Calling himself an "independent-minded conservative," Weston Wamp was critical of his incumbent opponent, Chuck Fleischmann, and the Republican Party as a whole during a campaign stop in Oneida Friday afternoon.
Speaking from his rolling campaign office — a brightly-painted RV that Wamp and his staffers call home from the road around Tennessee's 3rd Congressional District — the 27-year-old Wamp said that the message he is hearing from voters across the district is that they want a new congressman, "no different than the rest of the country."
Wamp is challenging fellow Chattanooga Republican Fleischmann in the Aug. 7 GOP primary. The son of former congressman Zach Wamp, the younger Wamp also challenged Fleischmann in the 2012 primary.
Calling Fleischmann a lock-and-step congressman who tows the line of his party's leadership, Wamp said that the primary offers a clear choice for conservative voters.
Specifically, Wamp was critical of a recent budget deal between President Barack Obama and Congress — with Republicans and Democrats alike signing off on the deal.
"Not only did it cut pension benefits for veterans, but it also caused our country in the next year to spend more money than we did this year in real dollars," Wamp said. "I don't know how you call yourself a conservative, certainly in the circumstances our country is in, and vote to cause our government to spend more money than it does.
"We need people who will actually hold the line on spending, make the difficult decisions, and not let these rascals in Washington get away with spending more money the next year than we did the previous years, or else we'll never wrap our arms around this debt and deficit issue."
Wamp called last October's government shutdown, which occurred amid a rift between Republicans and Democrats over the Affordable Care Act, a disingenuous approach.
"Obamacare is a terrible piece of legislation, but instead of trying to shut the government down, I wish our congressman and conservative members of the Congress would focus on solutions and alternatives, and talk about what are the free market-based alternatives that Republicans can promote rather than always being against something."
The shutdown was a dark window in American history, Wamp said.
"Leaders in the Republican Party were so anti-Obamacare that they tried to shut the government down, and realistically there was no way for them to shut down Obamacare," he said. "They couldn't even do it, and they knew it, and they were just being disingenuous with the American people."
Saying "neither party has done our country much good," Wamp said he favors doing "what's right by the people rather than what's right by the party."
Friday's campaign stop in Scott County came just one week after Fleischmann visited. Fleischmann met with local officials and spoke with students at Oneida and Scott high schools as he talked Washington politics and issues.
Wamp's visit Friday, more than four months in advance of the primary, was more of a traditional campaign stopover, with the Republican hopeful making numerous stops with local officials and mingling in public places.
From his RV, Wamp called his approach a much different approach for campaigning, likening it to the old "Whistle Stop" train tour. He and his RV will be back in Scott County several times throughout the summer, he said.
"I want to be a part of the community," he said. "I feel like in a lot of ways this is just a big county commission district . . . it just happens to cover a large swath of the state."