GOP MONEY RACE
Money raised from Jan. 1 to March 31
Fleischmann: At least $200,000
CASH ON HAND
Fleischmann: At least $750,000
Sources: Campaign aides
It's a happy Easter in the land of milk and money.
Dairy executive Scottie Mayfield said he raised $450,648 in the first seven weeks of his inaugural run for office, setting a quarterly fundraising record in Tennessee's 3rd Congressional District and positioning himself as a serious challenger to U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn.
The president of Mayfield Dairy shattered the previous three-month record -- $321,230 -- on an abbreviated time frame. Mayfield's congressional campaign began Feb. 3, 34 days after the fundraising quarter started on New Year's Day. In two months, he raised an average of $64,000 per week.
"Next quarter, I've got an extra month," Mayfield said in a phone interview. "I'm trying to raise money, but I'm also trying to raise votes. The goal is to make spokespersons out of each one of those people."
The previous all-time quarterly breadwinner was Fleischmann, a freshman Republican who raised $321,230 between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31 last year.
"I'm sure Representative Fleischmann will sit up and take notice, as well as Weston Wamp," said John Geer, a political science professor at Vanderbilt University.
Mayfield and Wamp are challenging Fleischmann in the Republican primary for the 3rd District seat.
Wamp, 25, son of former U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp, raised $307,646 between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31, his first three months in the race.
Stacking their first quarters head to head, Mayfield -- with five fewer weeks to operate -- raised about $143,000 more than Wamp.
Asked for comment, Wamp said Saturday the bulk of Mayfield's donors live "out-of-touch" lives in affluent 3rd District communities.
"Scottie Mayfield's got a lot of wealthy friends," Wamp said. "I'm not surprised. ... A lot of these are blue-blood investor types on Lookout Mountain."
At least 25 Wamp donors live on the Tennessee or Georgia sides of Lookout Mountain, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission. Most have contributed $1,000 or more.
"The difference is my [Lookout Mountain] donors get up, go to work every day and employ a lot of people," Wamp said. "Roger Talley's one -- he runs a construction company. Ted Alling's another; he runs a transportation company."
Mayfield aides did not release names of 433 individual donors, some of whom contributed online. Mayfield's campaign website features one-click links to donate and volunteer but doesn't offer a clue about his platform besides "Republican for Congress."
"It's kind of like ice cream -- you taste mine and you taste theirs and you pick," Mayfield said. "I admit we don't have as much on our website as we want to have, but people will have until August to make their minds up, and we will for sure have information to them by the time they need to make a decision."
Added top Mayfield strategist and former Tennessee Republican Party chairman Tommy Hopper: "People are going to be very pleased with Scottie's views ... but we have our own timetable, and that's what we're going to follow."
Asked at a recent fundraiser if he could identify a single issue where he disagrees with Fleischmann, Mayfield said, "Not really."
Heading into the final four months of the Republican primary money race, Mayfield is still behind Fleischmann and Wamp in cash on hand, but experts said that may not matter.
"At this point, you just need to have enough money to run a competent campaign -- all three of them have that," said Kyle Kondik, a political analyst at the University of Virginia's Center for Politics. "But it's possible that Fleischmann may have the lowest name recognition of any of these three candidates."
Fleischmann aides said he raised more than $200,000 during 2012's first quarter and has at least $750,000 to spend before the Aug. 2 primary election. Wamp reported $436,080 after first-quarter expenses, and Mayfield's campaign said it had $416,122 on hand. Most of the money is earmarked for the Republican primary.
Jordan Powell, a spokesman for Fleischmann, said the congressman's voting record will speak for itself.
"Our opponents will have to spend a lot of money to convince the 3rd District to vote against a proven conservative like Chuck," Powell said.
Ron Bhalla, another 3rd District Republican running for Congress, said he has spent $20,000, but did not indicate what's left. Bill Taylor, a Democrat challenging Fleischmann, said he has raised $30,000. Democrat Mary Headrick has downplayed fundraising in her campaign. Matthew Deniston, an Independent, said Saturday he has not raised any money.
Congressional candidates who raise or spend at least $5,000 must file quarterly reports with the Federal Election Commission identifying donors, contributions and expenditures. The deadline to file is April 15.
Mayfield said that at the beginning of his candidacy, he spent $7,357 of his own money on "Republican dinners," stickers and other materials when "there wasn't any money" in the bank account.
Mayfield said he won't be reimbursed for those expenses, and he's not sure whether he'll self-finance his campaign any further.
"That's an opportunity that presents itself," he said. "We just haven't made that decision."
Fleischmann and Wamp have not contributed personal funds to their campaigns, aides have said. Fleischmann spent at least $600,000 of his own money to win the 3rd District seat in 2010.
Chris Carroll covers federal politics for the Times Free Press. A Chattanooga native, he went to Red Bank High School and graduated with honors from East Tennessee State University. Chris investigated violent crime, municipal government and hospitals before taking the political beat. For tornado coverage, he and Pam Sohn won a first-place Tennessee Associated Press Managing Editors deadline reporting award. In 2010, Chris won the Golden Press Card Award of Merit and another deadline reporting ...
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