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Weston Wamp was asked what is his line-in-the-sand issue on immigration reform during his appearance at Thursday’s Roane County Tea Party meeting.
The question was rather timely; his opponent in the Republican Primary, Congressman Chuck Fleischmann, is now running a TV ad accusing Wamp of supporting “amnesty for illegal immigrants.”
“American citizenship is — and has been for almost 250 years — very precious and very valuable,” he said, “so my line in the sand is that we shouldn’t give it away. There should be no amnesty.”
He described the country’s current immigration situation as “non-ideal.”
“There is a way to move forward, in my opinion, where nobody gets citizenship for free,” Wamp said.
“Where theoretically people are given some opportunity to stay here or to go home and come back, so that we don’t do an extraordinary amount of harm to different elements of our economy.”
Wamp is challenging Fleischmann for the Republican nomination in the 11-county 3rd Congressional District.
Fleischmann is seeking his third term. He defeated Wamp and two other challengers in the 2012 primary.
“People ask me all the time: Where is Congressman Fleischmann? And what has he done?” Wamp said.
“He’s going to start making up all sorts of reasons why we ought to re-elect him, but I don’t know how many of them will be believable.”
The Fleischmann campaign put out a press release on July 10 that accused Wamp of “Washington double-talk and hypocrisy” for denouncing super Political Action Committees in 2012, but having one work on his behalf this year.
“There is an outside group of people in Chattanooga led by one person who want to see me get elected,” Wamp said, “but it’s different. It’s not a PAC. It’s a 529 or whatever they call the outside group, and there’s no affiliation between that and my campaign, so I can’t control what they do.”
Wamp also took issue with the Fleischmann campaign’s use of the word “hypocrisy.”
“No company ever expecting anything in return has ever given me a dollar, because I don’t accept it,” Wamp said. “He’s taken hundreds of thousands of that money, and so for them to call me a hypocrite is baseless. Nobody even believes that.”
Tennessee has an open primary system, which means Democrats are free to vote in Republican primaries and vice versa. Fleischmann has accused Wamp and his father, former congressman Zach Wamp, of reaching out to Democrats for votes.
“I think our party needs to grow, and so I’m appealing to people in this district who are interested in the things that I’m interested in,” Wamp said. “If people support me, I want them to come vote for me.”
Earlier in the campaign, Wamp called Fleischmann a “do-nothing” congressman. Fleischmann responded to that criticism by saying, “After my first term, I was put on the powerful House Appropriations Committee.”
Wamp said Fleischmann’s committee assignment is not unique.
“That’s not some sort of rare thing,” Wamp said. “My father was also on the Appropriations Committee. He (Fleischmann) is grabbing a hold of anything he can to get people to give him one more term in Congress, despite the fact he hasn’t accomplished anything of significance.”
Fleischmann didn’t attend the meeting, much to the dismay of some Tea Party members, who earlier in the week thought he would. Fleischmann spokesman Jordan Powell said Fleischmann couldn’t attend because Congress was in session.
Early voting for the primary and County General Election runs through Aug. 2. Election Day is Aug. 7.