Despite several candidates boycotting the event, Saturday's Lincoln Day Dinner went off without a hitch for the Hamilton County Republican Party, as three 3rd Congressional District candidates nudged the crowd for their votes.
Earlier this last, 3rd District candidates Chuck Fleischmann, Van Irion and Tommy Crangle announced they would not attend the event because of a "pay-to-play" policy that would have cost them $2,000 to speak at the annual fundraiser.
The event, which pays for the operation of the local Republican Party offices, drew about 550 attendees ready to hear from candidates for the 3rd District and gubernatorial races, as well as keynote speaker U.S. Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga. A straw poll was also held.
Rick Kernea, a Chattanooga native, led the speeches for the 3rd District candidates, detailing his military and family background. He encouraged voters to elect someone who "will stand up for the constituents and the military." Mr. Kernea placed fifth in the straw poll.
Hixson resident and former state GOP Chairwoman Robin Smith said if elected to Congress she will "take our country back" by decreasing spending, strengthening borders and repealing recent health care legislation. Ms. Smith won the straw poll with 56 percent of the vote.
"We want to change Washington," she said. "And we will not allow Washington to change us. It's about us this time."
Art Rhodes, president and chief executive officer of the Church of God Benefits board in Cleveland, Tenn., was scheduled to speak, however his father died early Saturday. In his place, campaign member Travis Henry told the crowd why he thinks their vote in the Aug. 5 primary should go to Mr. Rhodes, who came in fourth in the straw poll.
"We cannot afford a freshman congressman," Mr. Henry said. "We need someone who has experience, someone with a special skill set that can get something done."
Third District candidates Tim Gobble and Jean Howard-Hill were also at the dinner, but did not purchase the two tables required to speak.
Mr. Gobble, who won 16 percent of the straw poll votes and came in second, said he was pleased with the results, but "the only poll that really matters is the one from the people."
Ms. Hill said it was unfortunate that she was unable to speak and explain her platform to the crowd of voters.
"Money should never be the controlling factor for determining who wins an election," she said. "Unfortunately, we've gotten to that point."
Hamilton County Democratic Party Chairman Jeff Brown said he did not want to comment.
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