A recent direct-mail piece received by residents of Tennessee’s 3rd district was blunt: “Chuck Fleischmann is a Workhorse. He Keeps His Head Down and Gets the Job Done.”
That’s not a bad encapsulation of how the freshman Member of Congress approached his competitive primary that voters decide today. Fleischmann appears poised to win the GOP nomination over milk and ice cream magnate Scottie Mayfield and 25-year-old Weston Wamp, the son of Fleischmann’s predecessor, in the newly configured district.
Fleischmann seems to have shored up enough support to win even though the eastern Tennessee seat contains a lot of new territory and he won an 11-candidate primary in 2010 with just 30 percent of the vote.
“It seems like Chuck is probably going to be victorious,” one unaligned Tennessee Republican consultant said.
Given the Republican tilt of the Chatanooga-anchored seat, the winner of the race is almost certain to come to Congress next January.
Still, there remains the chance of an upset. A win by Mayfield, who served for years as the spokesman and CEO of Mayfield Dairy, a popular brand in Tennessee and the Southeast, is more likely than one by Wamp. But Fleischmann, who had a significant monetary advantage over his opponents, has the real edge going into today, insiders said. Aides to Fleischmann have been pleased with the trends in early voting, a good sign for their campaign.
“Scottie had a pretty strong localized network, but I don’t think it really went well beyond where he was known,” the unaligned consultant said. “Weston probably should have waited about 10 years and built up his name before he tried this.”
Wamp is the son of former Rep. Zach Wamp (R), who didn’t run for re-election in 2010 so that he could pursue a gubernatorial bid. The younger Wamp, articulate and poised in person, ran a series of unusual, atmospheric ads that were either catchy or too cute by half, depending on one’s take.
“It’s a brave bet to leave a country in the hands of its people,” he said in his announcer-esque baritone in one spot, “and worth it every time. We went to the moon and played Sinatra, because no one told us not to,” he continued to video of rocket ships.
Mayfield, who began his campaign with high name recognition from his years on TV, struggled significantly out of the gate, stumbling over some basic questions of why he wanted to go to Washington, D.C. It seems as if Tennesseans’ residual goodwill about his dairy brand will probably not be enough to propel him to Congress.
All three candidates went negative in one way or another. But for a Thursday election in the middle of summer, it’s unclear among which voters those messages really resonated.
Outside groups were not particularly involved in this race, until last month, according to Federal Election Commission records. The Republican group Citizens for a Working America Inc. dropped $165,000 in TV advertising against Mayfield last week, and the American Conservative Union spent a modest $31,000 in radio ads in favor of Fleischmann earlier in the month.