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Earlier this month, Weston Wamp announced that he will again take on Chuck Fleischmann in the Republican primary for Tennessee’s 3rd Congressional District.
So what has changed since voters handed Wamp his hat two years ago?
For one thing, this time it’s a head-to-head race — not the three-man field that included Scottie Mayfield in 2012.
For another, the newly married Wamp will be 27 when election time rolls around this year. He said he has matured a lot since he faced voters two years ago.
Finally, the GOP establishment has presented its vulnerable belly over the past year — particularly during the sequestration debacle — and that has given challengers like Wamp plenty to work with.
“Tactics and tone are really important,” said Wamp, who was in Roane County this week. He accused Fleischmann of toeing the Republican leadership line and “playing politics over people.”
“Whatever (House Speaker) John Boehner wants him to do, he does,” Wamp said. “I don’t feel like the people in this district have a representative who stood up to what they expect.”
Wamp said the differences between himself and Fleischmann are clear — even in their fundraising strategies.
Fleischmann’s campaign chest was heavy in political action committee funding during the 2012 race – about 40 percent of $700,000 – and in this campaign, he is following the same track, Wamp said.
Wamp is accepting no corporate PAC money.
He said his loyalties will be with the voters, not special interests.
Another difference, he said, is accessibility.
Wamp pointed out a story in Chattanooga in which a 3rd District veteran tried repeatedly — 20 phone calls, it was reported — to reach Fleischmann during government sequestration to complain about temporarily frozen veterans benefits.
“I’m not hard to get ahold of,” said Wamp, who has been giving out his cellphone number liberally.
He also plans to spend several days at a time in the county in a campaign camper.
The Lookout Valley resident has some decidedly unRepublican-sounding ideas, including a complete federal tax overhaul to benefit the middle class.
Wamp said he’s not looking to increase tax rates on the wealthy, but instead, close loopholes that allow many multi-million-dollar entities to avoid paying taxes.
Wamp said he waited to see if Mayfield, the dairy magnate who is especially popular in his home McMinn County, was running again.
He said he is like Mayfield in that they both can be considered independent Republicans.
He also plans to style his politics after those of former Chattanooga mayor and now U.S. Sen. Bob Corker.
He said Corker, also a Republican, is not afraid to step out on his own when he feels the party’s path is not the right one.
Since his last run, Wamp said he has been busy with his business, the Chattanooga-based Lamp Post Group, a venture-capital incubator.
Wamp not only has name recognition from his previous run, but from his father, Zach Wamp, who served in the seat his son now seeks from 1995 until 2011.
“I grew up being aware of the process,” the younger Wamp said.
One way he says he is like his father is in making sure veterans are treated well by this country. Even so, Wamp said he is his own man, and there are areas he and his father see things differently.
“Dad raised me to be independent-minded,” Wamp said.