Robin Smith rejects rematch

Robin Smith rejects rematch

December 3rd, 2011 by Chris Carroll in News

Robin Smith's big announcement? Not so big.

After hyping a Friday morning radio interview to announce her "congressional intentions," Smith revealed she would not seek Tennessee's 3rd Congressional District Republican nomination in 2012.

Smith cited business opportunities and several challengers already waiting to face U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann.

On Twitter, some questioned Smith's buildup.

"An announcement yesterday about an announcement today where Robin Smith says she is announcing she isn't going to do anything?" wrote Trace Sharp, under the Twitter handle "newscoma."

In a phone interview Thursday, Smith noted that beating an incumbent is very difficult, especially when the candidate field gets crowded.

"The more people you add to a primary, the less likely you're going to win."

She also wants to squelch ongoing rumors.

"Hopefully it will put some stuff to rest -- that my whole existence is to get back at Chuck," she said.

The announcement derailed any rumors of a rematch between Smith and Fleischmann, a duo that agreed on most 2010 election issues, but attacked each other almost daily in their emergence as the likeliest successors to Congressman Zach Wamp, who ran unsuccessfully for governor last year.

Fleischmann bested Smith by 2 percentage points in the primary, later taking 57 percent of the general election vote and riding a Republican midterm wave to Washington.

A former Smith aide recently sued Fleischmann, accusing the congressman of defamation during the 2010 campaign and seeking $750,000 in damages.

Smith has denied any connection to the lawsuit.

Smith's 2012 absence means Wamp's 24-year-old son, Weston, appears to have the best shot against Fleischmann, but four months remain before the qualifying deadline.

Political science professor Jean Howard-Hill is the other GOP candidate. Attorney J.B. Bennett and restaurant owner Savas Kyriakidis have said they might jump in.

"At this point, an endorsement is not likely," Smith said, adding the redistricting process will make Tennessee's 3rd "a very favorable district for a challenger to run against a newly elected incumbent."

Smith is a longtime family friend of the Wamps.

A health care consultant and former chairwoman of the Tennessee Republican Party, Smith said her decision shouldn't be seen as her final exit from conservative politics, adding that she doesn't have her eye on a local, state or federal office anytime soon.

"When I was chairman of the state party, I had to put my business on the shelf for two years," she said. "I kind of did the same thing when I ran for Congress. As I have ramped back up my business, there are some opportunities that may not come again."

She declined to specify those opportunities.

No Democrats, independents or third-party candidates have entered the race.