Tennessee Republicans awash in campaign cash

Tennessee Republicans awash in campaign cash

October 28th, 2010 by Andy Sher in News

NASHVILLE -- Tennessee Republicans enter the final stretch of the 2010 campaign awash in cash compared to their Democratic rivals, according to the last financial reports filed before Tuesday's election.

The Tennessee Republican Party and legislative Republicans' fundraising success resulted in a better than 2-to-1 fundraising advantage over Democrats -- $1.39 million compared to $533,200, according to reports filed with the state Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance.

Republicans also outspent Democrats by almost 3-to-1 -- $1.65 million to $548,911.

Democrat Mike McWherter, for example, put another $500,000 of his own money into his race for governor and raised another $71,475 from contributors, according to his financial report, which covered Oct. 1-23 and was filed Tuesday with the state Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance.

But Republican Bill Haslam still led overall in the money race during the period, with his fundraising machine scooping up $1.22 million from donors.

McWherter reported spending $1.14 million with nearly $930,000 going for television ads. Haslam, who has dominated fundraising throughout the contest and leads in the latest polls, reported spending $1.87 million, including about $1.25 million in ads.

On Oct. 23, Haslam had $1.1 million in cash on hand compared to nearly $289,000 for McWherter.

"I'm grateful that so many people have supported me out on the trail and financially," said Haslam, who over the course of a nearly two-year campaign has raised about $13.7 million and injected another $3.49 million of his own money in his effort.

Haslam has spent about $16 million over the course of the campaign, including a contested GOP primary. McWherter, who had no primary, has spent $2.7 million.

McWherter said voters are "tired of seeing [Haslam's] ads and tired of the fact that he doesn't say anything or stand for anything in those ads."

Haslam spokesman David Smith jabbed back.

"We only receive comments raving about [Haslam ads], but we'd understand Mike being tired of them," he said.

It isn't just Haslam with the money edge, reports show. The Tennessee Republican Party's main campaign group, the Tennessee Legislative Campaign Committee, reported receiving $500,000 alone from the Republican Governors Association, bringing to $1.075 million the amount of money the association has given the GOP so far. The most recent funding is being split between in-kind help for Haslam and get-out-the-vote efforts.

In fact, state Republicans have so much money, they are spending it in efforts to oust Democratic incumbents previously considered safe, including House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner, of Nashville, and Rep. Henry Fincher, D-Cookeville.

State GOP Chairman Chris Devaney said the party is putting money into 17 House contests, some of which will receive the full $40,000 allowed by law.

"Not all of those are going to win, but they're in play, and I think that shows the kind of momentum we have across the state," said Devaney, who, along with legislative Republicans, hopes to put Republicans in firm control of the House.

Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester acknowledged the Republicans' money advantage but maintained Democratic efforts will be buoyed by "hundreds of well-trained volunteers who have been canvassing for months, contacting voters who have a strong propensity to vote Democratic."

Democrats' major contributors included the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, a national group that gave $150,000, as well as $154,700 from the Senate Democratic Caucus.

State Sen. Andy Berke, D-Chattanooga, contributed $10,000 from his personal campaign committee while Three Star PAC, which Berke has ties to, gave $30,000, the report shows.

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