published Monday, February 4th, 2013

Berke far outpaces rivals in cash, resources


by Cliff Hightower
Chattanooga mayor hopeful Andy Berke addresses the crowd during a fundraiser.
Chattanooga mayor hopeful Andy Berke addresses the crowd during a fundraiser.
Photo by Connor Choate /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

In the race for Chattanooga mayor, this is what former state Sen. Andy Berke has in his favor: $674,000, 300 volunteers, four paid staff and wealthy donors.

His opponents are working with notably less. Former city employee Guy Satterfield has only spent $1,800 so far, all his own money. He doesn't command dozens of helpers or host fundraising parties.

"If there's a sign out, I put it there," Satterfield said. "If there's a door hanger, I put it there."

Still, Satterfield and frequent candidate Robert Chester Heathington Jr. said the end of the campaign is unwritten and their runs shouldn't be dismissed.

"The election's going to be an upset," Heathington said Friday. "A real big upset."

But there is little doubt money plays a vital role in politics, from buying ad space to campaign fliers to billboards and signs. And Heathington and Satterfield have steep hills to climb.

Berke's campaign acknowledged last week that he has raised $674,000 since entering the race in May. That surpassed even former Mayor Bob Corker, who raised $643,000 in 2001.

Berke has spent $143,000 to date.

"These numbers represent the truly diverse group of people from across the city who have bought into Senator Berke's vision for Chattanooga's future," said Stacy Richardson, campaign manager. "When Senator Berke talks about moving our city forward in public safety, economic development and accountability in government, people from every party and every neighborhood respond."

Satterfield so far has raised nothing, and Heathington did not comment on how much he has raised.

Still, Chattanooga has seen elections where the candidate with less money won the race.

In 2009, former District 1 Councilwoman Linda Bennett faced a challenge from Deborah Scott. Bennett raised almost $16,000 and Scott raised just $8,800, election records show. But Scott won.

In the same election, Pam Ladd raised almost $14,000 in the District 3 council race and beat George Patten, who raised $22,150, records show.

In the 2005 mayor's race, Ann Coulter, with a war chest of $587,000, lost to Ron Littlefield, who raised $359,000.

"I think he thinks he's already got it," Satterfield said, referring to Berke. "Maybe he does. But this isn't a coronation."

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