ATHENS, Tenn. - Scottie Mayfield promised Thursday to serve no more than 10 years if elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, making a pledge his top opponents recently refused or evaded.
Mayfield campaign spokesman Joe Hendrix said his boss decided to address term limits after reflecting on prior conversations with members of Congress.
"They told him they'd like to support certain legislation or initiatives, but choose not to vote for [them] because it would hurt their re-election," Hendrix said. "Having term limits ... creates the opportunity to vote for what the member believes is right."
A dairy executive challenging U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann in Tennessee's 3rd District Republican primary, Mayfield would be 72 at the beginning of a hypothetical fifth term. He would become eligible for a full congressional pension after holding office for five years, according to the Congressional Research Service.
A single House term is two years.
Fleischmann is seeking his second term. In a May 21 debate, he avoided a direct question about a term-limits pledge, saying that elections every two years already make House members accountable to voters.
Weston Wamp, another Republican challenging Fleischmann, said at the debate that he would not make a term-limits pledge.
"I will serve in Congress as long as I am passionate about waking up every morning and doing the people's work," he said.
Hendrix said Mayfield believes 12 years "should be the limit" for each House member. But if a House member serves 12 years and then wants to run for Senate, he would get a fresh 12 years under Mayfield's plan, Hendrix said.
"Scottie wants to meet with other members of Congress to pursue legislation for term limits, but he also wants to make sure the country isn't hurt by hundreds of members of Congress having their terms end at the same time," Hendrix said. "It needs to be well planned and well thought out before it can be introduced."
The term-limits pledge has some local history with Fleischmann's 3rd District predecessor, former U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp, who is Weston Wamp's father. He campaigned on a pledge to serve no more than six terms. He served eight.
Ron Bhalla, another Republican challenging Fleischmann, has said he would let his constituents decide on his salary and how many terms he should serve.
Bill Taylor, a Chattanooga Democrat in the race, recently said he won't set term limits on himself.
"I'm 60 years old, so it's not going to be too many terms," he joked.
Independent candidate Matthew Deniston and Taylor's opponent in the Democratic primary, Maynardville physician Mary Headrick, could not be reached immediately.
Mayfield announced the pledge Thursday at his campaign headquarters in Athens, where more than 100 supporters attended a grand opening featuring Bojangles biscuits and the candidate's brand of ice cream.