Weeks after Weston Wamp mounted a challenge against U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, another 24-year-old Republican is thinking about joining the race.
Tres Wittum, a policy and research analyst for state Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, said his job allows him to observe the legislative process up close and gives him the experience to work in Washington. The former president of Tennessee College Republicans said he'll make a final decision on running before April.
"You can't just go in and say, 'You know what? I'll be the 24-year-old that's going to Congress, and I'm going to tell the president of the United States this is the way it's going to be,'" said Wittum, whose first name is pronounced "trace."
"You have to understand the way in which government is operated."
Fleischmann declined comment through a spokesman.
An Indiana native who graduated from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in August, Wittum said he's not affiliated with a Facebook page called "Draft Tres Wittum For Congress 2012." He said a conservative group of people approached him last March, encouraged him to consider Congress and started the Facebook page.
"I am not involved in running that page," Wittum said, "but I'm aware of it."
The "Draft" page includes verbatim policy statements from Wittum's personal page, sometimes posted within minutes of each other. Both pages feature photographs of Wittum with prominent tea party favorites, including presidential candidate and U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn.; U.S. Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va; and U.S. Rep. Allen West, R-Fla. As of Friday, the page had 1,417 followers. Fleischmann's official congressional page had 1,663.
While he respects his elders -- he called Watson an "awesome guy who's very respected in our area" -- Wittum had a clear message for current members of Congress.
"You guys had your chance, and it didn't go very well," he said.
The rhetoric sounds similar to Wamp's. The son of former U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp has portrayed himself as "a member of the debt-paying generation." But in an interview, Wittum emphasized that "I'm not from a political family."
"It's more about what you've done and what you've experienced," he said.
Watson, who recently attended a Fleischmann fundraiser, said he is proud to have "hired people who people believe are good enough to run for Congress." Asked if he would support his staffer against Fleischmann, Watson laughed.
"We'll just see," he said. "We'll see what happens."
Fleischmann, 49, represents Tennessee's 3rd Congressional District, which includes Chattanooga, Oak Ridge, Cleveland and a stretch of rural towns.
Jean Howard-Hill is another Republican challenging him, and several others, including J.B. Bennett and Robin Smith, have said they're considering runs.
No Democrats, independents or third-party candidates have entered the race so far.
Chris Carroll covers federal politics for the Times Free Press. A Chattanooga native, he went to Red Bank High School and graduated with honors from East Tennessee State University. Chris investigated violent crime, municipal government and hospitals before taking the political beat. For tornado coverage, he and Pam Sohn won a first-place Tennessee Associated Press Managing Editors deadline reporting award. In 2010, Chris won the Golden Press Card Award of Merit and another deadline reporting ...