Congressional candidate Ron Bhalla would seek input for votes

Congressional candidate Ron Bhalla would seek input for votes

February 28th, 2012 by Chris Carroll in News

Ron Bhalla

Photo by Tracey Trumbull/Times Free Press.

POLL: Which candidate do you support for the 3rd Congressional District?

If Chattanooga real estate investor Ron Bhalla wins his bid for Congress, he'll ask his constituents to email him their opinions before every vote, he told a local Republican group Monday.

Bhalla promised the Hamilton County Pachyderm Club that he'll vote in Congress according to those emails. If more online respondents support a given bill, he'll pull the "yea" lever, but if the majority opposes it, he'll be a "nay."

He said he'll ignore "party influence, lobbyist influence, Washington politics and self-interest."

"Change is [President Barack] Obama's word," said Bhalla, 63. "I want to bring reform in the system."

Bhalla is one of U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann's four Republican challengers in Tennessee's 3rd Congressional District. At $12,000 in estimated expenses, his campaign is a far cry from Fleischmann's. Records show the first-term Republican reported a re-election war chest in excess of $600,000 at the end of last year.

At Monday's Pachyderm Club meeting, Hamilton County Republican Party Chairman Marty Von Schaaf asked Bhalla how he expects to handle hundreds of thousands of emails per vote, optimistically assuming large portions of the 3rd Congressional District would respond to Bhalla's daily political queries.

Congress occasionally votes on dozens of pieces of legislation in a single day.

Bhalla answered without giving many details, saying he had faith in "mass filtering" email systems that would allow him or his staff to tally the votes quickly.

"There will be 1-800 phone numbers available for individuals who do not have Internet access," according to Bhalla's campaign website.

About 30 people attended Bhalla's speech, and the mood among rivals was cheery. Daphne Kirksay, district director for Fleischmann, sat at the same table as Ken Orr, Bhalla's campaign manager. Bhalla never mentioned Fleischmann by name during a half-hour speech.

Bhalla said his wife and the family puppy have been knocking on at least 100 houses a day for the last month. He said he would let his constituents set his salary, again without offering details on how such a process would work.

Fleischmann's other GOP opponents are political science professor Jean Howard-Hill, dairy executive Scottie Mayfield and 24-year-old Weston Wamp, a local businessman and the son of former U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp.

Democrats in the race include physician Mary Headrick and businessman Bill Taylor.

Contact staff writer Chris Carroll at ccarroll@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6610.