For most Americans, the milestones of youth happen at 16 (driving), 18 (voting) and 21 (drinking). For Weston Wamp, 25 is a bigger deal.
Federal law requires members of the U.S. House to live at least a quarter-century before taking office, so the son of former U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp celebrated his 25th birthday Monday with a fundraiser designed to bankroll his quest to win his father's old seat.
"This kind of lays to rest the question of whether I'm too young because the Constitution says you've got to be 25, and today I'm 25," Weston Wamp said in an interview.
Starting in 1994, Zach Wamp served eight terms in Tennessee's 3rd Congressional District before unsuccessfully running for governor in 2010. Weston Wamp is one of four Republicans challenging his father's immediate successor, first-term U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleisch-mann, R-Tenn.
In throwing the Lindsay Street Hall birthday party and "miniconcert," which featured country star John Rich, Weston Wamp brought renewed attention to his youth even after he attempted to downplay it earlier in the day.
"Grateful for all the [birthday] wishes, but this is my favorite so far," Wamp wrote in a Monday morning Twitter post. "'Happy Birthday Weston, now maybe everyone will chill about the age thing.'"
Rich, half of country duo Big & Rich and formerly of Lonestar, wasn't so chill about the "age thing" -- in fact, he hammered it home. Before launching into Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire," he told Wamp supporters the Washington establishment is "scared" of their candidate.
"You know why?" he said. "Because he's 25 years old; he's full of piss and vinegar. He's a patriot. ... Last time I checked this country was built on 25-year-old badasses like Weston Wamp."
Rich appeared in political advertisements, hosted a fundraising event and played a rally during Zach Wamp's gubernatorial campaign. Rich implored supporters to raise $1 million this time around.
"You know what? We need a million bucks," he said. "We need a million bucks, and he'll win. Not because he's going to buy the race, [but] because a million bucks lets everybody hear his message. We all know that."
According to the latest totals, current as of Dec. 31, Fleischmann had about $620,000 left in his campaign war chest while Wamp reported about $285,000.
In a speech before Rich took the stage, Wamp compared the debt crisis he said his generation faces to the women's suffrage movement and the struggle for civil rights.
"I think that's where we are today," he said. "Our leaders think somehow that it's acceptable and sustainable to borrow money from the younger generation just to pay the bills of today's overgrown, inefficient government. That requires a movement. It happens in rooms like this with people like this."
A Wamp campaign staffer instructed a Chattanooga Times Free Press reporter against talking to the crowd of about 150 mostly college students and twentysomethings -- a Facebook invitation went to more than 2,000 people -- and the campaign declined to release a fundraising total for the evening.
Chattanooga real estate investor Ron Bhalla, political science professor Jean Howard-Hill and Athens, Tenn., dairy executive Scottie Mayfield are Fleischmann's three other Republican primary opponents. Maynardville, Tenn., physician Mary Headrick and Chattanooga businessman Bill Taylor are fighting for the Democratic nod. Their fundraising totals are expected to be available in April.
The 3rd Congressional District stretches from Chattanooga to the Kentucky border, winding through parts or all of 11 East Tennessee counties. The primary is Aug. 2.
Contact staff writer Chris Carroll at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6610.