State Rep. Joe Carr announced Tuesday that Chip Saltsman, a political operative and former campaign manager for Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, will join his 4th District congressional campaign.
Saltsman, who is also a former Tennessee Republican Party chairman and campaign manager for presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, helped lead Fleischmann to congressional victories in 2010 and 2012. He departed from his role as Fleischmann’s chief of staff after the congressman secured victory in last year’s election.
In a news release, Carr said he was “excited” to add Saltsman to his team. Carr, R-Lascassas, entered the 4th District race earlier this month and has already reported more than $205,000 cash-on-hand in his effort to unseat Rep. Scott DesJarlais. State Sen. Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville, is also a candidate in next year’s Republican primary.
“Chip brings significant firepower and experience to our campaign,” Carr said. “His excellent track record of managing both statewide and national campaigns is invaluable. Chip is a leader and a proven winner in the conservative movement.”
Most recently, Saltsman took a position with American Federation for Children, a Washington, D.C.-based group focused on school choice.
Saltsman was tasked with promoting Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposal for a limited voucher program in Tennessee, which was ultimately yanked by the governor after members of the General Assembly attempted to expand his bill to cover more students. Carr’s release did not say if Saltsman was continuing in his role with the group.
Carr’s release described Saltsman’s work with Fleischmann as being able to guide the candidate to “surprise victories.” Fleischmann, who ran as a candidate with no political experience in his first bid for office, relied heavily on Saltsman, who joined his campaign after an unsuccessful bid for Republican National Committee chairman.
In 2010, Fleischmann was able to emerge from a crowded field to best Robin Smith by 1,400 votes. In 2012, the congressman defeated two well-backed challengers: regional dairy mogul Scottie Mayfield and Weston Wamp, son of former 3rd District Rep. Zach Wamp.
Saltsman’s connections allowed Fleischmann to form a relationship with Huckabee, who provided endorsements on behalf of Fleischmann’s campaigns in both 2010 and 2012.
His work in 2010 also led to a lawsuit, in which depositions revealed an ad run by Fleischmann against Smith relied on confidential papers and used the state seal of Tennessee to make a nongovernment document appear official.
DesJarlais, who was re-elected amid scandal stemming from his decade-old divorce, trails both Carr and Tracy in fundraising after the first quarter of the 2014 cycle. A former physician who ran on a pro-life, pro-family values platform, DesJarlais was sidelined when records showed he slept with patients as a doctor and pressured one to terminate a pregnancy-which he said never happened.
Records also showed DesJarlais supported two abortions for his ex-wife.
Since then, the congressman has said he has been forgiven by God and boasted of voting in favor of pro-life legislation.
The 4th District Republican primary is in August 2014.