Wamp looks to 'hold ground' in Chattanooga

Wamp looks to 'hold ground' in Chattanooga

November 11th, 2009 by Matt Wilson in News

U.S. Rep Zach Wamp says it's "incredibly important" for him to raise money for his gubernatorial campaign in East Tennessee.

"Financially, I've got to be strong coming out of my home base, which is not just Chattanooga, but it's also Knoxville," Rep. Wamp, R-Tenn., said Tuesday night. "It's incredibly important for me to hold my ground at home."

To reach that goal, a group of Chattanooga community and business leaders gathered Tuesday at the Hunter Museum of American Art for a Wamp fundraiser.

Chattem Chairman Zan Guerry and his wife, Julie, were co-chairmen of the event, which Rep. Wamp characterized as bipartisan and looking forward to the November 2010 general election.

Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield and Hamilton County Mayor Claude Ramsey spoke at the event.

A tally of the amount raised was not immediately available.

Rep. Wamp said his polling shows he is "the strongest in the Chattanooga media market of any candidate in any media market on either side, Republican or Democrat."

But in May, two of Rep. Wamp's biggest local supporters in his congressional campaigns, Scott L. "Scottie" Probasco Jr. and Joseph Decosimo agreed to back Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam's campaign for the GOP gubernatorial nomination.

Mark Cate, Mr. Haslam's campaign manager, said the Knoxville mayor's campaign has gotten "tremendous support" in Chattanooga and has more events planned here.

"We are very confident that we will be in a very strong position financially in Chattanooga," he said.

In fact, Mr. Cate said, the Haslam campaign plans to raise a lot of money throughout the 3rd Congressional District, which Rep. Wamp represents.

"The financial support you get from the area you represent is an indicator of (overall support)," he said.

Josh Thomas, spokesman for the gubernatorial campaign for Shelby County District Attorney Bill Gibbons, said Mr. Gibbons' campaign is tapping into a base of support in the Chattanooga area, but acknowledged that it's Rep. Wamp's home turf.

"It's the congressman's backyard," he said. "We expect him to do well."

Mr. Thomas said the Gibbons campaign has had several successful meetings in Southeast Tennessee, however.

Brad Todd, spokesman for Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, said he thinks the Ramsey campaign will be successful doing fundraising here because of what he called the lieutenant governor's support of private enterprise.

Mr. Todd said Lt. Gov. Ramsey has an ideological base rather than a geographic base.

Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester said Southeast Tennessee is "the low-hanging fruit" for Rep. Wamp, but he doesn't think the eight-term congressman's fundraising will have much effect on Democrats' efforts.

"Chattanooga is one of the major cities in our state and has historically provided a strong fundraising base for Democrats," he said.

GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATES

Republicans

* U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp

* Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam

* Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey

* Shelby County Attorney General Bill Gibbons

Democrats

* Former state Rep. Kim McMillan

* Nashville businessman Ward Cammack

* Mike McWherter

* State Sen. Roy Herron

* State Sen. Jim Kyle