Weston WampPhoto by Lesha Patterson
Weston Wamp is the son of former U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp, the eight-term Republican congressman who gave up his seat in an unsuccessful bid to become governor of Tennessee. Not yet 25 (the legal age to be elected to Congress, Wamp will reach that milestone in March), the younger Wamp is aiming high, seeking to replace Chuck Fleischmann as representative of the 3rd District of Tennessee in Congress. The Pulse has teased and taunted Wamp for his youth and hubris, but his name recognition and fundraising ability are hard to ignore. In December, he raised more than $250,000 in a single night—a record for the district—giving incumbent Fleischmann reason for concern. In an attempt to mimic Playboy’s famed 20 Questions interviews, we submitted, well, 20 questions, to Wamp—some serious, some flighty, but all intended to reveal his views and personality, the latter of which is something that’s not reported on much. His answers are, we think, both revealing and, in some cases, carefully crafted. Our intent was to give the candidate an opportunity to represent himself in an uninterpreted manner. What did we find? The responses speak for themselves, but Wamp is certainly compelling, possessed of conviction (if not our sort) and fun. He’s young and inexperienced but spirited (we’ll give him that) and, if he wins, it may be as much a result of the collective discontent with Congress as much as his name or ideas. Of course The Pulse will offer similar questions and the same opportunity to each candidate in the coming months, but we’re young and sexy, too, so we begin 2012 and the campaign season with young Weston. These are his answers, unedited except for grammar and style.
You know the rap: You’re young, inexperienced and running on your family name. Why not lower your sights, run for city council and build a resume? What’s the rush?
I think climbing the political ladder can be very disingenuous. We need people to step forward and offer to serve at the level of government where they are passionate about making an impact. I have the utmost respect for people who serve at the local level, but I’m passionate about the need for our reckless federal government to hear from my generation before it’s too late. The federal government is borrowing more than $4 billion per day with no serious intentions to stop—that’s the rush.
In your view, what’s the biggest issue facing the 3rd District and what do you intend to do about it?
Any time unemployment is as high as 9 percent, that has to be the biggest issue facing our district and our country. Most jobs are created by small businesses and the federal government has stifled growth by causing uncertainty in the minds of the risk takers and entrepreneurs who drive our economy. If government would simply do its job—no more, no less—it would go a long way to restoring confidence. The tax code needs to be thrown out and drastically simplified, onerous federal regulations like Obamacare need to be eliminated and Congress has got to quit trying to fix the economy with short-term policies.
You set a district record for fundraising—more than $250,000 in one night! That’s an amazing haul. How much is it going to take to send Chuck Fleischmann back to Ooltewah?
The good news is that all it takes to win is the most votes. Money and special interests have way too much influence in politics today. I’m just trying to raise enough to get my message out there and I’m grateful that so many respected leaders in our community have invested in my campaign.
You call yourself a member of the so-called “Debt-Paying Generation” who will have to clean up the mess their predecessors made of government, the economy and the American Dream. It’s going to take a lot of work to pay all this off. Do you blame your dad and his peers in Congress and what’s it going take to climb out of this hole?
It doesn’t help to point fingers. This is about generational responsibility and it’s my generation’s time to show some leadership. To climb out of this hole we need to do two things: Restore sanity by forcing the federal government to quit spending money it doesn’t have and to restore confidence in government by electing people to Congress who will look long term for solutions—not just to the next election.
The current Congress has the lowest approval ratings ever, which might be good for your campaign, and a reputation for “all-or-nothing” partisan politics that’s forcing gridlock on almost every issue. Do you believe the Tea Party is to blame? And how do you intend to navigate between the extremist elements ruling Congress?
Common-sense, long-term solutions will prevail if people in Congress will step forward and lead rather than playing political games. I am going to work to find the common ground that exists on big issues like entitlement reform and tax reform so that we can move beyond the petty partisanship that has caused the gridlock in Washington. If you will avoid the incendiary rhetoric that has become so common, you can develop relationships across the aisle and that’s how real consensus can be built.
Several females in our office think you’re, well, hot, and are inclined to vote for you based solely on your dimples and hard body. Do you have a serious girlfriend or are you playing the field?
That’s flattering, but I’m realizing that running for Congress doesn’t leave a lot of time for a personal life.
On the same note, you’re single, young, good looking. If elected, how do you intend to navigate the wiles of Washington and stay out of trouble?
I’ll stay grounded by spending as much time as possible back home in Chattanooga. I’ve got an incredible support system of family, friends and supporters here as well as many friends in Washington who will be watching my back. In politics, as in life, surrounding yourself with the right people makes all the difference.
You rock a pretty stylish casual look, kind of a Southern preppy thing and we dig it, especially the rough five o’clock shadow. Tell us about your style aesthetic.
Blazer, jeans and cowboy boots are my standard—I’ve been told it’s “urban cowboy.” I said at the beginning of my campaign that I was running because it’s time for some young people step up and bring new ideas and fresh blood to Washington, so I’m not going to start dressing like I’m 50 in the process. I think voters want people in elected office who are “real” for a change, but when it’s time to wear a suit, I’ve got no problem cleaning up. And my friend Corky Coker would want you to know that I shave daily now.
We’ve been watching the Facebook pages of 3rd District candidates. You’ve got 3,740 friends on your personal page and only 662 on your Public Figure page. We figure you’d have recruited all your buds to follow your campaign page. What’s up with that and is social media an important tool to your campaign?
Social media is an incredibly important tool for our campaign and you’ll see us do some creative stuff throughout this year to engage voters through Facebook and Twitter. However, there’s a little confusion between my personal page and my public figure profile since both are listed as Weston Wamp, so I get dozens of friend requests some days. We’re working on that one. (For the record, the campaign page is Facebook.com/westonwampcongress.)
Lightning Round Question No. 1—The McRib: Pork waste on a bun or saucy riblets of seasonal McGoodness?
I’ll go with a Big Mac.
You haven’t said much about a plan or a platform yet, but we’re guessing you’re about to unleash that puppy soon. Can you give us some details?
By the middle of February I will roll out my plan for the first steps we need to take to strengthen our country and restore confidence in government. It’s going to be pragmatic, specific and hard hitting. I can’t wait to talk about solutions with the people of Tennessee’s 3rd District—there’s not enough of that anymore.
If you could have dinner with any historical figures, dead or alive, who would sit at your dream dinner table?
The Wright Brothers, daring American visionaries; William Wilberforce, the young leader of a movement to abolish British slave trade; Dave Ramsey, best known for his no-nonsense approach to solving financial problems; U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, future leader of the conservative movement; and any one of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence.
Lightning Round Question No. 2—Who’s the president of Uzbekistan? Just kidding! Whose your candidate in the presidential election and why?
Like a lot of voters, I’m still undecided. But I’m taking a hard look at John Wolfe.
You came down pretty hard on the Occupy Movement, saying it’s time quit “whining,” now it’s time to “roll up their sleeves.” Time magazine made “The Protestor” its Person of the Year. Do you believe the movement has accomplished nothing?
They have raised awareness of some legitimate corporate corruption issues. I just don’t believe our country’s problems will be solved by the “99 percent” complaining about the “1 percent.” In this country of all places, hard work and success should not be vilified.
You’ve said Chuck is a nice guy, but represents the status quo. What is the “status quo” from the perspective of your generation?
Excessive partisanship and shortsighted, politically motivated policy define the status quo in Washington right now. I think we’ve seen both from Representative Fleischmann.
Coldplay: “The critics are wrong! They’re a great band.” Or Coldplay: “Overrated hitmakers. They suck!” Where are you on this?
I drive a Ford F-150, you think I listen to Coldplay?
Could you take Obama in a pick-up game?
I hope so. I’ve got 26 years on the president. But I’ve heard he’s hard to stop when he goes left.
You mention God—a lot—in your interviews. Religion obviously plays a big role in your life. Give us an example of how your faith has influenced you in life.
Jesus set an example of fearless living that has withstood the test of time. As believers, we are called to lead and take risks when necessary—Scripture tells us we have not been given “a spirit of timidity, but of power, love and self discipline.” At the end of the day I hope people will see my faith through my actions much more than by my words.
What is the last book you read?
“Common Ground” by Cal Thomas and Bob Beckel.
You’ve grown up around politics. What’s the main thing you’ve learned from your father?
To be motivated by impact, not money or power. He is such a passionate, joyful guy, much like my grandfather Don Wamp was, and I think it’s because he made his life about other people, not himself. At a time when many politicians were just looking out for themselves, he really took public service seriously.