Rep. Chuck Fleischmann’s 2012 began with a handful of bills, peaked with a primary victory and ended with the awarding of a seat on one of the top committees in Congress.
Fleischmann, a freshman from Ooltewah, was well-aware that 2012 would present a battle in order for him to retain the 3rd District seat. But when Scottie Mayfield, president of Mayfield Dairy Farms, suddenly announced in February he would be challenging the congressman along with Weston Wamp in August’s Republican primary, the congressman began to ramp up his campaign with fundraising and organization.
Although funding would play a major role in the congressman broadcasting his message to constituents, Fleischmann continued to take steps in Congress to show a willingness to put ideas forward-even if the majority of them failed to gain traction of any kind. In February, Fleischmann introduced legislation suggesting that federal discretionary spending be capped for the next nine years; in March, the congressman introduced a bill to encourage cost-saving.
Fleischmann also began talking more about the Chickamauga Lock, visiting the 72-year-old structure and calling a lack in government funding for the project “unacceptable.” The congressman questioned government officials on their reasoning behind a lack of funding but ultimately was unable to use any sway to procure additional funding.
Despite his efforts, the congressman was still viewed as vulnerable in his re-election effort, even by sources outside the 3rd District. In the spring, Fleischmann was included in The Washington Post’s list of the “top 10 incumbents who could lose their primaries,” and it became apparent that the congressman would be using the leverage provided by his incumbency to gain advantage over his two most well-backed challengers.
When it came to votes, Fleischmann went against the majority of his fellow Tennessee Republicans when he voted in favor of the payroll tax cut extension, but voted once more to repeal the Affordable Care Act-even after it was found to have been constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.
After a contentious primary season, Fleischmann would finally declare victory over Mayfield and Wamp on Aug. 6. Though he did not win his home county of Hamilton County, Fleischmann won decisively by a margin of 8 percentage points.
The congressman’s primary win pitted him against Democrat Mary Headrick for November’s general election. Despite repeated calls from his opponent to debate, Fleischmann only met Headrick one time, for a forum held at a high school that was not even located in Tennessee’s 3rd District.
Fleischmann would find victory with relative ease in November, and he began making preparations for his second term in Congress. Later that month, the congressman would be tapped for a seat on the U.S. House Committee on Appropriations, one of the most powerful committees and a designation that could boost his political stock this year.
In December, Fleischmann’s office announced Chip Saltsman, chief of staff for the congressman, would be departing from his post. Fleischmann will head into 2013 without one of his sharpest political operatives, whom he described as being an “incredible asset” to his first two years in the House.
As the year came to a close, Fleischmann offered few comments on the so-called “fiscal cliff,” a $700 billion mix of tax increases and automatic spending cuts set to go into effect at year’s end if Congress and President Barack Obama cannot reach an agreement. After a proposal from U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, known as “Plan B,” was pulled from being voted upon, Fleischmann would not say whether he would have supported the measure or not.