NASHVILLE -- Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Haslam easily outdistanced GOP rivals Ron Ramsey and Bill Gibbons in fundraising during the last half of 2009, according to figures released by their respective campaigns.
Ramsey and Gibbons campaign officials, however, said their messages are resonating more with GOP primary voters.
Figures disclosed by Knoxville Mayor Haslam indicate the candidate hauled in $1.86 million between July 1 and Jan. 15, bringing his overall fundraising total to $5,737,583.46.
That compares with $1.42 million raised during the July 1-Jan. 15 period by Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, the Senate speaker. That brings his total to $2,756,642, according to the campaign.
Shelby County District Attorney Gibbons' campaign, meanwhile, said it raised about $640,000, which would bring his overall total to about $1.05 million.
Gubernatorial candidates have until Monday to file their year-end supplemental reports with the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance, a state oversight agency.
John Crisp, a spokesman for the fourth major GOP candidate, U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn., declined to release figures for the Chattanooga lawmaker. Democrats Jim Kyle, Kim McMillan and Mike McWherter also did not release campaign fundraising figures.
In a news release, the Haslam campaign said the Knoxville mayor smashed through previous statewide records by raising $5.73 million from more than 7,300 contributions during the first year of his candidacy. The mayor, whose family has long been prominent in GOP fundraising circles, called the financial support "humbling."
"Our message of growing and retaining jobs, conservative budget management and putting education on the right track is connecting in all corners of the state, and we won't stop now," Mayor Haslam said.
But Ramsey adviser Brad Todd said while Mayor Haslam leads in fundraising, Lt. Gov. Ramsey has raised enough to be competitive. He has $2.35 million in cash on hand to help him weather a ban on fundraising during the legislative session absent a change in the law.
"Despite his (Haslam's) fundraising success, his campaign has thus far not caught on with the Republican primary voters across the state," Mr. Todd said. "The question is which candidate has proven they can be governor on Day 1, that they can put conservative principles into action."
He said Lt. Gov. Ramsey is the only candidate "who's passed that test."
Neither Mr. Haslam nor Mr. Gibbons released cash on hand figures on Saturday.
On the money
Gubernatorial fundraising: July 1, 2009-Jan. 15, 2010:
* Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam -- $1.86 million
* Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey -- $1.42 million
* Shelby County DA Bill Gibbons -- $640,000
Gibbons communications manager Bonny Kinney said Mr. Gibbons is "running a stronger campaign" than Mr. Haslam.
"While we are persistent in building our fundraising effort, we believe that the most important factor is whether our message hits the target, not the number of shots fired," Ms. Kinney said.
In a slap at Mr. Haslam, who is independently wealthy, Ms. Kinney said, "We may not have the wealth of other candidates for governor, but our campaign continues to build traction by addressing the needs of Tennesseans. We are confident our momentum on the issues will prevail."
Haslam spokesman Dave Smith said the campaign is "pleased with the record number of financial supporters as well as the 1,100 grass-roots/community leaders that have helped us organize in every county across the state."
It is clear, he said, the Tennesseans are "looking for true executive experience and resonate with Bill's focus on job creation, education reform and conservative fiscal management."
Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...