Chuck Fleischmann, a Chattanooga attorney seeking the open 3rd Congressional District seat, says a radio ad from his chief GOP rival, Robin Smith, criticizing lawsuits he has filed against "gun clubs and Walmarts and churches" misrepresents his legal work on behalf of ordinary people.
"I make a living standing up for the little guy, people who have traditionally not had a voice and who have been dealt injustices and been harmed," he said. "When I go to Congress, I am going to continue to fight for the little guy."
The 30-second spot, narrated by WGOW-AM 1150 personality Wally Witkowski, refers to Mr. Fleischmann as a "slip-and-fall trial lawyer" and asserts he became rich by "suing gun clubs and Walmarts and churches."
The ad began airing Tuesday on WGOW and four small radio stations in the 3rd District, said Mrs. Smith's campaign spokesman, Mark Winslow. He said the ad will run through July 30.
Early voting ends July 31, with the primary election being Aug. 5.
Court documents show Mr. Fleischmann has filed lawsuits on behalf of clients against the Chattanooga Rifle Club in Harrison, Tenn., the Walmart on Gunbarrel Road and the Ridgedale Baptist Church Child Development Center on Hickory Valley Road.
The rifle-club lawsuit, filed in Hamilton County Circuit Court in April 2003, alleged Steven Miller Laub was working on his property in Harrison with his wife, Debra Key, on April 13, 2002, when he was struck in the abdomen by a bullet fired at the gun club "from a .45-caliber open-bolt submachine gun."
The suit claimed Mr. Laub suffered "serious injuries requiring medical treatment" and asked for $1.5 million in damages for Mr. Laub and $500,000 for his wife.
The suit against the Walmart store, filed in Circuit Court in 2005, alleged Mr. Fleischmann's client, Robert Meeks, suffered "serious and disabling injuries" after tripping on "an unreasonably and dangerously placed yellow strip" on the floor. The suit asked for $175,000 for Mr. Meeks and $50,000 for his wife, Laucia Meeks, for "loss of services, consortium and society from her husband."
The Circuit Court lawsuit against the Ridgedale Baptist Child Development Center alleged a 2-year-old boy was "struck by a table which fell or collapsed at the center" on Oct. 23, 1996.
Mr. Fleischmann said the three lawsuits were settled without going to trial and that all were resolved by "mutual agreement."
He said last week he could not remember the settlement amount in the Walmart suit but that it was resolved "to both parties' satisfaction."
Mr. Fleischmann said he is prohibited "under a strict confidentiality" agreement from discussing the terms of the rifle-club settlement.
In the Ridgedale Baptist Child Development Center case, a court document shows the center was required to pay $47,500 to the injured 2-year-old to be invested by the Hamilton County Circuit Court Registry into a federally insured financial institution. The court awarded Mr. Fleischmann $15,833.33 in attorney fees.
Mr. Winslow said that suing a church is not equivalent to "fighting for the little guy."
"The members of the church consider themselves to be little guys, too," he said.
During the past week, the Fleischmann and Smith campaigns have complained that the other has engaged in negative advertising.
Mr. Fleischmann's campaign began airing a television ad last week alleging Mrs. Smith, a Hixson health care consultant, left the state Republican Party with a financial shortfall after her term as chairwoman ended last year.
Mr. Winslow has said the Fleischmann TV ad is based on a "false allegation."
In a Twitter posting on Friday, Mr. Fleischmann called Mrs. Smith a "typical politician" for claiming she is not attacking her opponents but then running a "misleading" radio ad against him.
Eleven Republicans, four Democrats and six independents are vying for the 3rd District seat held since 1995 by U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn., who is running for governor. The 11-county district, representing about 650,000 people, stretches from the Georgia to Kentucky borders and includes Chattanooga, Cleveland and Oak Ridge.
Congress members are paid $174,000 annually.
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3rd District Candidates
Basil Marceaux Sr.
Brenda Freeman Short
Brent Davis Staton
Gregory C. Goodwin
Savas T. Kyriakidis
Source: Tennessee Department of State - Division of Elections