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A Congressman, a former Congressman’s 25-year-old son and dairy magnate jump into a Congressional race in Tennessee.
It’s a serious contest and the punch line could very well be freshman Rep. Chuck Fleischmann losing his seat.
The Republican lawmaker still has the edge two months before the Aug. 2 primary. But against two very credible challengers with bases of regional support in a district that contains a lot of new territory, Fleischmann’s re-election is no sure thing.
He faces public relations executive Weston Wamp, the son of former Rep. Zach Wamp (R-Tenn.), and Scottie Mayfield, the former CEO and spokesman for Mayfield Dairy, a popular milk and ice cream brand in Tennessee and the southeast. The elder Wamp represented the 3rd district for eight terms but didn’t run for re-election in 2010, deciding instead for a gubernatorial bid, which he lost.
Wamp and Mayfield begin with a huge swath of voters in the district who are familiar with their last names. But Fleischmann said he’s running on his record.
“There are two people in this race with famous names: Wamp and Mayfield. That’s great,” Fleischmann said with a hint of sarcasm. “I’m the guy who goes out there every day and gets the job done. I’m not a fancy guy. I’m not a flashy guy. I just go out and get the job done every day.”
His campaign’s message: Fleischmann is a “proven conservative.”
In fact, in a six-minute interview, he repeated that phrase a handful of times. And on Monday, Fleischmann launched a website: aprovenconservative.com.
But the crux of Fleischmann’s weakness is not his messaging or his personality or voting record, which fits the district well: It’s the fact that he’s not very well-known in his newly configured district that includes five new counties and a lot of new voters.
In the 2010 primary, Fleischmann won an 11-way contest with just less than
30 percent of the ballots cast — only 26,869 votes. In that election, there were a number of local contests that helped boost turnout. With fewer races on the ballot this year, a low-turnout affair could give a boost to challenger candidates.
Fleischmann and Wamp are both from Chattanooga and could split that base of support. Mayfield is from McMinn County and is well-known in the northern parts of the district.
“Anything could happen when you’ve won an election with a low volume of votes the first time,” said one unaffiliated GOP consultant familiar with Tennessee.