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Big Picture
Weston Wamp

Meet the reformer: Weston Wamp, looking at the swamp from the right

Democracy reform groups are keenly aware they have an oversupply of leaders who are old, liberal, white and male. Weston Wamp is part of a solution to those first two concerns. The 33-year old Tennessee Republican, after a pair of losing bids for Congress, has spent the past two years as a political strategist for Issue One, a cross-partisan good governance group. (It is the parent of, but journalistically isolated from, The Fulcrum.) This winter he started hosting "Swamp Stories," a podcast seeking to put a conservative lens on political reform. The 10th episode, about Covid-19's impact on elections, arrives Friday. Wamp's answers have been edited for clarity and length.

What's democracy's biggest challenge, in 10 words or less?

The people growing cynical because they question if it's fixable.


Describe your very first civic engagement.

In 1992, I was 5 years old and my dad ran against an 18-year incumbent congressman. I had business cards made that said "Weston Wamp - Assistant to the Candidate." My dad, Zach, lost narrowly — but he won two years later.

What was your biggest professional triumph?

I took the lead in organizing a unique venture capital fund in my hometown of Chattanooga a few years ago. It was very rewarding to be a part of funding people's entrepreneurial dreams.

And your most disappointing setback?

When I was 27 years old, I ran against my incumbent congressman in the Republican primary. I lost with 49.2 percent of the vote. It was a heartbreaker.

How does your identity influence the way you go about your work?

I'm a conservative, but not a partisan. Partisan politics disappointed me as a young person and always has. I've found that it really helps in nonpartisan political reform to be able to look beyond a person's political affiliation.

What's the best advice you've ever been given?

"Love your neighbor as yourself." It's not easy — but it has worked out well every time I've actually done it.

Create a new flavor for Ben & Jerry's.

Berries & Bark. It would be strawberry mixed with cookies and cream. I'm a marketing genius.

What's your favorite political movie or TV show?

"The Campaign," a 2012 movie starring Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis. Something about growing up around politics has made all the serious political shows uninteresting to me.

What's the last thing you do on your phone at night?

Normally this time of year I would be checking baseball box scores just before bed.

What is your deepest, darkest secret?

I have a favorite of my three children.

We’re all about the issues that have broken American democracy — and efforts to make governments work again for you, your family and your friends.
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