U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann and his Republican challengers are staging high-dollar fundraisers to fatten their campaign bank accounts before the year’s first financial quarter concludes on March 31.
On Tuesday, atop Chattanooga’s Bank of America building, candidate Scottie Mayfield will host his first major fundraiser at the Walden Club, where the “suggested minimum contribution” is $1,000, according to an invitation.
The dairy executive’s host committee reads like a Who’s Who of Chattanooga clout — Brocks, Davenports, Luptons and Pattens are on the list.
“Some of them know me fairly well, some not so well,” Mayfield said. “Not only are these people lending their names and their money, they’re actively calling people and encouraging them to come out and get to know me.”
On Thursday, Fleischmann will headline a 30-minute $2,500-per-couple “host reception,” followed by a $500-per-couple general reception at a supporter’s Chattanooga home. The campaign has invited about 80 donors, but some already have given a $2,500 maximum primary campaign contribution to the freshman congressman.
“When someone maxes out, many times these people are on my fundraising team, and they want to be part of — and are welcomed to — all of our events,” Fleischmann said. “But we’re getting calls every day from new people wanting to participate.”
Finally, on March 26, the day he turns 25 and legally becomes eligible for Congress, Weston Wamp will throw himself a downtown Chattanooga birthday party-fundraiser, where country singer-songwriter John Rich will perform.
Wamp said he wants to raise money, but he had young people in mind when he dropped the zeroes and decided on $25 for a “suggested donation.” Students can attend the event free.
“We’re having a political event that’s going to be a lot more fun than what any of my opponents will be able to have,” said Wamp, the son of former U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp. “If people come, hear me out and spend a little time with us, I think they’ll agree that my campaign is new, different and fresh.”
A pre-concert meet-and-greet with Rich costs $250 per person and $500 per couple, according to an event invitation posted on Wamp’s campaign Facebook page.
Rich, half of country duo Big & Rich and formerly of the country group Lonestar, participated in Zach Wamp’s 2010 gubernatorial campaign, appearing in political advertisements and performing at a rally.
Aides on all sides have said it could take $1 million just to win the GOP primary in Tennessee’s 3rd Congressional District, and the upcoming fundraisers suggest each man craves financial momentum as the donor pool shrinks.
Records show at least 20 people have donated $500 or more to Fleischmann and Weston Wamp at some point, and several of those donors said they’ll contribute to Mayfield, too.
“Chuck does a great job, Weston could do a great job, and yes, I will support Scottie Mayfield,” said DeWayne McCamish, a Signal Mountain orthodontist and undecided Republican donor who has given $2,500 to Wamp and $1,500 to Fleischmann since 2010.
“It takes money to run a political campaign,” McCamish said. “I think it’s almost a responsibility to share part of that financial burden.”
Jim Berry, president of Republic Parking, already has given $5,000 to Fleischmann and $2,500 to Wamp, but said he plans on putting his full weight behind Mayfield.
“Scottie has a very good chance of winning,” Berry said. “I like to say I don’t like to support a loser.”
Campaign finance records show the 20 duplicate donors have given a combined $41,600 to Fleischmann since he entered the 2010 GOP primary. The same group has donated $40,000 to Weston Wamp since he announced his candidacy in October.
Fourteen of the 20 contributed to Zach Wamp’s congressional campaigns, gubernatorial campaign or both.
Mayfield entered the race in early February, so he has not yet filed a financial disclosure.
According to the latest figures, current as of Dec. 31, Fleischmann led campaign funds with $617,000 on hand, and Wamp had $285,000 in the bank.
“I see myself competitive with [Fleischmann] as far as my skill set and my experience,” Mayfield said. “Moneywise, I think he has an advantage.”
Mayfield’s first financial disclosure and updated totals for Fleischmann and Wamp won’t become public until mid-April.
Ron Bhalla and Jean-Howard also are Republicans in the 3rd District race.
Mary Headrick and Bill Taylor, who will host a $25-per-person fundraiser at Shooter’s Depot on March 31, are fighting for the Democratic nomination.
The primary is Aug. 2.