Opinion: Let's not nationalize Hamilton County mayoral race

Contributed Photo / Hamilton County mayoral candidate Weston Wamp, who is a senior political strategist/contractor with Issue One, says he is not required to agree with everything the reform group does.

How much, if any, should Hamilton County mayoral candidate Weston Wamp be responsible for what his father says, writes or does?

We would argue not much at all, but a statewide conservative news and commentary website has made that a focus of an article about an open letter his father, former Republican U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp, signed encouraging the congressional subcommittee investigating the breach of the U.S. Capitol by hundreds of protesters on Jan. 6, 2021.

The letter, sent under the letterhead of Issue One, which refers to itself as a "crosspartisan political reform group," says members of the "Select Committee on the January 6 Attack are responding to this call by conducting a good-faith, bipartisan, and detailed investigation into the events of that day. Each of these members deserves our deepest thanks for their willingness to put country over party and prioritize our national security."

It went on to "strongly commend" the work of U.S. Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, both Republicans, and added, "We sincerely hope other Republicans will join efforts to pursue the truth and facts surrounding the events of January 6."

Zach Wamp is listed as co-chairman of the organization's ReFormers Caucus, and Weston Wamp is listed under the organization's "Staff" as a senior political strategist.

Given that, The Tennessee Star wanted to know whether the younger Wamp would publicly denounce the letter his father signed supporting Cheney and Kinzinger, who have been vilified by many Republicans for what many in the GOP say is a highly partisan investigation.

"I am not my father," he said, "and I had nothing to do with the letter." The Star said he did not elaborate.

We think the better question would have been, "As the senior political strategist for Issue One, do you support the content in the letter?"

So we asked it.

Weston's Wamp's answer was this: "My father was one of the very most conservative members of Congress for 16 years. He's earned the right to speak his mind.

"I am a contractor with Issue One, serving as a conservative voice in the organization and am certainly not required to agree with everything it does. My focus with Issue One has been 35 podcast episodes featuring Republican leaders from across the country talking about how to make national politics better.

"I don't believe in divisive Republicans attacking other Republicans. Hamilton County's future is not in Washington, nor dictated by the national issues or partisan debates there."

Oddly, the Star also asked Wamp if he worried that former President Donald Trump would endorse one of his opponents in the Republican primary for mayor in May.

"No," he said, "because I am the most conservative candidate running for Hamilton County mayor."

We don't know enough to know whether Republican candidates Matt Hullander and Sabrena Smedley have connections that would prompt the former president to stop promoting himself long enough to make an endorsement in a county mayoral primary in the fourth largest city in Tennessee, but we doubt it.

As a matter of fact, Trump has made only one endorsement this year in what Ballotpedia - which has catalogued his 305 endorsements from 2017 to date - called a "local" race. In Texas, he endorsed Tim O'Hare in an open race for Tarrant County Commissioners Court judge. Before that, he never endorsed anyone in a local race.

We would imagine that Weston Wamp and Matt Hullander are both glad to stand on the shoulders of their fathers (Hullander is the son of Hamilton County Trustee Bill Hullander), but both have carved out their own career niches.

Wamp was a founding director of Lamp Post Group, co-founded an investment fund, leads the national nonprofit Millennium Debt Foundation and was appointed by Gov. Bill Lee to the Tennessee Board of Regents. Hullander worked for his family's business, eventually bought it, and grew it by more than five times the size it was previously before selling it.

We can't imagine asking Weston Wamp to comment on any bill his father supported in Congress or Hullander about any vote his father took while on the Hamilton County Commission or any decision he has made as trustee.

Both fathers, no doubt, will give their sons advice and discuss campaign strategy with them, but in the end they have to act, make promises and campaign on their own.

This campaign should be devoid of national issues, short of any national issue that touches the county, and should center on the best ways the county can move forward.

We want to hear the candidates' detailed plans about education, infrastructure, development, crime and other issues that affect us day to day and not who fired the latest salvo at whom in Washington, D.C.

If we avoid the type of bitter acrimony found there, we're more likely to put our county first.