Heavy security planned for Rick Santorum's visit to Chattanooga - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Heavy security planned for Rick Santorum's visit to Chattanooga

CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) - As Super Tuesday approaches Chattanoogans are excited to welcome a presidential hopeful to town.

"Anything Chattanooga gets public attention, and is in the public eye for, I think it does a lot of good," said Dean Craigge, in Hixson.

"We need people like that coming to town to let us know what their thoughts are," added Judy Jernigan.

Others have never heard the name Rick Santorum.

"I have no idea who that is," laughed Heather Davis, when asked if she was planning to attend Saturday's forum.

The Republican Pennsylvania Senator, and GOP front runner in Tennessee, will headline the Chattanooga Tea Party's Liberty Forum Saturday afternoon at Abba's House in Hixson.

The event is set to begin at 1:00, with Santorum speaking toward the end of the program.

Friday, a dozen law enforcement vehicles were parked outside the church. Twice as many officers went over security plans inside.

County deputies and city officers are taking Santorum's visit as serious as a presidential visit.

"They are taking all necessary precautions," said Tea Party President and Founder, Mark West, "and we are real pleased with what they are doing."

West says the group extended an invitation to three presidential candidates.

Santorum was the first to accept, just weeks ago.

A mad dash to find a location led the group to the megachurch on Hixson Pike, where law enforcement says you can expect traffic delays.

A spokesperson for the Chattanooga Police Department tells Channel 3, officers will be in the area directing traffic.

"Whether 500 show up, 200, or thousands, we don't know, but we're excited," said West, standing by tables of T-shirts, bumper stickers, and flyers with Santorum's name on them, "we're prepared I believe, so if we have a good turn out we'll be ready."

The event, paid for by the Chattanooga Tea Party, will cost thousands of dollars.

It's money West says they hope to recoup in donations.

But West says the true payoff comes in bringing a big name to the area.

"I think it means we are gaining some attention here at the national level," he added.

Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich will visit Chattanooga and Dalton on Tuesday.

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