Watson won’t challenge Fleishmann in 2016

State Senate Speaker Pro Tem Bo Watson, R-Hixson, has shelved the idea of challenging U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann of Chattanooga in the 2016 election, reports the Times-Free Press.

“I sure hadn’t announced anything, so that’s a pretty good indicator,” said Watson, who earlier this year weighed a potential challenge. “I really enjoy doing what I’m doing right now.”

His post as vice chairman of the state Senate Finance Committee and chairman of the panel’s budget subcommittee “allows me to be a real participant in the process and, I think, make a significant difference in what we’re doing in Tennessee,” Watson said.

In an earlier interview, Fleischmann said he had not yet heard from the state lawmaker on his intentions.

“We have always been good friends,” said Fleischmann. He added that if a challenge does come, his campaign is “much better prepared than we have been in the past” with a “fiscally sound” war chest of some $900,000.

“We’ve continued to do the thing we have been doing, not just on legislation but on constituent service,” he said.

Fleischmann, an attorney from Ooltewah, first ran for Congress in 2010 in a multicandidate GOP slugfest to succeed long-time incumbent Zach Wamp of Chattanooga. He scraped through in a bitter battle with former Tennessee Republican Party Chairwoman Robin Smith, winning 30 percent of the vote to Smith’s 28 and handily taking the general election.

Two Republicans stepped up in the 2012 GOP primary — Weston Wamp, son of the former congressman, and Athens businessman Scottie Mayfield. That, too, was a bitter fight and Fleischmann won with a plurality of 39 percent.

The younger Wamp tried again in 2014 but Fleischmann eked out a primary win by a slim 51-49 percent. Wamp said afterward he wouldn’t challenge Fleischmann in 2016.