IF YOU GO
What: Hamilton County Democratic Party Fundraiser with keynote speaker U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga.
When: Feb. 18; registration begins at 5:30 p.m., event begins at 6:30 p.m.
Where: Olivet Baptist Church Kingdom Center, 740 E. M.L. King Boulevard
Cost: $10, includes event and hors d'oeurves
Atlanta congressman and civil rights leader U.S. Rep. John Lewis will be the Hamilton County Democratic Party's keynote speaker at an upcoming fundraiser, officials announced.
Democrat Lewis, 71, is serving his 13th term as the representative from Georgia's 5th Congressional District. The former Freedom Rider and Nashville sit-in organizer usually wins more than 70 percent of the vote, and last decade he was known as a liberal critic of the George W. Bush administration, at one point calling for the president's impeachment.
Lewis is expected to discuss jobs and voting rights at the Chattanooga event. Before going into politics, he led the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, organizing protest marches across the South and joining Martin Luther King Jr. during speeches.
Hosting Lewis will cap a busy two months for local Democrats. Since mid-December, party workers have introduced dueling congressional primary seekers and hired a public relations consultant to make Democrats more visible in a heavily Republican congressional district.
The last Democrat to represent Chattanooga in Congress was Marilyn Lloyd, whose tenure ended in 1994.
Tonight in Chattanooga, the local party's executive committee is allowing reporters to attend a private "meet-the-candidates" event, in which Union County physician Dr. Mary Headrick and Chattanooga businessman Bill Taylor -- two Democrats who have announced runs for Tennessee's 3rd District congressional seat against Republican U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann -- are expected to speak.
"We have two very confident candidates that can talk intelligently about health issues," Hamilton County Democratic Party Chairman Paul Smith said. "We're not trying to inherit the congressional seat, nor are we trying to buy it."
Smith directed those shots at GOP candidate Weston Wamp, the 24-year-old son of former eight-term congressman Zach Wamp, and Fleischmann, who's expected to report at least $500,000 on hand in campaign finance disclosures expected next week.
"I understand the sentiment," Wamp said. "However, I've actually got to beat an incumbent congressman in order to represent the 3rd District. ... I don't think it's plausible to refer to this as inheriting anything."
Jordan Powell, a spokesman for Fleischmann, said Smith's remarks were standard fare.
"We're not surprised that the Democrats are starting their campaign by attacking us," Powell said. "We expect that to happen all the way through."
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 ...