More than 400 constituents are asking Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Ooltewah, to show evidence to support his objection to results of the Nov. 3 presidential election.
Last week, the same day that a mob of thousands of supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol to "stop the steal" of the November election, Fleischmann voted to object to the election results, citing allegations of election fraud.
"Millions of Americans, including many of my constituents, have expressed these concerns over these last two months," he wrote in a statement on Jan. 6. "It has been reported that over 1 in 4 Americans do not believe this election was legitimate. This is a concerning statistic for our future, and we must do all we can moving forward to restore faith in the foundation of our republic, free and fair elections."
Trump lost to Democrat Joe Biden by 7 million votes but never conceded, instead stoking concerns about voter fraud for weeks after the election — allegations that were rejected by elections officials, judges, his own administration and the U.S. Supreme Court. On the day Congress was to certify the results of the election, an angry mob whipped up by Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol, threatening lawmakers and causing five deaths.
Then Congress reconvened to vote. A majority of Congress and even Tennessee's two Republican senators upheld the election results, officially declaring Biden the winner. Fleischmann was one of 147 Republican House members who cast a vote objecting to the election results, and some local constituents are asking him to document his reasons.
"People, elected officials, are saying that an election was stolen without any evidence and that has caused a tremendous amount of violence by people who believe it," Constituent Gary Smith said Friday. "We need to turn down the violence on this country and it won't happen when they won't respond to constituents and they'll make claims without backing them up."
When Smith couldn't get an answer from Fleischmann, he and ally Allison Gorman — whose daughter Meg Gorman ran unsuccessfully against Fleischmann in 2020 — formed a small protest in downtown Chattanooga to demand answers.
"In 2018, we had the same issue when we wanted to speak with him about the kids in cages situation. With [former Sen. Bob] Corker we were in in just a couple days and with [former Sen. Lamar Alexander] it was four or five days. But Fleischmann took six weeks," Gorman said. "There's no good way to contact Chuck if you're not someone he sees as a friend, and that's why we're asking him to address this publicly."
In less than a week, Gorman and Smith's petition accrued around 430 signatures from Fleischmann's constituents, asking the congressman to explain his evidence by Jan. 20, in hopes to quell potential violence during Biden's inauguration.
"There are a lot of us, Chuck's constituents, that are concerned about why he would vote against a legal election and he won't explain it to us," Gorman said. "And to be this dismissive to your constituents and to vote against an election without any evidence is further dividing the country and not serving the people he was elected to represent.
"If he doesn't hear any opposition to this, it's because he has his ears covered."
According to Gorman, Fleischmann's office was largely unresponsive to the group but finally agreed to meet Friday to receive the petition. A representative of his office met the pair outside of the building, which is closed to the public due to COVID-19, and left with the petition several minutes before the appointment was to begin, and before media was set to arrive. In a video shot by Gorman of the interaction, the representative walked inside, ignoring Gorman's repeated requests for his name.
A spokesperson for Fleischmann provided the Times Free Press links to previous statements on the vote Friday, but declined to comment on the petition.
In one of those statements, Fleischmann said, "It would be a disservice to our future elections if we certify the Electoral College results and move on when there has not been any attempt to put the worries of many Americans at ease with a thorough investigation into the allegations of fraud and questions of election integrity."
Contact Sarah Grace Taylor at email@example.com.