A new poll commissioned by Chuck Fleischmann in his bid to replace U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp in East Tennessee's 3rd Congressional District shows the Chattanooga attorney in a dead heat with his chief GOP rival, Hixson health care consultant Robin Smith, going into Thursday's primary election.
According to the Thursday survey of 4,158 voters by Nashville firm Tele-Target, Fleischmann holds a 24 percent to 23 percent lead over Smith in the 11-county district that includes Chattanooga, Cleveland and Oak Ridge. The poll has a 1.51 percent margin of error, according to Fleischmann spokesman Jordan Powell.
Those figures are in stark contrast to a July 12 survey in the district by the anti-tax Club for Growth political action committee showing Smith with a 22-point lead over Fleischmann.
Four days after the survey by the Washington, D.C.-based PAC, Fleischmann's campaign began airing a television commercial asserting that Smith, a former state GOP chairwoman, left the party in debt at the end of her term in 2009. That ad began running on the day early voting started.
On Friday, Fleischmann attributed his poll numbers to his message that he is the "best true conservative candidate," but he also cited the TV ad as a factor.
"The Smith debacle over her leaving the party broke has destroyed her," Fleischmann said.
Smith spokesman Mark Winslow said it is "good news" for their campaign that Fleischmann can only claim a 1-point lead after two weeks of a "negative barrage" against Smith on TV.
"The debacle that he refers to is clearly a discredited and dead story," Winslow said. "We know that because he put another $50,000 of his personal wealth into the campaign (on Friday) in an effort to pull his negative campaign out of the ditch."
The Fleischmann poll shows Bradley County Sheriff Tim Gobble in third place with 12 percent of the vote. It also shows a high number of undecided voters, at 28 percent.
Eleven Republicans, four Democrats and six independents are vying in the district that Wamp has served since 1995. Wamp is running this year for governor.
Vols' Pearl in town on campaign stop
University of Tennessee men's head basketball coach Bruce Pearl is set to appear at a campaign rally in Chattanooga on Tuesday for Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam, a GOP candidate for governor.
The event is scheduled for 5 p.m. at the Doubletree hotel at 407 Chestnut St., according to an e-mail from the Haslam campaign. The event is free to the public.
Haslam is running in Thursday's primary election against U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp, of Chattanooga, and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, of Blountville, among others. The winner faces Democrat Mike McWherter in November.
Reported by staff writer Larry Henry. E-mail Larry Henry at lhenry@timesfree press.com.
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