Rep. Zach Wamp (R)
Elected: 1994, 8th term.
Born: Oct. 28, 1957, Fort Benning, GA .
Education: U. of NC, 1976-77, 1979-80, U. of TN, 1978-79.
Family: Married (Kim); 2 children.
Professional Career: Regional sales super., 1981–82, Partner, Wamp Alliance Architectural Devel. Co., 1983–89; Real estate broker, 1989–94.
The congressman from the 3rd District is Zach Wamp, a Republican first elected in 1994. Wamp (WOMP) left college before graduating to become a salesman for a local film company and a real estate developer in Chattanooga. Years later, he spoke about his heavy cocaine use during this period, including weeks in drug rehabilitation. In 1992, he ran for Congress against 20-year Democratic incumbent Marilyn Lloyd. She won by just 49%-47%, the closest margin of her career, and retired in 1994. Wamp ran again as a strong conservative. One of his proposals was to pay members of Congress the same as a lieutenant colonel and billet them in officer housing. Democrat Randy Button attacked Wamp on the character issue, and Wamp, like many Republicans that year, ran an ad showing his opponent’s face morphing into Democratic President Bill Clinton’s. Wamp won 52%-46%.
|Zach Wamp (R)||184,964||(69%)||($1,440,107)|
|Doug Vandagriff (D)||73,059||(27%)|
|Zach Wamp (R)||31,782||(91%)|
|Teresa Sheppard (R)||3,125||(9%)|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (66%), 2004 (65%), 2002 (65%), 2000 (64%), 1998 (66%), 1996 (56%), 1994 (52%)
In 2008, he became the ranking member on the Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies of the Appropriations Committee. In 2007, he authored legislation to name the new Capitol Visitor Center’s main hall “Emancipation Hall” to honor slaves that originally built the Capitol building.
Wamp has a moderate-to-conservative record that is more conservative on social issues. He called himself “a heat-seeking missile on behalf of Tennessee and my district.” He has won additional benefits for employees with work-related illnesses at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. His support for TVA, including opposition to attempts to sell off its non-hydro power plants, annoyed many conservatives. He has pushed hydrogen fuel cell technology, and on energy legislation, such as curbing oil speculation when it drives up prices at the pump, he’s been unafraid to side with Democrats on some issues. He vocally supported campaign finance reform efforts in recent years, a stance that irritated the Republican leadership and prompted the National Right to Life Committee to run radio ads against him, even though he is opposed to abortion rights. But he tacked toward social conservatives by sponsoring a bill to permit local governments to post the Ten Commandments in public buildings, and he sought to restrict Internet access to pornography for children.
Wamp says he is one-sixteenth Cherokee, and he has taken an interest in the tribe, helping to deliver $1.3 million for an interpretive visitors’ center and memorial wall at Cherokee Removal Memorial Park in Meigs County. Wamp’s bills to add routes on the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail were passed by Congress in 2006 and 2009. A fitness buff, Wamp runs 20 to 30 miles a week, and in 2007, proposed a provision for additional physical education in schools to fight childhood obesity.
Wamp has crusaded for political reforms, including an independent commission to supervise redistricting to take the heavy partisanship out of the process. But he has also toned down his rhetoric from the early days of the Republican majority in the mid-1990s, when he and other GOP newcomers blasted Congress as a haven for entrenched, out-of-touch insiders. He said when he first ran for the House, he would limit himself to 12 years, but has since broken that pledge. “My attitude toward the Congress has changed,” Wamp told The New York Times Magazine. “We must realize public service is a great way of life. I came in with the attitude there were a bunch of thieves here. That’s not true.”
In 1996, he faced a spirited challenge from the second-place finisher in the 1994 Democratic primary. With Lloyd’s endorsement, Wamp won 56%-43%. Since then, he has won easily. He considered running for the Senate in 2006, but deferred to Republican Chattanooga Mayor Bob Corker after Corker got an early start and quickly raised $2 million. Wamp announced his candidacy for Tennessee governor in January 2009. The race to replace Wamp is expected to be crowded, with the winner of the Republican primary likely to be headed to Washington.