Nick Wilkinson raises $42,600 in his fight to take Todd Gardenhire's state senate seat

Nick Wilkinson raises $42,600 in his fight to take Todd Gardenhire's state senate seat

July 12th, 2016 in Local Regional News

Nick Wilkinson

Photo by John Rawlston /Times Free Press.

NASHVILLE — With a little help from his boss, Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke, several local tech entrepreneurs and others, Democrat Nick Wilkinson raised $42,600 during the second quarter for his state Senate District 10 bid.

That exceeds the $36,250 raised by incumbent Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, as well as one of the Democrat's two rivals in the Aug. 4 primary — Khristy Wilkinson, who is not related to Nick Wilkinson.

Nick Wilkinson, the deputy administrator of Chattanooga's Department of economic development, reported spending just $2,948 during the April 1 to June 30 period. He had $47,474 in cash on hand.

But Gardenhire has a little more than double that amount with $105,567.

In a news release, Nick Wilkinson said 10th District voters "are making it clear they want to get rid of politics as usual.

"Our fundraising success reinforces something we have been hearing since the first day we entered this race — the people want a change," he added.

According to his filing with the state's Registry of Election Finance, Wilkinson's donors include Berke, who held the seat until 2012. Berke contributed $1,000 to Wilkinson and is hosting a fundraiser for the candidate on July 21. Michael Baskin, the city's chief policy officer, gave $50.

City manager Stacy Richardson gave $250.

Former Chattanooga Mayor Jon Kinsey, a co-host at Wilkinson's upcoming fundraiser, gave $1,000, and former U.S. Attorney William Killian contributed a like amount.

Long-time Democrats and former Olan Mills Portrait owners Olan and Norma Mills each gave $1,500, as did James Mills. Robert Mills contributed $1,500 to both Wilkinson's primary effort and the general election.

Former Hamilton County judge William "Chink" Brown gave Wilkinson $150. In 2013, Gardenhire successfully torpedoed Brown's Senate confirmation vote for another term on the Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission in 2013.

Tech entrepreneur Allan Davis, managing director at the Lamp Post Group, a business incubator, gave $3,000 with $1,500 going for the primary and the remainder for the November general election.

Also contributing to Wilkinson was a businessman more associated with Republican causes than Democratic ones. Paul K. Brock Jr. gave Wilkinson $200.

Gardenhire began the second quarter with $72,917 in cash on hand. He reported raising the $36,250 with contributions including $7,500 from Republican Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey's RAAMPAC.

Other Gardenhire contributors included CPA Robert DeCosimo with DeCosimo & Co., who gave $800; attorney Emma Flynn, an attorney with the mayor's family's Berke, Berke & Berke law firm who contributed $500, and attorney Russell King, who gave $1,000.

House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, gave $2,500. Brandon Cothern, Chattanooga agency manager for Farm Bureau Insurance gave $250 while Steven Petty of Cleveland, also with the Farm Bureau, contributed $250 as well. A trial lawyers' PAC gave $2,500.

The 10th District, which includes much of the city of Chattanooga and a large swathe of nearby rural Bradley County, is one of two, possibly three, GOP-held seats that beleaguered Tennessee Democrats hope to pick off in a Senate chamber dominated by 28 Republicans with just five Democrats.

But state Republicans say Gardenhire, who has no GOP primary opponent, is in good position to fend off a challenge in the district with the addition of rural portions of heavily Republican Bradley County to the district during the legislature's 2012 redrawing of Senate district lines statewide.

Besides Nick Wilkinson and Khristy Wilkinson, businessman Ty O'Grady is also running in the Democratic primary election. O'Grady had not filed a report. Disclosures were due by midnight Monday. The two Wilkinsons are not related.

Early voting in Tennessee local, state and federal primaries begins Friday.

Also reporting was state Sen. Janice Bowling, R-Tullahoma, in Senate District 16. Bowling began the second quarter with $110,411 in cash on hand. She reported raising $45,500 in the second quarter, including $50,000 from Ramsey's PAC.

After $20,529 in spending, Bowling had $135,281 in cash on hand. Her opponent in the GOP primary, Michael Shane Wilcher of McMinnville, reported raising $459.

Democrat Alice Demetreon of Whitwell reported raising $746, spending $509 and ending the quarter with $284. Another Democrat, Mike Winton of Manchester, meanwhile, had not filed a report by Tuesday.

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