U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleishmann, who faced intense opposition from fellow Republicans in past campaigns, coasted to a victory in Thursday’s 2016 GOP primary over two opponents who put little money into their unsuccessful efforts – one of them a Georgia resident.
The primary win puts Fleischmann, a Chattanooga lawyer, on a clear path toward a fourth two-year term of representing the 3rd Congressional District, which leans strongly Republican. His Democratic opponent in November will be Melody Shekari, who won a three-candidate contest for the district’s minority party nomination.
Unofficial returns Thursday night showed Fleischmann winning the GOP nod with about 84 percent of the vote while Allan Levene, who lives in Georgia and has run for Congress in that state and two others, and tea party activist Geoffery Suhmer Smith of Athens, each had about 8 percent.
In the Democratic primary, Shekari, a lawyer who has worked with Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke, was winning about 51 percent of the Democratic primary vote with Michael Friedman, a University of Tennessee-Chattanooga professor, second with 34 percent, followed by George Ryan Love of Chattanooga at about 15 percent.
(Note: Returns available on Division of Elections website, HERE.
Along with the Democratic nominee, Feischmann will face three independent candidates in November, including Rick Tyler of Ocoee, who was widely criticized earlier by erecting a campaign billboard – taken down by the sign company after the protests — bearing the slogan “Make America White Again.” The other two independents are Topher Kerstins of Chattanooga and Cassandra Mitchell of Heiskill.
Fleischmann, 53, was first elected in 2010 after a bruising multi-candidate primary that involved millions in spending and led to lawsuits, edging former state Republican chair Robin Smith, the runner-up, by about 1,400 votes. In 2012, he faced Weston Wamp, son of former Congressman Zach Wamp, and Athens businessman Scottie Mayfield in another high spending contest that ended with a plurality victory. Wamp tried again in 2014 with Fleishmann eking out a win with 51 percent of the vote.
Levene, who lives in Kennesaw, Ga., got some media attention in 2014 by filing petitions to run as a Republican for Congress in four states — Hawaii, Michigan and Minnesota as well as his home state – and promising to relocate to a state where he won there. He was on the ballot in Hawaii and Georgia, failing to get the required number of voter signatures on petitions in the others, but got only a few votes in the primaries. This year he qualified in Tennessee as well as Georgia.
Federal law requires a congressman to live in the district he or she represents, but the residency requirement doesn’t apply when running for the office.