Berke puts $12,000 into aide Wilkinson's state Senate campaign

Nick Wilkinson
Nick Wilkinson
photo Nick Wilkinson

NASHVILLE - Democrat Nick Wilkinson raised nearly $30,000 in July for his state Senate District 10 bid with more than a little help from a PAC belonging to his employer, Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke.

The $8,500 contribution from Berke's Three Star PAC, created when Berke was the Democratic senator in District 10, sharply boosted Wilkinson's total contributions of $29,205 during the July 1-25 pre-primary period, according to the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance.

Wilkinson, Berke's deputy administrator for economic development, is in a three-way contest in Thursday'sDemocratic primary with Khristy Wilkinson, an activist who is not related, and Ty O'Grady, an entrepreneur. The winner will face Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, on Nov. 8.

Filings with the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance show Berke previously had contributed $1,000 personally to Nick Wilkinson's effort and his PAC had given $2,500. The latest contribution raises Berke's support to $12,000.

All told, Wilkinson has raised $79,455 since he began running in March, filings show. He spent $24,157 in the pre-primary period and $27,521 so far all told. He reported having $52,522 in cash on hand on July 25.

Khristy Wilkinson has raised $2,835 since entering the race, including $427 in the pre-primary period, and had a balance of $337.99 on July 25. O'Grady's disclosures show he's raised and spent nothing.

Other contributors to Nick Wilkinson include Joe Decosimo, a prominent local accountant and business consultant usually supportive of Republicans, who gave $500. Wilkinson also has drawn support from several Chattanooga business and tech entrepreneurs, including Barry Large, a partner with the Lamp Post Group, and Stephen Culp, a co-founder of, who contributed $350.

Annie Hall, a long-time local Democratic Party stalwart and wife of one-time National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Jim Hall, gave $1,000.

Nick Wilkinson is airing a radio ad with testimonials from several persons urging voters to "Pick Nick."

Gardenhire, who is running unopposed in the GOP primary, raised $27,050 in the pre-primary period and reported having $132,617 in the bank on July 25.

His latest contributors included Walden Security President Michael Walden and company chair and CEO Amy Walden, who each contributed $1,500. Roger Tuder, executive director of Associated General Contractors, gave Gardenhire $500, as did AGC-Chattanooga.

Company and PAC donors giving to Gardenhire include the Adams & Reese law and lobby firm, which gave $2,000, and insurer Unum's PAC, with $300. TMX, parent company of Title Max and a number of other loan companies, contributed $3,000.

Republican Gov. Bill Haslam's JOB4TN PAC also contributed $2,000 to Gardenhire while the Home Builders Association of Greater Chattanooga PAC gave $3,500. In late June, Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, contributed $7,500 to Gardenhire through his political action committee, RAAMPAC.

The District 10 seat includes much of Chattanooga and Collegedale in Hamilton County and a large portion of nearby Bradley County. Beleaguered Tennessee Democrats, who have only five seats in the Senate compared to Republicans' 28, see the district as one of their two top pickup possibilities this year.

Republicans, however, are confident Gardenhire can hold fast to the seat. Between Ramsey's PAC and the Senate Republican Caucus, Republicans had just over $1 million in cash on hand as of June 30. The Senate Democratic Caucus had just $85,847.83 in the bank.

In other local legislative contests in Thursday's primary:

Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah, spent heavily during July in his GOP primary contest with Ethan White, a Collegedale city commissioner and Realtor.

The two-term incumbent's pre-primary report detailed $31,577 in spending. That includes some $20,000 for mail to voters in the district, which besides Ooltewah and Collegedale includes Apison, Harrison, Middle Valley and Sale Creek.

Throughout the cycle, Carter has spent $54,266.

He raised $43,203 in the pre- primary period and earlier in July and held a fundraiser at the Mountain City Club with Haslam as the special guest. Haslam gave $5,000 through his PAC while Carter's one-time boss, former Hamilton County Mayor Claude Ramsey, who is also Haslam's former top deputy, gave $500.

Other recent Carter contributors include top McKee Foods executives Jack, Mike and Christopher McKee, who collectively gave $5,000. Businessman Greg Vital contributed $1,000 and a number of local elected official gave with Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond contributing $200 and City Court Judge Russell Bean giving $100.

Carter has raised $104,514 throughout the campaign.

White raised $1,835 in the July 1-July 25 period. Former Republican Gov. Don Sundquist's campaign committee gave $500 while local developer Jeff Londis gave $700 and Unum executive Ronny Anthony gave $200. White has raised $16,337 since starting his campaign. In the latest period, he spent $1,530, raising his total spending to $14,882.

He had a $1,454.48 cash balance on July 25.

Carter, meanwhile, also is being helped with direct contributions or independent expenditures by groups including the National Rifle Association, the Koch brothers-supported Americans for Prosperity-Tennessee, pro-private school voucher and charter-school group Tennessee Federation for Children PAC and the Family Action Council of Tennessee.

All have flooded the district with direct mail. The Family Action Council of Tennessee, headed by former state Republican Sen. David Fowler, attacked White on a same-sex marriage issue that White says is bogus.

In the House District 28 contest, which includes a good portion of Chattanooga, Rep. JoAnne Favors, D-Chattanooga, spent $1,676 during the July 1-25 period in her contest with Dennis Clark.

Favors has raised $34,135 during the campaign and spent $28,475 to date. She had $16,827 in cash on hand as of July 25.

According to his second-quarter disclosure, Clark had raised $5,945, spent $5,587 and had a $357.31 cash balance. His pre-primary disclosure was not on the Registry website.

Contact Andy Sher at or 615-255-0550. Follow on Twitter @AndySher1.

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