Here's which Hamilton County candidates raised the most and spent the most money

Here's which Hamilton County candidates raised the most and spent the most money

October 15th, 2018 by Judy Walton in Local Regional News

In the contests for Hamilton County's three open state House seats, Robin Smith in District 26 raised the most money but the two District 30 candidates were the biggest spenders.

Campaign finance reports filed last week show Smith, the Republican in a heavily Republican district, raised $58,481 in the third quarter but spent only $6,876, leaving a balance of $94,543.

That doesn't count $11,461 she paid in legal fees when the Tennessee Democratic Party filed a lawsuit in an attempt to keep her off the ballot when incumbent Rep. Gerald McCormick dropped out of the race after the qualifying deadline.

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Her Democratic opponent, Jean Marie Lawrence, reported raising $2,080 in the third quarter, including $1,250 from three individuals, $250 from the Code Blue PAC and $580 in unitemized contributions.

Smith, a political consultant with a health care background, had PAC contributions from health care, medical and dental groups, the National Federation of Independent Business and others, but the bulk of her givers were local individuals.

In a statement, Smith said she was "deeply honored by this strong showing of financial support from so many people and business leaders across Hamilton County and the state — all of which believe I'm the best person to serve District 26 in Nashville.

"My first mail piece is on its way to voters, and we will continue to canvass neighborhoods across the district this month to listen to voters and encourage them to get out and vote in this important election."

The District 30 candidates, Republican Esther Helton and Democrat Joda Thongnopnua, spent around $50,000 between them in the third quarter. They are competing for the seat left open when Marc Gravitt was elected Hamilton County register of deeds.

Helton started the quarter with less than $16,000 in the bank after winning a bruising and costly primary battle. Her contributions of $43,470 from 78 donors included nearly two dozen PAC gifts, including pharmaceuticals and health-related groups. A nurse and East Ridge City Council member, Helton also pulled in donations from many elected officials including McCormick, Sens. Todd Gardenhire and Bo Watson and Rep. Mike Carter, and from Exit 1 developers John Healy and Matt and Ethan Wood.

She reported spending $22,431 and ended the quarter with a balance just under $37,000.

Thongnopnua had $33,180 going in and raised $18,169 from 25 contributors including Democratic and union PACs such as the Iron Workers and Service Employees International and local Democratic givers. He spent $28,645 and reported a balance of $22,704.

Thongnopnua contrasted his mostly local contributions to Helton's strong fundraising from PACs in the quarter, but her campaign shrugged it off in a statement.

"Esther continues to receive a groundswell of support and enthusiasm from all corners of District 30 and across Hamilton County primarily from local residents and business leaders," campaign manager Ben Easterly said in a statement.

"By comparison, her opponent has downtown Chattanooga money that pushes a special agenda that runs directly to Chattanooga's City Hall and big labor unions, who have contributed more than $20,000 to his campaign."

The third open seat this year is in District 28, where Rep. JoAnne Favors is not seeking re-election.

Both candidates in the race are largely self-funded.

Businessman and Republican political newcomer Lemon Williams Jr. is hoping to buck the odds in the traditionally Democratic District and got some help from Sen. Bo Watson's BOW-PAC, Sen. Todd Gardenhire, Rep. Mike Carter and Hamilton County Commissioner Sabrena Smedley.

Williams reported $4,690 in contributions, expenditures of $4,953 and a balance was $238.42. His report shows he has loaned his campaign a total of $4,502.

His Democratic opponent, longtime Chattanooga City Council and state parole board member Yusuf Hakeem, started with $363 and reported $9,256 in contributions. Most of that came from PACs including Mayor Andy Berke's Three Star, Code Blue, the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers, the Home Builders Association of Chattanooga and Southern Company Gas.

Hakeem reported $12,203 in spending, with a balance of $2,715. He has loaned his campaign nearly $18,500.

In House District 27, incumbent Republican Patsy Hazlewood raised almost $33,000 and ended the third quarter with $183,587 in the bank.

Her Democratic opponent, Brent Morris, reported he has raised and spent no money at all during the entire election campaign.

In District 29, incumbent Republican Mike Carter reported raising $8,000 and a balance of $64,000. Democratic challenger Tammy Magouirk reported raising nothing and owing $45.

There's also a campaign in state Senate District 11, where incumbent Republican Bo Watson faces a challenge from Democrat Randy Price.

Watson raised nearly $31,000 and ended the quarter with almost $303,000. Price started with $1,210 and brought in $2,020. He spent $1,847, leaving a balance of $1,383.

Contact staff writer Judy Walton at or 423-757-6416.