By John Huotari
Congressional candidate John M. Wolfe Jr., a Democrat, called himself a conservative and his Republican opponent Chuck Fleischmann a "radical" during a recent talk with Anderson County Democrats.
"I'm trying to "conserve' what we have, and he's trying to take it away," said Wolfe, a 56-year-old Chattanooga lawyer. "He's radical, and I feel like the true conservative up here."
Wolfe said Fleischmann, also a lawyer, who lives in Ooltewah, endorses the Tea Party message and wants to take "an axe to government." Wolfe suggested that programs from Social Security to Medicare would be in danger if Fleischmann is elected.
"His axe is going to be a boomerang on you," said Wolfe, who vowed to protect programs and agencies such as the Tennessee Valley Authority, Social Security, Medicare, worker-safety regulations -- and the Oak Ridge mission.
"There's really no reason to tamper with all that," he said.
Wolfe won the Aug. 5 Democratic primary and will face Fleischmann, the Republican nominee, in the Nov. 2 general election. Both men are seeking the U.S. House of Representatives seat being vacated by Chattanooga Republican Zach Wamp.
First elected in 1994, Wamp did not seek re-election this year, choosing instead to run, unsuccessfully, for Tennessee governor.
Wolfe also ran for Congress in 2002 and 2004 in what he described as Tennessee's Republican-leaning Third District, which includes Oak Ridge. He lost to Wamp both times.
"I just think it's important that we have someone that's going to stand up for the people and not Wall Street," Wolfe said.
In a roughly hour-long talk to the Anderson County Democratic Party last Thursday, and in an interview afterward, Wolfe criticized Fleischmann on a variety of fronts, alleging that the Republican is against abortion "even if the mother's life is in danger" and won't agree to a political debate.
"He is the character in the Kenny Rogers' song before he found his courage," Wolfe said, referring to Fleischmann. "He is "the Coward of the County.'"
Wolfe said voters have a right to compare the two candidates in a debate, especially since neither one has had held office and "there's a huge independent vote this year."
He said a shift to the right would be dangerous for Oak Ridge.
"Chuck's going to have to say where he's going to cut in the federal government," Wolfe said.
Saying that taxes for the rich have already been cut in the United States more than in any other Western countries, Wolfe said he would support a 1 percent tax on derivatives. The derivatives market is "huge" -- it's valued at $64 trillion -- and the tax would be split between buyers and sellers, Wolfe said.
He said there should be a tax break for investors buying companies' initial public offerings, and he would compel banks to lend money to loosen up the credit market.
"If we're going to bail them out, they've got to at least lend some capital to community development," said Wolfe, who also ran for Chattanooga mayor in 2001.
He said he supported the recent federal health care reform "to a point," but the legislation should have made insurance companies compete and it should have included a public option to help hold down health-care premium prices.
Wolfe also said another round of federal economic stimulus spending could be required, and he would support it.
"People have a right to work," he said. "If you can't work, then you've got to stimulate the economy."