Supporters of Weston Wamp gave the 24-year-old Republican challenger more than $250,000 Monday night in the biggest fundraiser ever in Tennessee's 3rd Congressional District.
"This is the start of a winning congressional campaign," Wamp told nearly 100 supporters who each donated from $500 to $5,000 to help seed the campaign. "People are obviously frustrated by what is going on in Washington and are looking for a new generation of leadership and people who will break the mold. I'm vowing to you that I'll break the mold."
Wamp is trying to oust U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn., the 49-year-old attorney who won his seat in Congress in 2010. Fleischmann succeeded Wamp's father, former U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn., who gave up his congressional seat after 16 years to run unsuccessfully for governor.
The elder Wamp said his son "is even better than I was" in campaigning and, if elected, will bring more energy and attention as potentially the youngest member of the next Congress.
The younger Wamp praised his father's congressional career but said new leaders are needed in Washington willing to make "deep long-term reforms" of government, its tax system and entitlement programs. Unlike Fleischmann, Wamp insisted, "I am not a partisan," calling himself instead "a young conservative."
"Chuck Fleischmann is a nice man, but in many ways he represents the status quo in Washington," Wamp said.
Alexis Bogo, the executive director of the Hamico foundation who hosted the fundraiser at her North Chattanooga home, said Wamp "brings a new energy and enthusiasm" to the race and is able to involve a younger generation of supporters.
"When you talk about politics, you usually aren't energized," she said. "But spending time with Weston you see that he has lot of great ideas and wants to make a real difference in Washington."
Monday's fundraiser for Wamp topped a Fleischmann fundraiser in October with U.S. House Speaker John Boehner which netted more than $200,000 for the incumbent. But Fleischmann previously raised another $352,288, so he still has a bigger campaign war chest as he seeks re-election next year.
Fleischmann said Monday he was elected "to get our fiscal house in order and help turn this country around" and that is his focus at present, not running for re-election.
"I'm going to continue to focus on my job day in and day out and forget about the politics," he said.
Jean Howard-Hill, a UTC political science professor, is the only other announced candidate in Tennessee's 3rd Congressional District, although Chattanooga attorney J.B. Bennett and Tres Wittum, a policy analyst for state Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, also are considering running for the seat.
Contact staff writer Dave Flessner at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 757-6340