In pulling off his down-to-the-wire win Tuesday to snag the Republican nomination for Hamilton County mayor, Weston Wamp rode a broad wave of support across the western half of the county.
The 35-year-old secured strongholds through a large swath of Hamilton County as he fended off his two rivals, Sabrena Smedley and Matt Hullander, earning the most votes in 54 out of 90 precincts. He was the least favored candidate in only 11 precincts.
Wamp saw especially strong support close to Chattanooga's downtown areas and in the western half of the county, including communities like St. Elmo, where he claimed 46.6% of the vote, Dalewood (45.7%), Ridgeside (45.7%), Eastside (45.7%), Kingspoint (44.7%) and Lookout Mountain (44.4%).
Smedley, 53, led the race for several hours Tuesday evening after the polls closed and early voting and absentee ballot totals were added to the county's election results website first. As the evening progressed and precincts were added, Wamp whittled away at Smedley's early lead.
In an election that drew near-record turnout, with a total of 40,699 votes being cast, only 321 votes separated Wamp and Smedley.
In addition to taking an early lead on absentee and early voting ballots, Smedley earned the most votes in 27 of the county's 90 precincts, making a strong showing on the eastern side of the county.
She won precincts in and around her hometown of Ooltewah, including the Savannah Bay area, where she claimed 53.7% of the vote, Ooltewah Ringgold (49.4%), Ooltewah Georgetown (48.9%), Collegedale (43.2%), Westview A (53.4%) and Birchwood (42.3%).
Smedley did not respond to a request for comment.
Wamp said while the race with Smedley may have been a bit too close for comfort, it played out largely how he and his campaign staffers anticipated.
"I've had a chance to look at all the precinct data, and it was exactly what we expected," he said in a phone interview Friday night.
"They always say in county politics that it's either this side or that side of the river, and sure enough, you can pretty much draw a line down the river," he said. "You go west and all the way to the northernmost parts of the county, we won nearly every precinct. You look out east and we had to work hard to hold our head above water — although we did win one precinct in Harrison, which just shows how broad our base of support was, geographically."
Even so, the Lookout Valley resident said he knew he could count the most on votes from the people in the communities where he has lived and worked.
"We got what I hoped and expected, in the places where I'm known best," he said, "where most of my life has been spent."
Wamp said as his team neared the end of the campaign, "we did make a decision to spend time where we had a lot of support ... You can feel where your advantages are, and I think the race took a geographic flavor. That was something we took a lot of pride in."
That time paid off, he said: Where he won, he won convincingly, while "where we didn't win, we got beat pretty bad."
Wamp said he believed Smedley's strong showing during early voting could largely be attributed to "intense, base-type support that is typical of maybe the most hardcore Republican voters. And older voters, if I had to speculate."
Meanwhile, many of the voters showing up to the polls on the day of the election appeared to be younger families with children, he said.
"My hunch is that is what put us over the top," he said. "We ran a campaign focused on education."
As for the areas he lost, Wamp said they will serve as a blueprint for the work ahead of him as the Aug. 4 general election contest with 25-year-old Democrat Matt Adams approaches.
"The mission I've got is to go and bring those people to our cause," Wamp said.
Hullander's support was more scattered, with his most convincing wins coming in Flat Top Mountain near the north end of the county, where he secured 48.9% of the vote, Mountain Creek C (45.5%) to the west, Airport A (42.9%) and Glenwood (39.3%) closer to downtown, and Collegedale A (36.9%) to the east.
Hullander ended up as the preferred candidate in eight of 90 precincts, while he took third place in 41.
Contact Colin M. Stewart at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6366. Follow him on Twitter @Colin_M_Stewart.