Scottie Mayfield, a former rival for Tennessee’s 3rd Congressional District seat, endorsed Rep. Chuck Fleischmann Monday morning.
Mayfield told reporters he had been approached by other candidates looking for an endorsement, even though he had no plans to get involved in the campaign. But in the past few weeks, friends had said they heard Mayfield was lending support to Weston Wamp.
“I came to the conclusion that I needed to go public,” Mayfield said. “Chuck and I have gotten to know one another a lot better.
“I’ve appreciated his work ethic, and I think he’s done a really good job for this district,” Mayfield said. “So today, I’m here to endorse Chuck and accept this honorary campaign chairmanship. And I would like to urge my supporters to also support Chuck.”
Fleischmann introduced Mayfield as his “honorary campaign chairman” at the downtown news conference. When asked what the role entails, the congressman replied, “Pretty much whatever Scottie Mayfield wants it to be.”
Mayfield said he is unlikely to campaign alongside Fleischmann in the months ahead.
“I think as honorary chair, I’m not expected to do very much,” he said. “So I will probably not be on the campaign trail a great deal.”
Fleischmann bested Mayfield and Wamp in a 2012 Republican primary. Wamp announced in January that he would seek the GOP nomination again.
“Scottie Mayfield is a gentleman. I knew this after the last election,” Fleischmann said, alluding to a meeting between the two after the primary. “I learned then what I know now, that Scottie Mayfield was not all about just running for Congress. He was about giving back to his community.”
Chip Saltsman, an adviser to Fleischmann, said the endorsement sends a message to the public that the congressman is doing a good job.
“This is consolidation of the voters in the 3rd District that are supporting Chuck,” he said. “This will now be his third race. And every year we just build and build.”
“It’s a game changer for us,” he said. “It really gives us a lot of momentum early in the race. And we just feel great about it.”
In a statement after the announcement, Wamp referenced a 2012 incident in which his sister was rumored to have posted a video online called “Scottie Mayfield Struggling to Answer Basic Questions.”
“In a respectful face-to-face conversation with Mr. Mayfield on Saturday, I was disappointed to hear that a grudge he holds against my younger sister from our last campaign influenced his endorsement decision more than his actual support for Congressman Fleischmann,” Wamp said.
The statement also pushed back on the notion that the endorsement is a “game changer” for the campaign:
“Clearly Congressman Fleischmann’s campaign would only call this endorsement a ‘game changer’ if they were seriously concerned by the momentum of our campaign in the first place,”Wamp said. “We have always known that changing the status quo isn’t easy, but I believe the people will prevail and get a new congressman.”
Wamp also announced that he has raised $300,000 in the past nine weeks. The candidate is holding a private fundraiser in Chattanooga later this evening.
Updated @ 12:40 p.m. on 3/17/14 to add more information.