Two separate paths led the Wamps toward Hamilton County's highest offices

Run the clock back a few years and the likelihood of the name Wamp on a ballot in 2022 seemed slim, at best.

There may have been chatter about the children of former U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp running for office, but the political landscape was not in their favor.

Coty Wamp, 33, was working for the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office. When she took the position, she said Sheriff Jim Hammond asked her about running for district attorney but there was maybe a 25% chance of that, she said. Neal Pinkston, the DA for the 11th Judicial District, was poised to run for the position again. Incumbents rarely lose.

Weston Wamp, 35 and Coty's brother, was finding success working in the private sector. He ran two unsuccessful campaigns for Congress in 2012 and 2014. Plus, Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger had held the position since 2011.

But a series of events in the past 12 months resulted in both Coty and Weston Wamp appearing on the Republican ballot Tuesday for district attorney and county mayor, respectively, and as results rolled in Tuesday evening, the two millennials won their party's nomination for two of the top positions in Hamilton County.

"Coty and I were never encouraged to pursue political office," Weston Wamp said. "Lord knows that my mother's life would have been much easier if we had not. And my dad, for that matter. I don't know that either of them would have ever chosen for us to go this route. It has got to be just extraordinarily stressful for parents."

The siblings took very different paths as young adults - one working her way up in the legal system to increasingly powerful positions and the other influencing politics outside of public office as a consultant and thought leader - yet both will be on the ballot Aug. 4 in the general election. Weston Wamp will face off against Democrat Matt Adams. Coty Wamp will face Democrat John Allen Brooks.

Coty Wamp knew she wanted to be a criminal attorney as early as her junior year at Chattanooga Christian School. Her decision to go to law school made her the first lawyer in the Wamp family, she said.

She went on to work as an assistant public defender in the 11th Judicial District, an assistant district attorney in the 10th Judicial District and later as general counsel for the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office.

During her time in Bradley County, then working in Hamilton County, she said she became increasingly frustrated with the current DA, how the office was managed and how cases were handled. After months of allegations surrounding Pinkston, the Tennessee comptroller found he violated state nepotism rules by hiring his wife and brother-in-law for jobs in his office.

In early October, Coty Wamp announced her campaign for the position.

"If you can do a better job, and then put your name in the hat," Coty Wamp said. "And if you lose, it was a valuable mission. And that's sort of where I was coming from last year."

Weston Wamp started on a more direct path to political office, running for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2012 and 2014, losing both times to U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Chattanooga.

Following the loss, Weston Wamp moved to the private sector to work as a consultant on politics and business. He founded the Millennial Debt Foundation, which works to cut deficit spending, and served on the Tennessee Board of Regents.

(READ MORE: Most of Hamilton County Commission, half of school board changing along with new leaders at the top)

The siblings said seeing their father campaign for office and work as an elected official provided a sobering perspective of what public office really involves. The family saw the good side of public service, but also the ugly side of politics, Coty Wamp said.

Weston Wamp was about the same age as his oldest child is now when his father first ran for office, he said. As a boy, he had a lot of memories on the campaign trail, he said. That was one of the few opportunities to spend time with his father.

"As much of an honor as it became for our family that my dad served in Congress from the time I was in first grade through graduating from college, it was painful that my dad was gone four or five days a week," Weston Wamp said.

That reality was something he and his wife discussed a lot, whether this was something they wanted their children to go through, Weston Wamp said.

But, in October, Coppinger announced he would not seek re-election. Weston Wamp reconsidered. He felt the county mayor could do a lot for public education, something he is passionate about, and local politics might be the one area that could cut through the partisan polarization of the times.

Weston Wamp entered the race.

The two Wamps ran very different campaigns. Weston Wamp's forest green campaign signs featured his last name in slightly larger font than his first. He talked about vocational education and infrastructure. Coty Wamp's signs, in black, blue and white, placed her first name larger than her last. In debates, she spoke on better supporting law enforcement and diversifying the staff in the DA's office.

"We didn't even communicate that much," Coty Wamp said. "Because we wanted to make sure we were separate, he would do his thing for his own reasons. And I was doing my thing for my reasons."

Coty Wamp said she was aware she was starting from behind in the campaign. There were concerns about her "experience," she said, a likely jab at her age. There was also advice given on how to dress and present herself as a candidate, the kind of advice she doubted a man would get.

"Whether it was because of my sex or my age, I think both of them made me feel like I was the underdog," Coty Wamp said. "And the fact that I was not the incumbent. We know that incumbents normally win."

Weston Wamp was facing off against real estate agent and Hamilton County Commissioner Sabrena Smedley and businessman Matt Hullander for the county mayoral nomination. The race shaped up to be the most contested race for the position in nearly three decades.

Hullander had the backing of Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond and Fleischmann in the race, while Smedley received an endorsement from the union representing Hamilton County sheriff's deputies and Chattanooga police officers.

In March, Tennessee state Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, endorsed Weston Wamp. Gardenhire told the Chattanooga Times Free Press by phone he had known Weston Wamp since he was a toddler and encouraged him to enter the race.

Endorsing a candidate in the race was a risk, Gardenhire said, but he thought it was the right choice.

"Politics 101 is you don't get involved in local politics, so I stepped out for Weston," Gardenhire said.

Both candidates faced criticisms related to their family name, the "riding coattails" comments, as Coty Wamp described them, with her and Weston Wamp being the children of the congressman who represented Tennessee's 3rd Congressional District from 1995 to 2011 and ran for Tennessee governor.

"All of the people that think our last name helps us," Coty Wamp said. "It does, but in a lot of ways it also hurt us."

(READ MORE: Brooks launches campaign for Hamilton County district attorney)

Election night provided two different experiences for the Wamp siblings. Coty Wamp held an event at the Edwin Hotel. When early voting results were posted after 8 p.m., she jumped to a big lead with around 70% of the vote. She was shocked and emotional, she said.

With each update to the vote totals, Coty Wamp's victory became clearer. At the final tally, she won more than 70% of the vote. Her parents watched admiringly as she gave a victory speech on election night.

"To be here today, a few days from the election, winning with whatever percentage I won by, feels good but also feels like a win for young women across the county, across the state, across the nation," Coty Wamp said.

Weston Wamp did not host a formal election night party, instead opting to gather with friends and family at home.

"I've been through tough races before," he said. "It was primary election night, not an election night. I was cognizant of that. I thought we had a good chance to win. But I just still didn't think it was a time for celebration."

The election remained close for most of the evening, coming down to a race between Weston Wamp and Smedley. In the end, Weston Wamp won 54 precincts and tied in one. Smedley won 27 precincts and tied in one. Hullander won seven and tied in two precincts.

"It's been a long journey coming into Tuesday night," Weston Wamp said.

Contact Wyatt Massey at wmassey@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6249. Follow him on Twitter @news4mass.