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Businessman Bill Lee, left, participates in a gubernatorial candidate forum on health care Friday, Jan. 19, 2018, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

NASHVILLE - Republican gubernatorial Bill Lee's campaign says it is preparing to launch a statewide television ad buy as Tennessee's 2018 GOP gubernatorial primary enters its next phase.

The campaign wouldn't reveal how much it plans to spend on running the ad, entitled "Why," which officials say will begin airing Saturday and run through Feb. 3.

As of early Friday afternoon, a review of public filings for Tennessee televisions on the Federal Communication Commission's website showed the Williamson County businessman's campaign had only reserved $35,390 in air time. That was for one Nashville television station.

But Lee campaign spokesman Chris Walker said it is indeed a statewide campaign buy from the millionaire businessman. It would make it the first of many television ads Tennessee voters will see in coming months with a six-person GOP primary field and two Democrats running in the Aug. 2 primary.

It was produced by consultants including national GOP strategist and media Fred Davis, who is known for his sometimes unconventional approach to political advertising. The ad is a highly personal biographical introduction to Lee, a first-time candidate whose name identification is low according to polling, and what led the businessman on the path to run for governor.

"We believe it is important that voters know Bill's personal story and what shaped him," said Chris Devaney, Bill Lee's campaign manager, in a news release. "This ad gives a real look at who Bill is."

The 60-second spot begins with a scene capturing a misty morning on the Lee family farm as the candidate describes a defining moment of his life, the death of his first wife, Carol Ann Lee, from a horse riding accident.

"We cried, we mourned, we struggled, we prayed, we healed, we started laughing again," says Lee. "Everything changed."

Lee, who later remarried, said he threw himself into his home and building services company to make it "the best place to work for 1,200 hard-working plumbers, pipefitters and electricians.

"Can I make life better for every person in this state? I believe I can," Lee says. "I'm sure going to try."

As he speaks, subtitles slowly appear, describing Lee's volunteer work as a board member of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, Hope Clinic for Women, Men of Valor Prison Ministry and, finally, "Conservative Republican For Governor."

Other Republicans in the contest include former state Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet; U.S. Rep. Diane Black of Gallatin; Knoxville businessman and former state economic commissioner Randy Boyd; Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell and Johnson City Realtor Kay White.

Major Democrats running are former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean and state House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh of Ripley.

Contact staff writer Andy Sher at asher@timesfreepress.com or 615-255-0550. Follow him on Twitter @AndySher1.

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