NASHVILLE - Democrat Mike McWherter said Monday he is "right where I want to be right now" in the governor's race despite not having advertised on television for weeks and a recent poll indicating his Republican rival, Bill Haslam, has a substantial lead.
McWherter said his campaign has an advertising strategy that will begin in advance of early voting on Oct. 13, which is when he said voters will begin paying serious attention to the contest.
The West Tennessee businessman acknowledged Knoxville Mayor Haslam has been advertising in earnest since the Aug. 5 primary.
"Bill Haslam has literally been spending money talking about pie and Ned McWherter for weeks now," Mike McWherter said. "You'll see our media campaign begin to ramp up. I believe we've got sufficient funds now to make sure we can get our message out."
Haslam's campaign had no immediate comment.
McWherter, who already has put $1 million of his own money into the campaign but raised just $1.6 million, later told The Associated Press that, "I'm committed to putting in whatever funds are necessary to be sure we can get our message out."
The AP said he provided no specifics on how much he was willing to spend. Haslam raised $9.4 million for the primary and gave his campaign at least $1.5 million more. Both men are millionaires, but Haslam, whose family owns about half of Pilot Travel Centers LLC, is believed to have considerably more personal wealth although he refused to disclose his net worth.
In one of his TV spots, the Haslam campaign features a restaurant owner speaking favorably of the mayor and talks about his "sneaking" pie on occasion. In the other TV spot, Haslam aspires to join a list of "great" Tennessee leaders including former Democratic Gov. Ned McWherter, the father of Mike McWherter.
A recent WSMV-TV poll of 600 registered voters who were "very or somewhat likely" to vote says that 55 percent of voters are backing Haslam while just 24 percent said they would vote for McWherter. Nineteen percent said they were undecided and 1 percent were voting for someone else, the TV station reported. The poll by Crawford Johnson and Northcott had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
Meanwhile, the Haslam campaign last week released a list of 105 Democrats and independents it says are publicly backing Haslam in the Nov. 2 election.
"It really didn't bother me," McWherter said of the list, which includes former Chattanooga Mayor Jon Kinsey and five former Cabinet-level officials from current Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen's administration. "There were a lot of people on there I didn't know, frankly."
Contact Andy Sher at firstname.lastname@example.org or 615-255-0550.
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