NASHVILLE - Tennessee Republican gubernatorial hopeful Bill Lee announced Friday that his campaign raised more than $1.37 million since declaring his candidacy in mid-April.
The wealthy Franklin businessman and cattle farmer, who bills himself as the "conservative outsider," also is expected to report that he and his wife, Maria, contributed a like amount as donors, leaving his campaign with a $2.5 million or so cash balance as of June 30.
"Maria and I are truly humbled and honored to see the outpouring of support from across Tennessee with folks wanting to help this campaign," Lee said in a news release.
Lee, the chairman Lee Company, a family-owned construction, facilities and home services company with offices in Tennessee, Alabama and Kentucky, is the first of the three announced candidates in the 2018 Republican gubernatorial primary to announce fundraising totals.
Democrat Karl Dean, a former Nashville mayor, announced earlier this month that he raised $1.2 million. Candidates' mid-year disclosures are due to be filed this coming Monday with the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance.
Other announced Republicans in the race are Knoxville businessman and former state economic commissioner Randy Boyd and state Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet.
Lee said that since announcing his candidacy April 24 that "we have traveled the state meeting everyone we can and sharing my vision for Tennessee. The response has been so overwhelmingly positive, we felt compelled to match the donations in an effort to thank everyone for their support and show our continued commitment to them throughout this campaign."
Lee's campaign finance chairman Stuart McWhorter said the campaign has said all along "we were going to have the resources necessary for Bill to win this race next year, and with our first fundraising period ending, we have seen that Tennesseans are absolutely responding and rallying to Bill's vision for our state."
Earlier this week, Lee announced his "Roadmap for Rural Tennessee," the campaign's first major policy initiative aimed at preserving the way of life in rural Tennessee and addressing what he says are the most pressing issues facing the region.
"I believe we are just a generation away from losing a way of life that has been at the core of our rural communities," Lee said. "If we don't act soon, we could lose that way of life forever."
Lee plans to demonstrate what he calls his commitment to Tennessee rural communities with a statewide tractor tour in August. He said his "road map" centers around four major "calls to action," those including promoting the dignity of work and economic independence and supporting innovation and technology to boost economic, health and educational opportunities.
Other aspects involve addressing Tennessee's "epidemic of opioid abuse and addiction" and strengthening the state's "commitment to faith, community, and family."