Live from Music Row Monday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed TN5 congressional candidate Tres Wittum in studio to discuss his background as an aide, previous work, and why he decided to run.
Leahy: Tell us, Tres Wittum, John Garfield III.
Leahy: Charles Garfield Wittum III. Garfield, of course.
Wittum: 1880. Republican National Convention of 1880.
Leahy: James Garfield was nominated, and he was assassinated …
Wittum: By a man named?
Leahy: I don’t know, who?
Wittum: Charles Guiteau. Not that I’m named after him. It is weird, isn’t it?
Leahy: Now, Tres, tell us a little bit about why voters in the 5th Congressional District should vote for you.
Wittum: Voters in the 5th Congressional District, listen, it’s not that my opponents also don’t have their own campaigns, but why they should vote for me is I’ve served our state for 11 years.
And during that time, I’ve really taken some time to understand what Tennessee cares about. I’ve answered your phone calls. I’ve listened to your concerns.
I’ve helped leaders in this state craft policy that I think has made Tennessee a great place. I’ve studied under great leadership.
And so I think when you’re looking for a representative in Washington, you want somebody who understands Tennessee, Tennesseans, and Tennessee values. And I spent 11 years doing that.
Leahy: You’ve been an aide to a State Senator. What have you done? Have you done anything besides being a political aide? Anything in the private sector?
Wittum: Yes, actually. I do have a background in film and TV and mass communications.
Leahy: You are a UT Chattanooga Moc.
Wittum: That’s right. That’s right. And funny thing, actually, the movies brought me here. I guess when I grew up, I just wanted to be the next Fred Thompson, another great Tennessean.
And so film and TV is what brought me here, especially Nashville. And how I wound up in the State Senate, I guess, I was the State Chairman of College Republicans.
Leahy: Not in the State Senate, but an aide.
Wittum: Yes, an aide.
Leahy: An aide in the State Senate.
Wittum: An aide in the State Senate. That’s right.
Leahy: You don’t want to conflate those words?
Wittum: No, don’t want to conflate those words. And how I wound up there, I guess I just had a big mouth. And so Senator Watson was willing to …
Leahy: But before that, what kind of private sector work did you do?
Wittum: So I worked on film and TV, I was an actor, and I had a small business.
Leahy: How long did you do that?
Wittum: I still have a small business. I still work with communication work and help folks with their advertising, and marketing.
Leahy: I got to ask this question. This is a generational thing. You’re out there in the public and you got this, like, I don’t know what this thing is. It’s like a three-day growth on your … you’re not clean-shaven, you don’t have a full beard.
It’s a look. And I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a candidate, maybe they’re out there. It’s generational here. A candidate for Congress shows up for a debate or a forum with a three-day growth thing going on.
Actually, there was one other that had that look at the Wilson County Straw Poll Forum a couple of weeks ago. What’s the deal with that? This is a cultural translation.
Wittum: I guess I got to be honest. It’s not 3D. I guess I have that Richard Nixon problem where your beard is just this morning.
Leahy: It’s just this morning. It’s like two hours ago.
Wittum: Yes. And so I’m sweating here, too, so good thing I’m not on TV. I’m supposed to be John Kennedy, but now I’m Richard Nixon-looking. But Richard definitely knew his stuff, so I guess I’ll proudly say that.
Leahy: But what’s the whole point behind that?
Wittum: Honestly, the point is my face just grows hair and it’s very thick. So here it is, a nice growth, but yeah.
Leahy: When’s the last time you shaved?
Wittum: The last time I shaved was yesterday afternoon before I went to church.
Leahy: Oh, OK.
Wittum: I was out in Mount Juliet going to church celebrating Williamson Chapel. They invited me to their 100-year anniversary.
Leahy: What’s it been like out there on the campaign trail?
Wittum: Actually, I’m so overwhelmed with support. I’ve had so many people cheering me on, and so I’ve just really enjoyed it. As I said, this is a crazy opportunity I jumped into. And so you just get to meet a lot of people and hear their stories.
Leahy: Have you been able to raise any money? Because I know that a lot of, let’s say the first tier, they’ve raised a lot of money, hundreds of thousands of dollars, and then there’s sort of a second-tier where they haven’t raised any money. Does your campaign have any money?
Leahy: Do you want to elaborate on that? (Chuckles)
Wittum: Well, absolutely. We just started this thing on April 7th so we’ve been on the phones with people, talking to people. I’m not that guy calling saying, hey, can you give me $900?
Leahy: What’s it like asking for money?
Wittum: It’s humbling, because they have to believe in you. And so like I said, now it’s my turn to step forward. And I’ve had people just tell me, Tres, we always knew you’d do this. And yeah, I want to write you a check.
Leahy: Are you going to offer any numbers yet, or we’re going to have to wait ’til you file with the FEC?
Wittum: I’m going to make you wait because if I tell you, then you’re not going to go look, and I need you to make sure you’re interested. And I know they’re all looking.
Leahy: So my argument to the contrary is, if you’ve got money in your bank account, it gives you more credibility as a candidate.
Wittum: No, I think what you see in that is a lot of people, again, don’t know the rules and so they don’t know that there are actually two elections. And so sometimes they fluff those numbers together to make it look like they have something they don’t.
Leahy: The next filing period, the next time the campaign number will be reported, won’t be until July 15th, right? That will be publicly available. Is that when you’re going to announce whatever numbers you have?
Wittum: That’s when I hope you call me and say, Tres, I can’t believe how much money you have! Holy smokes, you weren’t second-tier, you were the first-tier the whole time.
Wittum: I think so.
Listen to the interview here:
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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Photo “Tres Wittum” by Tres Wittum. Background Photo “Nashville, Tennessee” by Bill Penn. CC BY 2.5.