published Monday, February 3rd, 2014

Money hunt lopsided in Bradley County district attorney race

DISTRICT ATTORNEY’S RACE

Crump - Hatchett

• Beginning balance - $28,325 - $0

• Raised - $8,72 - $5,225

• Spent - $15,107 - $1,800

• On hand - $21,943 - $3,424

SHERIFF'S RACE

Watson - Ruth

• Beginning balance - $0 - $11, 289.87

• Raised - $27,502.75 - $9,725

• Spent - $13,000 - $6,780.97

• On hand - $14,463 - $14,233.90

Source: Tennessee Registry of Election Finance

Some insiders are supporting the outsider in the Republican campaign for district attorney in Bradley and neighboring counties.

Steve Hatchett, until recently the chief assistant district attorney in the office, and Steve Crump, who ran unsuccessfully for the seat in 2006, are seeking the Republican nomination for the 10th Judicial District Attorney post. Incumbent Steve Bebb, a Democrat, has said he will not run for re-election. The district includes Bradley, McMinn, Monroe and Polk counties.

According to campaign finance reports, at least three people with connections to the DA's office have donated to Crump, who holds a better than 6-to-1 fundraising advantage over his opponent.

Reports filed with the Registry of Election Finance on Friday show Crump has raised nearly $38,000, to just more than $5,000 for Hatchett.

Crump's contributors include Joseph "Mac" McCoin, an assistant district attorney in the office, and Edward Schemel and Chris Townsend, who are married to assistant district attorneys. Crump's 30 donations in the most recent period included contributions former state Sen. Dewayne Bunch, Stan and Brenda Lawson and numerous business executives in Cleveland.

"We've been very, very blessed in terms of our fundraising," Crump said Friday. "There have been a lot of folks who have expressed confidence in me and in my candidacy."

Crump said he is enjoying strong support from people who work in the DA's office.

"There are a number of people who share my view, and more who have not contributed monetarily but who share what I think we'll be able to do with that office. The most important thing we can do ... is to change the system itself. There needs to be a sense of accountability in the district attorney's office."

But Hatchett says money isn't everything.

"My opponent has been raising money for this race since June of last year. I only filed my paperwork to begin fundraising in November so he has a head start. However, I fully expected to get outspent which doesn't bother me at all," Hatchett said in an emailed statement.

"I do not believe you can buy an election in this District. I am relying on the people of this District, namely the people who support me, to tell other people. I believe that is how elections are won, not with big money."

Hatchett's finance report listed six donations, with none from workers in the office.

Hatchett left the office in January to campaign after securing a double-murder conviction against Aaron Dean Lawson, who gunned down his little daughter's grandparents in their yard in April 2011. Last year he won double murder convictions against Tasha Bates, whose two little boys died in a hot car while she was inside the house cooking and using methamphetamine in June of 2012.

Sheriff's race

In Bradley County's Republican sheriff race, the two candidates are running neck-and-neck.

Incumbent Jim Ruth, who started with a balance of $11,289.87, reported raising $9,725 and spending $6,780.97, leaving $14,233.90 cash on hand and one outstanding obligation for $3,845.61. He did not respond to a request for comment Friday.

Challenger Eric Watson, who is giving up his state House District 22 seat to run for sheriff, reported he raised $27,502.75 and spent $13,000, leaving $14,463.

"We're very excited about the campaign and the way it's going," Watson said Friday. "People are ready for a new spirit, a new direction in Bradley County law enforcement.

Contact staff writer Judy Walton at jwalton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6416.

about Judy Walton...

Judy Walton has worked 25 years at the Chattanooga Times and the Times Free Press as an editor and reporter focusing on government coverage and investigations. At various times she has been an assistant metro editor, region reporter and editor, county government reporter, government-beat team leader, features editor and page designer. Originally from California, Walton was brought up in a military family and attended a dozen schools across the country. She earned a journalism degree ...

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