As Georgia prepares for runoffs in primary elections that didn’t produce a clear majority winner, some Tennesseans wonder why their state isn’t doing the same thing, according to Chris Carroll. “I got elected in 2004, and I’ve never heard it discussed in the Legislature,” said state Senate Speaker Pro Tempore Bo Watson, R-Hixson. “My suspicion is because it’s never been done here.”
(Chuck) Fleischmann isn’t the only one who benefited from a low-end plurality on Aug. 2. Gary Starnes captured a nonpartisan Hamilton County General Sessions judgeship with 37 percent of the vote, and notorious Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Mark Clayton achieved victory with 30 percent, allowing him to face U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., in November.
…Timing, tradition and “voter fatigue” are the main barriers between Mayfield and another bite at the apple, Watson said. But ask Hamilton County Elections Administrator Charlotte Mullis-Morgan why runoffs haven’t gained traction, and she’ll answer with one word.
“Money,” she said.
The tab for the Aug. 2 primaries in Hamilton County was $245,971, she said. “[A runoff] would cost a little less. To pin me down as to how much, I can’t tell you exactly.”
Experts said runoff elections are the product of Southern racial politics around the turn of the 20th century. States that enacted runoffs were controlled by Democrats unfriendly to the idea of “minority factions being able to win” with a small percentage of the vote, according to Bruce Oppenheimer, a political science professor at Vanderbilt University.
“Did Tennessee [refrain from runoffs] because the Republican Party was slightly more viable in Tennessee than other Southern states?” Oppenheimer wondered aloud. “Was it because Tennessee had a smaller African-American population? I don’t know. But it probably played a part.”
Chris Carroll has an insightful look back at how incumbent Chuck Fleischmann, starting from way behind in the polls, pulled out a victory over Scottie Mayfield and Weston Wamp in the 3rd Congressional District Republican primary – even though his opponents collectively had 61 percent of the vote. Interviews and a Chattanooga Times Free Press review of the vote count reveal that Wamp may have dumped too many resources into Hamilton County and Mayfield too few. Partly because of that, Fleischmann avoided a dubious distinction that seemed realistic a few months ago — becoming only the third Tennessee congressman since 1966 to lose a contested primary.
…Fleischmann didn’t carry a majority in a single county — Anderson County’s 49 percent was the highest he got anywhere — but Mayfield captured at least 50 percent of votes in McMinn, Monroe and Scott counties, and he easily won two more in Campbell and Polk.
Still, Hamilton County accounted for nearly half the district’s 76,000 ballots, and Mayfield came in last. He lost Hamilton County by 6,769 votes and the district by 6,172.
A week after his third-place showing where it mattered most, Mayfield was second-guessing his Chattanooga-area efforts.
“I’m going to say I probably spent time equally everywhere,” he said. “It’s just that half the voters are in Hamilton County, and so I should have spent half my time there instead of one-tenth of my time.”
…n an interview Friday, the younger Wamp cited more media outlets, more debates and more voters in explaining why he poured most of his time and money into Chattanooga with ads, appearances and interviews.
“The race was taking place in Hamilton County — that’s where people seemed to care; that’s where the media cared,” Wamp said.
But the results indicate he didn’t do enough anywhere else, specifically the seven counties in the Knoxville media market. Excluding Hamilton County, where he beat Fleischmann by 101 votes, Wamp finished third in every county and garnered 19 percent districtwide. Records show he lost Monroe and Scott counties by 5-to-1 margins and six other counties by at least 20 percentage points.
Wamp’s built-in name recognition didn’t translate in places his father never served.
…As Mayfield decided how he would spend $802,000 in campaign contributions and Wamp mulled over options for his $626,000, Fleischmann sat on $1.1 million. The difference? More than $435,000 of the congressman’s largesse came from incumbent-friendly political action committees — resources his challengers could not depend on.
…According to Fleisch-mann chief of staff Chip Saltsman, internal polling taken in early April showed Mayfield “literally up 50 points” in several counties.
“Mayfield was crushing us. Destroying us,” he said. “Basically he was the incumbent.”
Scottie Mayfield gave up the fight Friday and conceded the 3rd Congressional District Republican primary to U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, reports Chris Carroll. “Tomorrow I’m going to get on my tractor for the first time in four months,” the runner-up said Friday. “I’m ready to get back to the old normalcy as opposed to the more recent normalcy.”
The dairy executive’s concession clears the way for Fleischmann to run against Democratic nominee Mary Headrick. Independent candidate and Army veteran Matthew Deniston also will be on the Nov. 6 general election ballot.
Mayfield phoned the freshman congressman Friday afternoon. The call came half a day after Mayfield promised Thursday night to challenge Hamilton County’s results “first thing” in the morning.
Several bleary-eyed Fleischmann staffers converged on the Hamilton County Election Commission as it opened at 8 a.m. Friday, brainstorming a response to Mayfield’s expected appearance.
“This is all about a new flavor of Mayfield ice cream — ‘Sour Grapes,'” Fleischmann Chief of Staff Chip Saltsman joked while waiting.
The aides waited for several hours, but Mayfield never showed up.
Mayfield initially declined to concede the race because, he said, private polling in recent days showed him doing much better in Hamilton County than he actually did when the votes were counted.
Weston Wamp won Hamilton County by 101 votes, and it was the only county in the district that Mayfield didn’t win or finish second. Instead he came in third, 19 percentage points and 6,000 votes behind Wamp.
Mayfield lost by a similar number of votes districtwide and declined to concede Thursday “because it sounds like someone may have made a mistake” in Hamilton County, he said.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Freshman U.S. Reps. Diane Black and Chuck Fleischmann on Thursday turned back vigorous attempts by Republican rivals to deny them another term in Congress.
Fleischmann defeated dairy executive Scotty Mayfield and Weston Wamp, the son of the former congressman representing the 3rd District in East Tennessee.
“I look forward to returning to Congress to continue to fight for the conservative values I’m committed to,” Fleischmann said in an emailed statement.
With all precincts reporting, Fleischmann had 29,943 votes, or 39 percent, compared with Mayfield’s 23,772 votes, or 31 percent. Wamp had 29 percent.
Edwinea Murray, a retired Tennessee Valley Authority worker who lives in Hixson, said she voted for Fleischmann because she was disgusted by the tone of rival campaigns.
“They were slamming their opponents in the commercials more than anything,” she said. “I think a lot of that is unnecessary.”
There were signs that the Republican big tent is fraying at the Statesmen’s Dinner, though the theme was unity and about $500,000 was raised, reports Andy Sher. Even the choice of the dinner’s keynote speaker — former Arkansas governor and 2008 GOP presidential nominee Mike Huckabee — raised some eyebrows.
Huckabee supported U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn., in the 3rd Congressional District 2010 GOP primary. This year, the freshman Chattanooga lawmaker faces spirited challenges from Weston Wamp, of Chattanooga, and Scottie Mayfield, of Athens.
Last week, Huckabee appeared in a new Fleischmann television ad, and they were set to tour the 3rd District before Fleischmann had to cancel so he could get back to Washington for an unexpected vote.
In a statement two days before Huckabee’s speech, Wamp scoffed that “Mike Huckabee’s credibility in Tennessee’s 3rd District is questionable based on his long-standing relationship with Chuck Fleischmann’s chief of staff and political operative, Chip Saltsman.”
He said Huckabee’s “public support of Chuck Fleischmann is a prime example of the ‘back-scratching’ that is part of the problem in Washington.”
Saltsman, a former state GOP chairman, was national manager of Huckabee’s 2008 presidential campaign.
Neither Wamp nor Mayfield attended the Statesmen’s Dinner.
Huckabee, now a talk show host on Fox News, devoted most of his speech to criticizing President Obama and praising presumed GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
Huckabee did urge attendees to “enthusiastically” make sure “Mitt Romney is our next president, [U.S. Sen.] Bob Corker returns to the Senate [and] these outstanding members of your congressional delegation.”
But he didn’t mention any congressman by name.
Republican Lou Ann Zelenik, who is battling to defeat U.S. Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn., in the 6th District primary, said she didn’t take any offense.
“He’s just bringing his great inspiring message here, and I love him,” she said.
Devaney said he invited Huckabee because he won the 2008 GOP presidential primary in Tennessee, was available to speak and is a popular host on Fox News.
“We had our thing booked first and they [Fleischmann campaign] decided to do, I guess, this endorsement tour,” Devaney said. “But ours was booked first. No, there wasn’t any coordination.”
Fleischmann said he had nothing to do with Huckabee’s invitation to speak at the dinner. He said he doesn’t see his rivals running because they object to his conservative stances on fiscal and social issues.
Scottie Mayfield told supporters to expect “false/negative” television advertising from his Republican primary opponents in the coming weeks, reports Chris Carroll. But he declined to identify the source of that information or describe the content of the ads. “Republican leaders and voters report that we’ll be attacked on TV soon,” the Athens, Tenn., dairy executive wrote on Twitter. “False/negative ads have no place in [Tennessee’s 3rd Congressional District Republican] primary.”
Joe Hendrix, a spokesman for Mayfield, said, “Scottie committed to not going negative in any way.” He declined further elaboration on that basis but said his boss anticipates attack ads with “fabricated” content.
U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, the well-financed, first-term incumbent Mayfield is trying to unseat, denied having knowledge of anything Mayfield implied.
…Republican challenger Weston Wamp flatly denied he would produce or approve any negative ads against Mayfield. A representative for Ron Bhalla, Fleischmann’s other GOP opponent, said such ads wouldn’t come from him.
Despite recent setbacks regarding litigation and his own critical remarks about his job, Chip Saltsman, U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann’s chief of staff, said Tuesday that his indefinite, unpaid leave of absence is “all part of the plan.” More from Chris Carroll:
Saltsman has been on leave since June 8, but Fleischmann’s office never publicly announced the news.
Interviewed Tuesday, Saltsman, who earned more than $156,000 last year as Fleischmann’s top aide, said he left the government payroll to supervise “all aspects of Chuck’s campaign” on a volunteer basis until at least Aug. 2, when Fleischmann faces three challengers in a hotly contested 3rd Congressional District Republican primary.
Saltsman described the “long-planned leave of absence” as “a pretty common thing for chiefs of staff to do,” but his remarks to a national media outlet two days before he left were anything but ordinary.
On June 6, the website Politico published a story quoting Saltsman as saying, “I didn’t want to take the job as [Fleischmann’s] chief of staff. I said ‘No’ the first three times he asked me.”
Saltsman acknowledged the comments Tuesday.
“I’ve loved working for Chuck, but you know, that was not my first choice,” Saltsman said. “That’s not what I was going to do the first time around.”
Fleischmann’s office did not make the first-term congressman available for an interview Tuesday, but in the June 6 article, Politico quoted him describing Saltsman as “an outstanding individual.”
Not long before Saltsman’s leave of absence became public, the Chattanooga Times Free Press published excerpts of a deposition Saltsman gave in a lawsuit brought against him and Fleischmann by Mark Winslow, a former aide to Fleischmann’s top 2010 opponent, Hamilton County’s Robin Smith.
A 2010 attack ad mentioned in the lawsuit alleged that Smith, a former state GOP chairwoman, paid “lavish bonuses” to a top aide at a time the party was in debt. That claim appeared to be debunked when Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney said he was the one who paid Winslow as part of a severance agreement.
In his own deposition, Fleischmann testified he had no literal grounds to make the “lavish bonuses” charge against Smith.
U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann testified in a deposition that he never saw some of his own campaign ads before they hit the airwaves, reports Chris Carroll. That despite a federally mandated voiceover joined with each ad: “I’m Chuck Fleischmann, and I approve this message.” In a separate deposition, Chip Saltsman, the freshman congressman’s former campaign consultant and current chief of staff, testified that he approved a Fleischmann ad that included a “created” computer image featuring Tennessee’s state seal superimposed over a nongovernment document.
The national campaign manager for former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s 2008 presidential campaign, Saltsman also said he never confirmed the validity of confidential documents used in a powerful attack ad against Fleischmann’s chief opponent in 2010’s 3rd Congressional District Republican primary.
The pair gave depositions in a lawsuit filed in January 2011 by Mark Winslow, the former chief of staff for the Tennessee Republican Party. He sued Fleischmann and Saltsman for defamation, inducement to breach a contract and invasion of privacy and is seeking $750,000 in damages.
Internal Fleischmann campaign details were obtained from depositions the congressman tried to keep secret. In a protective order filed March 29 on behalf of Fleischmann, attorney Brent S. Usery indicated that “2012 is an election year,” adding that the congressman’s testimony would include confidential “campaign strategy, oppositional research and campaign spending decisions.”
A judge denied Fleischmann’s request in May, three months before the congressman’s Aug. 2 Republican primary election against three challengers, including Scottie Mayfield and Weston Wamp.
Fleischmann campaign spokesman Jordan Powell issued a written statement late Friday.
“This confirms what we’ve said from the beginning — it’s a politically motivated lawsuit designed to attack Congressman Fleischmann at a politically expedient time,” the statement said. “And with it being three weeks before early voting, this proves our point.”
The Chattanooga Times Free Press obtained written transcripts of depositions for Fleischmann and Saltsman, both of which were filed Friday afternoon in Davidson County Circuit Court in Nashville.
While Fleischmann said “I don’t know,” “I wouldn’t know” and “I don’t recall” a few dozen times over the course of a four-hour deposition, the sworn testimony offers a rare glimpse inside his campaign playbook.
Former Tennessee Repulbican Chairman Chip Saltsman is profiled today in Politico. The story starts like this: Capitol Hill staffers live by one commandment above all others: Thou shalt not outshine your boss.
Except, that is, if you’re Chip Saltsman.
A longtime Republican operative and former Tennessee Republican Party chairman, Saltsman took a job in 2011 as chief of staff for freshman Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R-Tenn.) after helping to run his campaign. But in an unusual twist, Saltsman has shunned the behind-the-scenes profile nearly all of his fellow Hill worker bees are forced to assume: The manager for Mike Huckabee’s 2008 presidential campaign has appeared on cable nearly two dozen times this year alone.
Fleishmann’s 2012 cable TV count? Zip.
Saltsman, 44, is never identified on TV as a Fleischmann aide; there’s no mention of his government-paid salary. Instead, he’s labeled a “Republican strategist.”
In an interview, Saltsman said he’s in such high demand on cable shows that he can accommodate only a fraction of the requests. He has a website, www.chipsaltsman.com, which includes a “guest speaker request form” and, until January, cataloged his TV appearances.
Scottie Mayfield promised Thursday to serve no more than 10 years if elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, making a pledge his top opponents recently refused or evaded, according to the Chattanooga TFP. Mayfield campaign spokesman Joe Hendrix said his boss decided to address term limits after reflecting on prior conversations with members of Congress.
“They told him they’d like to support certain legislation or initiatives, but choose not to vote for [them] because it would hurt their re-election,” Hendrix said. “Having term limits … creates the opportunity to vote for what the member believes is right.”
…Fleischmann is seeking his second term. In a May 21 debate, he avoided a direct question about a term-limits pledge, saying that elections every two years already make House members accountable to voters.
Weston Wamp, another Republican challenging Fleischmann, said at the debate that he would not make a term-limits pledge.
“I will serve in Congress as long as I am passionate about waking up every morning and doing the people’s work,” he said.