published Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

U.S. Senator Bob Corker adds $2.5 million to war chest


by Chris Carroll

ELECTION DATES
  • Qualifying deadline: April 5, 2012
  • Primary: Aug. 2, 2012
  • General election: Nov. 6, 2012

Source: Hamilton County Election Commission

If federal elections were held today, U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., likely would cruise to victory based not only on the strength of his fundraising, but also since there’s no Democratic challenger to be found.

The former Chattanooga mayor’s staff told the Chattanooga Times Free Press on Monday it has $5.3 million on hand for a 2012 re-election race, so far obliterating his one registered GOP competitor, James Durkan, who raised $6,219 through March 31, records show.

Aides said Corker was proud of the campaign’s “strong fundraising numbers” — including $2.5 million collected between April 1 and June 30 — but chief of staff Todd Womack said the campaign “is not on our radar in a significant way.”

“We are grateful for the overwhelming generosity of citizens across Tennessee who have shown their support for Senator Corker’s work to bring spending under control by putting the federal government in a fiscal straitjacket,” Womack said.

Corker has raised more money than several registered GOP presidential contenders — Ron Paul, Tim Pawlenty, Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich. At $18.3 million, only Mitt Romney in the GOP presidential field has outpaced Tennessee’s junior senator, federal records show.

Discussing the debt ceiling debate embroiling Washington, Corker on July 6 called the U.S. Senate “the most dysfunctional place I’ve ever been ... in my life.”

No Tennessee Democrat has announced a 2012 U.S. Senate candidacy against Corker, and no one has begun filing campaign finance disclosures for the race, according to Federal Election Commission records.

Brandon Puttbrese, the Tennessee Democratic Party spokesman, said party strategists plan to hammer away at Corker’s record, claiming “the tea party crowd says he’s not radical enough” while other critics oppose the senator’s support for Wisconsin Sen. Paul Ryan’s plan to privatize Medicare and tax breaks to corporations.

Puttbrese added that Democrats will announce a candidate in late fall or early winter.

“There are several exciting Democrats taking a hard look at this race,” Puttbrese said. “Each has asked us to refrain from pre-empting any decision they may make.”

The lack of competition stands in stark contrast to the race to replace former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist in 2006, when Corker raised $13 million to beat then-U.S. Rep. Harold Ford Jr. by less than 3 percentage points.

Ford announced his candidacy on May 25, 2005 — a year and a half before the general election. The Memphis Democrat spent $15 million during the campaign.

Corker’s campaign filed his latest campaign finance disclosure Friday, meeting the federal deadline to document who donated through June 30, information that was unavailable Monday.

Tennessee’s other Republican senator, Lamar Alexander, does not run for re-election until 2014.

Durkan, Corker’s Republican challenger, could not be reached for comment Monday afternoon.

Contact staff writer Chris Carroll at ccarroll@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6610.

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