J.B. Bennett won't seek seat in Congress for Tennessee's 3rd District... right now

photo J.B. Bennett
Arkansas-Tennessee Live Blog

J.B. Bennett on Monday became the second local this month to say he's not running for Congress.

"I very much appreciate all of the kind words of encouragement and tremendous support from so many people I greatly respect," he wrote in an emailed statement. "I am not ruling out running for public office in the future."

The announcement sounded familiar. Two weeks ago, Robin Smith, U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann's top Republican rival from a year ago, went on the radio to say she would not challenge the congressman to a rematch.

A Chattanooga attorney and lobbyist, Bennett recently sent a letter to about 100 friends that said he was exploring a run against Fleischmann in Tennessee's 3rd Congressional District. Bennett later told the Chattanooga Times Free Press he was "not satisfied" with Fleischmann's leadership, but he declined to specify his grievances.

The son of Hamilton County Property Assessor Bill Bennett, J.B. Bennett said he "will think about" making an endorsement, but his statement made no mention of Fleischmann or any of his challengers.

Two Republicans, political science professor Jean Howard-Hill and Weston Wamp, the 24-year-old son of former Rep. Zach Wamp, have mounted primary challenges against Fleischmann. No Democrat has announced.

Donor fatigue may have played a role in Bennett's decision to sit out this race.

According to the latest financial reports, Fleischmann already has $352,000 on hand, not including about $200,000 his aides say he raised at a Chattanooga fundraiser featuring House Speaker John Boehner.

Financial information for Howard-Hill and Wamp won't be available until next year, but Wamp has said he raised $250,000 at a fundraiser last week.

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