published Thursday, September 13th, 2012

Andy Berke heading to Knoxville for fundraiser


by Cliff Hightower

Chattanooga mayor hopeful Andy Berke is taking his fundraising tour on the road.

Berke, a current state senator and Democrat from Chattanooga, will hold a fundraiser Wednesday at Club Leconte in downtown Knoxville.

The Berke campaign issued a statement Wednesday about his candidacy, but did not respond when asked why Berke is raising money in Knoxville for a Chattanooga mayoral run.

The news release touted Berke's work in the state Legislature "to create jobs, improve schools and reduce crime" and stated, "People across the state recognize him for his bipartisan approach to our most pressing issues and are supporting his effort to bring that same leadership to Chattanooga as Mayor."

But even a supporter and campaign contributor expressed surprise Wednesday when told Berke planned a Knoxville reception.

"That's news to me," said Joe Decosimo, owner of Decosimo Certified Public Accountants. "Why would he go to Knoxville? He has enough support in the city, he doesn't need to go there."

Eighteen hosts are listed on the invitation, including Rep. Joe Armstrong, D-Knoxville, and former Republican Knoxville Mayor Victor Ashe. Guests include current Democratic Knoxville Mayor Madeleine Rogero and Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett.

Club Leconte is on the 27th floor of the First Tennessee Plaza Building, overlooking downtown Knoxville. According to its website, the club was formed to "serve Knoxville's corporate, political, cultural and academic community."

Two other potential mayoral hopefuls in Chattanooga also said they were surprised that Berke was going out of town to raise money.

Former city Parks and Recreation Director Rob Healy said he could see money coming in from the surrounding area because of those who may own business in Chattanooga. But going 110 miles away stretched those limits.

"You wonder what their interest is," Healy said. "I do think that's a little bit unusual."

Retired Public Works employee Guy Satterfield agreed.

"Why would they have any interest in a Chattanooga race?" he asked.

Burchett, reached by phone Wednesday, said Berke is a longtime friend -- the two served together in the Tennessee Senate.

Even though he's a Republican, Burchett said, he thinks Berke is a man of honor and would make an excellent mayor.

"If Andy tells me it's going to snow, I'm probably going to go to Emory's Five and Dime and get a sled," Burchett said. "Because he's honest."

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