They’ve battled over negative ads, political endorsements, special interest money, and the Affordable Care Act.
U.S. Representative Chuck Fleischmann, the two-term incumbent, touts his seat on the powerful House Appropriations Committee and, important to Oak Ridge, the Energy and Water Subcommittee.
Meanwhile, Weston Wamp, his challenger, has suggested a willingness to work across party lines to “move the country forward.”
The two men face off in a in two-man battle in the Republican primary on Thursday. It’s in part a rematch of the three-man GOP primary in Tennessee’s Third District in 2012, when Wamp and Scotty Mayfield lost to Fleischmann.
Fleischmann, an attorney, was first elected in 2010, when he took the seat held for 16 years by Wamp’s father, Zach Wamp, who unsuccessfully ran for Tennessee governor that year.
At the beginning of his second term in Congress, Fleischmann said, he was placed on the Appropriations Committee.
“It’s a matter of effectiveness,” he said.
Fleischmann cited his work on the mission at the Y-12 National Security Complex, the recent contract transition there, and his “tireless work” on the planned $6.5 billion Uranium Processing Facility at Y-12—”the single largest construction project that Tennessee has ever seen.”
“My track record in this city speaks for itself,” he said.
If elected, Weston Wamp, who turned 27 in March, could become the youngest member of Congress.
It’s a global world now, Wamp said, and his generation, one of the largest in American history, wants to help fix partisanship.
“My generation is not afforded the opportunity to give up,” Wamp said. He said the constant combat across party lines, preventing the country from moving forward, is “shameful.”
Fleischmann, 51, cited his “real-life experience,” including as a husband, father, small business owner, and two-term congressman. He said he’s worked closely with Senator Lamar Alexander, meets regularly with Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and U.S. Department of Energy under secretaries, and has fought diligently to secure cleanup funding for Oak Ridge.
If re-elected, he hopes to chair the Cleanup Caucus.
“I am committed to cleaning up the legacy waste here in Oak Ridge and all over the country,” Fleischmann said.
Fleischmann also said he led the way to ensure that land transfers from DOE to the Community Reuse Organization of East Tennessee proceeded. The transfer of the two parcels had been tied up since 2008, and Fleischmann said he made Moniz aware of the delay and played a crucial role in getting DOE to complete the transfers.
“I’ve been a champion for Oak Ridge,” he said.
Wamp, a founding director and communications and marketing director for a venture capital company, said he’s part of an emerging “tech scene” in Chattanooga. He suggested an interest in technology transfer and commercializing some of the research in Oak Ridge, such as on 3D printing.
“My interest will be in trying to set the agenda for the next 20 years,” Wamp said.
The two Republicans seemed to agree on some issues, such as the need for a smaller federal role in education.
“The federal government should not be where education begins or ends,” said Fleischmann, who advocated for more local control.
“The process is broken from top to bottom,” Wamp said. “It makes no sense for the federal government to intervene in education.”
Asked about Oak Ridge’s role as a world leader in science, energy, and education, Wamp said he would be a salesman, while Fleischmann said he has been that champion for almost four years.
The two agreed that the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare,” was a failure or bad for small businesses, doctors, and hospitals.
“It’s not working, and it cannot be fixed,” Fleischmann said. “You’ve got to get rid of it, and go back to something else.”
But Wamp said Fleischmann has not talked substantively about an alternative.
“We needed health insurance reform,” Wamp said. “We’re a party of no, not a party of solutions.”
He was also critical of Fleischmann for saying earlier that the federal government “messes up” everything it touches
“That’s wrong,” Wamp said.
The congressman wouldn’t come to Oak Ridge and say that, said Wamp, who has also been critical of the congressman’s votes during the partial government shutdown in October.
The winner of the Aug. 7 Republican primary will face the unopposed Democratic candidate, Dr. Mary Headrick of Maynardville, on Nov. 4.
The Third District stretches across East Tennessee from Claiborne County in the north to Hamilton County in the south and includes many rural areas, as well as Oak Ridge, Chattanooga, and Cleveland.