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Friday, August 3, 2012

In Tennessee, House Freshmen Fend Off Primary Challenges


Thursday was a good day for Tennessee incumbent lawmakers, all of whom won their congressional primaries in the Volunteer State. But it was a particularly good day for Representatives Chuck Fleischmann and Diane Black, House freshmen and Republicans who survived tough challenges from both the moderate and conservative wings of their party.

Mr. Fleischmann's top opponents mounted a strong, well-financed fight for the Third District, an eastern area of the state that includes Chattanooga. Scottie Mayfield, the president of his family's dairy business, had raised about $800,000, about $163,000 of which he gave to his own campaign, in his bid to unseat Mr. Fleischmann. Mr. Mayfield had hoped to capitalize on frustrations with Washington, trying to tie Mr. Fleischmann's House votes to President Obama.

Weston Wamp, 25, the son of former Representative Zach Wamp, also gave Mr. Fleischmann a challenge. Mr. Wamp discussed r unning against Mr. Fleischmann early in his term and eventually raised more than $625,000.

Both Mr. Mayfield and Mr. Wamp ran just to the left of Mr. Fleischmann, calling for bipartisanship in Congress and posing a threat to the Tea Party movement that pushed Mr. Fleischman to victory two years ago. But with about $1.16 million in his war chest, Mr. Fleischmann won 39 percent of the vote, triumphing over Mr. Mayfield, who received 31 percent, and Mr. Wamp, who garnered almost 29 percent.

In Tennessee's Sixth District, Ms. Black faced Lou Ann Zelenik, the owner of a construction company, in a rematch of their 2010 primary race. Ms. Zelenik, a board member of the anti-Islamic group Sharia Action Awareness Network, said Ms. Black was not conservative enough in her first term.

But Ms. Black pulled off a strong victory Thursday, winning about 69 percent of the vote. Two years ago, the race for the central Tennessee district was much closer: Ms. Black beat Ms. Zelenik by just 283 votes.

Mr. Fleischmann and Ms. Black are expected to hold onto their seats in November.

The House Republican freshman class is undefeated in its primaries so far this year, Politico reported on Thursday. In addition to Mr. Fleischmann and Ms. Black, their fellow freshman Republicans from Tennessee, Representatives Scott DesJarlais and Stephen Fincher, also won their primaries on Thursday.