published Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

Chuck Fleischmann holds cash-on-hand lead


by Chris Carroll

CASH ON HAND*

$759,527 U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann

$436,080 Weston Wamp

$416,123 Scottie Mayfield

*Note: Figures current through March 31

Source: Federal Election Commission

Nearly half the contributions to Scottie Mayfield's congressional campaign came from individuals living in incumbent U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann's home county of Hamilton.

But four months before Tennessee's 3rd Congressional District Republican primary, Fleischmann, with the help of $390,874 from industry-backed political action committees, maintains a sizable cash-on-hand lead over Mayfield and two other GOP challengers.

The figures emerged from a Chattanooga Times Free Press analysis of newly filed campaign finance disclosures documenting the year's first fundraising period. Between Jan. 1 and March 31, Mayfield raised $450,648; Fleischmann collected $207,048; and Weston Wamp raked in $175,133.

An Athens, Tenn., dairy executive and political newcomer who lives an hour away from Hamilton County, Mayfield spent his debut fundraising quarter collecting about $207,000 from residents of Chattanooga, Ooltewah, Signal Mountain or the Tennessee side of Lookout Mountain, disclosures show.

Fleischmann, of Ooltewah, raised about $46,000 from Hamilton County residents, or a little more than one-fifth of what Mayfield raised in the same timeframe.

Wamp, the 25-year-old son of former U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp and the other high-profile Republican challenger, doubled Fleischmann's local total, reporting about $95,000 in first-quarter Hamilton County contributions.

The Hamilton County totals could be higher because campaigns aren't required to report contributions below $200, but Fleischmann shrugged off the details and stressed a big money-in-the-bank advantage.

Late Sunday evening, Fleischmann reported having $759,527 after first-quarter expenses; Weston Wamp reported $436,080; and Mayfield reported $416,123, according to the disclosures.

"We have clearly done exceedingly well and outpaced all of the other candidates," Fleischmann said.

But Mayfield, whose platform bears a striking resemblance to Fleischmann's tea-party-friendly voting record, said his hot start won't fade anytime soon.

"Our fundraising success thus far proves that people are responding to our positive campaign of 40 years of hard work in small business ... and zero years in playing Washington's political games," Mayfield said.

No matter how the campaigns frame them, the new disclosures confirm what political watchers have predicted for weeks -- Fleischmann, Mayfield and Wamp officially have more than enough money to get their message out and run full-fledged campaigns.

Wamp recently made an issue about where the money's coming from. Last week, he criticized Mayfield for soliciting donations from "blue-blood investor types on Lookout Mountain."

Records show Wamp has raised about $46,000 from the Tennessee and Georgia sides of Lookout Mountain, with $3,250 coming in the first quarter. Mayfield has raised about $77,000 from Lookout Mountain.

Wamp also has taken issue with Fleischmann's dependency on PAC money. In the year's first quarter, Fleischmann received about $80,500 from PACs, including some representing defense contractors, health insurance companies and the financial services industry, disclosures show.

The president of Mayfield Dairy, Mayfield has taken one PAC donation -- $1,000 from the Washington-based, dairy-industry-backed Ice Cream, Milk and Cheese PAC.

Wamp is the only well-financed candidate without a single PAC donation to his name.

"My donors get up and go to work every day," he said.

Disclosures for the race's four other hopefuls -- Democrats Mary Headrick and Bill Taylor, independent Matthew Deniston and Republican Ron Bhalla -- were not available on the Federal Election Commission website Monday evening.

But Taylor announced two new "platform planks" about vocational training and business development. At the end of a news release, he took a shot at the Republican field.

"We're focused on the issues," he said. "They're focused on the money."

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

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