshopped image of a smiling Wamp setting a passport afire with a lighter.

"We need to find a pathway for them (illegal immigrants) to be legal," is the quote attributed to Wamp on the mailer that was made during a July 2 WTCI/Times Free Press debate. The WTCI logo is next to the quote.

"Chuck Fleischmann for Congress Committee did not seek permission to use WTCI's logo and it was not granted," WTCI said in a statement posted Friday on its website. "We've asked the organization to withdraw the mailer from circulation and cease to distribute it immediately."

Conner Ingram, with the Fleischmann campaign, defended the mailer.

"Those are his exact words, and we thought it only appropriate to cite where they came from," Ingram said. "[The photo of Wamp] is obviously a symbolic caricature to grab the attention of voters about this very important issue."

Wamp's campaign manager, Marshall Brock, said the mailer was "so disappointing."

"This is what Congressman Fleischmann has done in all of his campaigns to win," Brock said. "It's what they do. It's not what we do."

Meanwhile, Brock wasn't able to say Friday afternoon specifically where Wamp agrees with Santorum on social issues.

Mary Headrick, the Democrat who'll face either Wamp or Fleischmann in November, said voters are owed at least that from candidates.

She figures Wamp got Santorum's endorsement through his father, Zach, who represented the 3rd District from 1995 to 2011.

"Weston has his father's connections to tap into," said Headrick, who worked as a medical doctor and hasn't previously held office.

"If I were to call [Massachusetts U.S. Sen.] Elizabeth Warren, she wouldn't know me from Adam."

Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at tomarzu@timesfreepress.com or twitter.com/TimOmarzu or 423-757-6651.