$37.2 million and counting: Tennessee gubernatorial campaign spending sets record

$37.2 million and counting: Tennessee gubernatorial campaign spending sets record

July 11th, 2018 by Andy Sher in Breaking News

Correction: This story was corrected to show Bill Lee's total contributions were $8.3 million, not $5.3 million.

NASHVILLE — Total spending in Tennessee's race for governor hit a $37.2 million high mark on June 30 as millionaire candidates continued to yank money from their wallets and purses and use it fuel their Aug. 2 Republican and Democratic primary efforts.

Before a single ballot is cast in early voting, which begins Friday, the contest to succeed a term-limited Gov. Bill Haslam is already the most expensive gubernatorial contest in state history.

In 2010, primary and general election candidates spent over $25 million, still considerably less than what's already spent in 2018 with months to go until the Nov. 6 general election between the two who emerge as winners from the August primary.

Tennessee gubernatorial candidates, from left, Randy Boyd, Karl Dean, Bill Lee, Craig Fitzhugh and Beth Harwell were part of a forum hosted by the Chattanooga Times Free Press in the Tennessee Room at the University Center on the campus of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga on Monday.

Tennessee gubernatorial candidates, from left, Randy Boyd, Karl...

Photo by C.B. Schmelter /Times Free Press.

Early voting in the contest begins Friday across Tennessee.

Total contributions received in the gubernatorial by the four major Republican and two Democratic candidates is a shade over $51 million, according to second quarter campaign disclosures filed Tuesday with the state's Registry of Election Finance.

Of that amount, some $35 million comes either from the candidates themselves or in the case of one state legislator from a previously created leadership political action committee.

And whereas the balance has often been tipped in any number of past GOP statewide contested primaries in Tennessee's modern area, this race is filled with wealthy candidates self funding.

Republican Randy Boyd of Knoxville, founder of Radio Systems Corporation, is the biggest self spender, injecting $8.2 million into his effort in the latest April 1 through June 30 quarter. That brings Boyd's personal stake over the course of the campaign to just over $14.2 million of the total $19.1 million he's raised.

Boyd also raised nearly $663,000 from donors in the second quarter. He spent nearly $8.3 million during the period, including $4.82 million for a major television ad buy. At the end of the quarter, he reported a $3.32 million cash balance.

Another Republican candidate, U.S. Diane Black of Gallatin, put another $6.25 million in personal funds into her effort during the second quarter, bringing her total self spending in the GOP primary so far to $10.3 million of her total $12.93 million raised. 

Black also reported raising about $620,000 from donors during the latest quarter. She spent $6.32 million in the April 1 to June 30 quarter. That included a $4.66 million expenditure for television advertising. Her account had a $2.63 million ending balance on June 30.

Republican state House Speaker Beth Harwell of Nashville reported raising $213,821 from donors and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on broadcast and cable TV buys. Harwell previously made a $3.1 million loan to her campaign as well as about a $900,000 transfer early on from her leadership political action committee.

That's most of the $4 million total she's raised. The speaker reported a nearly $2.83 million cash balance at the end of the quarter.

Republican businessman Bill Lee of Franklin reported raising about $444,000 during the second quarter and spending $3.16 million. He reported a $3.6 million cash balance at the end of the reporting period. 

Lee previously made $5.3 million in self-endorsed loans to his campaign out of his total $8.3 million raised.

Over in the Democratic primary, former Nashville mayor Karl Dean put another $500,000 into his campaign, bringing his total personal stake in the primary contest so far to $740,000. 

Dean also raised nearly $815,000 beyond that from contributors during the second quarter, making him the reporting period's leader in terms of fund raising. His ending cash balance was $1.43 million as of June 30. He's raised some $4.8 million in the cycle so far.

Fellow Democrat and state House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh of Ripley raised the least amount of money during the second quarter, coming in at $75,409. 

The veteran lawmaker also made an additional $200,000 self-endorsed loan to his campaign in the second quarter, raising his total self loans to just over $710,000 in the election cycle to date. That's out of the total $1.1 million he's raised.

Fitzhugh spent $451,000 during the second period. He reported a cash balance of $467,264 at the ene of the second quarter.

Before dropping out of the Republican primary in January, former state Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet, reported spending $200,000 on her effort.


Updated at 5:08 p.m. on Wednesday, July 11, 2018 with more information.


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