Chattanooga mayoral candidates Kim White and Wade Hinton out-fundraised fellow frontrunner Tim Kelly, although he was able to outspend the other campaigns through self-financing.
Kelly, White and Hinton are leading the 14-candidate race, according to recent public opinion polling. According to financial disclosures filed with the Hamilton County Election Commission this week, they also easily out-raised all the other candidates for the period from July 1, 2020, through Jan. 15 of this year.
White, former president of the River City Co., led the pack with more than $500,000 raised from nearly 700 individual donors.
"I'm in awe of the generosity, support and encouragement I've received from every ZIP code and every walk of life in our city," she said of the $502,000 raised from 690 people, in an emailed statement. "Each dollar gifted to this campaign is deeply appreciated and a testament to the power of working together to create a better Chattanooga for every citizen. This is a significant milestone as we set our sights on the remainder of our campaign and, ultimately, a brighter future for all of Chattanooga."
White reported donations ranging from $6 to $1,600.
Hinton, former city attorney, came in with the second-highest individual contributions, despite a relatively young campaign.
"Wade has raised $153,000 from almost 500 donors in the course of three months. While some candidates for mayor of Chattanooga may be essentially self-financing, Wade is funded by everyday Chattanoogans who want a progressive and experienced mayor to lead this city through the COVID-19 crisis and recovery. They're looking for a leader with a vision who is pro-growth, for good-paying jobs and accessible housing," spokesperson Spencer Bowers said. "Growing up on the Westside and working his way through school, Wade understands how tough it is to make ends meet and is so honored to have each and every contribution he has received. While he may not have the biggest war chest, Wade has raised enough to be competitive and is proud to have raised the most money of any Black mayoral candidate in the history of Chattanooga elections. Now, Wade is focused on making more history, when voters cast their vote beginning Feb. 10."
Kelly, a local businessman and the polling frontrunner, spent the most of any candidate, reporting $589,000 in expenditures. Kelly's campaign has been almost entirely self-funded, including $1.1 million of his own money. He also raised just under $100,000 in the latest reporting period. Kelly raised another $43,000 in the previous reporting period, ending June 30, 2020, before Hinton and White entered the race.
Kelly's campaign says the donation total is a reflection of camoaign strategy during the pandemic.
"Tim wanted to spend the majority of the campaign's time and energy listening to and talking to voters, not fundraising for dollars from interest groups," campaign manager Rachel Hanson wrote Wednesday. "Several years ago, Deborah Scott, a candidate for Chattanooga City Council, self-financed her campaign in order to avoid any potential influence from outside interests. This was a successful campaign and allowed her to focus on the needs of her district over those of outside special interest groups who might try to sway her votes. Tim is taking this same action as he knows the only special interest he will have is for the people and the future of Chattanooga."
She emphasized the importance of independence to Kelly's campaign, claiming influence from "special interest groups" in other campaigns.
"With so many Chattanoogans struggling during the current pandemic, it didn't seem appropriate for Tim to put a 'hard sell' on the community for campaign funds," Hanson wrote. "Despite that, seventy percent of our contributions come from Chattanooga donors, the most of any candidate in the race, most of which was directly donated, not solicited. And we did so without the help of either major party's political machine behind us. Tim's commitment will always be to what's best for Chattanoogans, not special interest groups."
Contact Sarah Grace Taylor at email@example.com or 423-757-6416. Follow her on Twitter @_sarahgtaylor.