Note: This story was updated on May 15 to correct the line-up of candidates appearing on the general election ballot on Aug. 4.
Ten days after winning the countywide Republican primary election for Hamilton County mayor by a razor-thin margin, Weston Wamp held a belated victory party Friday night and pledged to his supporters that he will work to dignify public service and focus on improving public education for future generations if he is elected in August.
"We have the opportunity to focus all of our county on lifting young people into careers, and if we do that, we can give hope to all people, we can lower crime and we can breathe more life into our workforce and economy," Wamp said in a speech to nearly 100 friends and family members gathered at the Songbirds museum. "I want every little Latina girl, every Black boy and every white kid in Sale Creek to know that their county mayor is in their corner."
Wamp, a 35-year-old entrepreneur and son of former U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp, praised the example his father set in public service that he said helped inspire both him and his sister, Coty, to run for elected office.
"I want people to see dignity in politics like what we saw in our political family," Wamp said. "I don't want to go home and hear politicians be the punchline of jokes."
In her first run for elected office, Coty Wamp last week defeated incumbent Hamilton County District Attorney Neal Pinkston in the GOP primary race.
In his first political campaigns, Weston Wamp was defeated in 2012 and again in 2014 in successive races for U.S. Congress against Republican Chuck Fleischmann, who remains in Congress in Zach Wamp's former seat. But in his third bid for elected office, Weston Wamp last week received just over 35% of the vote to win the Republican primary race for mayor over Hamilton County Commission Chairwoman Sabrena Smedley and businessman Matt Hullander, according to the results now certified by the Hamilton County Election Commission.
The race was the first major contested primary Hamilton County mayoral contest in two decades and one of the closest countywide races ever in Hamilton County.
Wamp pledged to campaign aggressively right up to the Aug. 4 general election when he will appear on the ballot against Democrat Matt Adams, a contract paralegal who moved to Chattanooga last year after leaving active duty in the U.S. Army. Two potential independent candidates — David Tulis and Richard Ford — took out initial paperwork to run but did not submit final documents in time to make the August general election ballot.
Zach Wamp said he thinks his son's focus on education in general and vocational education in particular during the GOP primary race proved to be decisive.
"I think Weston's appeal was broader, which brought more voters to the Republican primary and at the end of the day education won this day, and it's exciting to see a younger people now step up and lead," Zach Wamp said.
In 2019, Weston Wamp was appointed by Gov. Bill Lee to the Tennessee Board of Regents, which oversees 13 community colleges and 27 colleges of applied technology across the state. Wamp said he supports more vocational schools like the former Kirkman Technical High School downtown that closed in 1991.
Coty Wamp praised her older brother for his passion for education and said he will be more of a risk-taker than most politicians and is willing to "swing for the fences" to score home runs for the county.
And with his four young children around him on stage, Weston Wamp also promised to take the job seriously but not himself.
"I want the spirit of the way we serve to be that we take the job very seriously but not ourselves," Wamp said. "I think a lot of politicians do the opposite. They sometimes do a haphazard job in office, but they take themselves very seriously."
The winner of the Aug. 4 election in the Hamilton County mayor's race will succeed the retiring Jim Coppinger on Sept. 1.
Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfree press.com or at 423-757-6340. Follow him on Twitter @dflessner1.