Hamilton County Republican mayoral candidates raise $1.23 million for open seat

NASHVILLE - As early voting kicks off Wednesday for May 3 county primary elections across Tennessee, Hamilton County Republican mayoral hopefuls Matt Hullander, Sabrena Smedley and Weston Wamp have already collectively raised more than $1.23 million and spent some $655,000 during their three-way race.

The fundraising total appears to be a record for the seat, with all three candidates jumping onto the screen with television ads.

Hullander, former CEO of the home-improvement company HullCo., raised and spent the most. He reported total receipts of $508,000, a figure that includes a $50,000 loan the businessman made to his campaign earlier in his effort, which began in mid-2021.

His total spending through March 31 came to $276,755, the bulk of that during the Jan. 16 to March 31 period.

Hullander reported $231,451 in cash on hand March 31.

"Jenny and I continue to be humbled by the amount of support the campaign continues to receive," Hullander said in an emailed statement to the Times Free Press on Tuesday. "Our report was strong, but we are continuing to raise money and yesterday had a major fundraiser with others planned in the coming days.

"I don't want to boast, but we won't be outworked, and we won't be outraised with financial or volunteer support," Hullander said. "Our team is focused on the end game. This campaign is blessed and we are very grateful."

Hamilton County Commission Chairwoman Sabrena Smedley had raised $387,770 through March 31. That included a $55,000 loan she made to her campaign early on. A real estate agent, Smedley disclosed $222,979 in spending during the course of the campaign.

She reported $164,790 in cash on hand as the campaign enters its final weeks.

"Hamilton County wants a mayor who's ready for the job from day one, someone with experience in both business and government," Smedley told the Times Free Press in a text. "That's reflected in our fundraising momentum, which is even more impressive when you consider that politics is not my business.

"That support isn't coming from a dad calling in favors," Smedley added. "It's coming from real people who can relate to my story and believe I'm running for the right reasons."

Hullander is the son of Hamilton County Trustee Bill Hullander, while Weston Wamp is the son of former U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp, a Chattanooga Republican.

Wamp, who twice ran unsuccessfully for Congress, reported raising a total of $342,756 during the course of the campaign. He spent $155,626 and reported a cash balance of $187,130 as of March 31.

"We set a budget of $330,000 in December, met that budget in March and raised more than $20,000 since April 1," Wamp said in an emailed statement. "We have all the resources we need to win."

The businessman and investor founded the Millennial Debt Foundation, which raises awareness about the nation's massive federal debt. He said his campaign should wind up with about 10% in overhead costs.

"Which means 90% of our money went directly to reaching voters," Wamp added. "The other candidates cannot come close to matching the efficiency of our campaign."

"Instead of out-of-town consultants, our campaign has relied on a team of local business, marketing and education leaders to advise me on messaging and strategy on a volunteer basis," Wamp said.

The GOP candidates squared off earlier this week in a debate sponsored by the Times Free Press and Local 3 News.

Democrat Matt Adams, who faces no opposition in the Democratic primary, reported raising $8,433 during the first quarter and spending $5,514.03. His report lists a $2,918.97 cash balance.

Early voting continues through April 28, excluding Sundays.

Contact Andy Sher at [email protected] or 615-255-0550. Follow him on Twitter @AndySher1.