Cooper: County incumbents well financed

Cooper: County incumbents well financed

July 16th, 2018 by Clint Cooper in Opinion Free Press

All three Hamilton County Commission incumbents in contested races in the Aug. 2 general election are in better shape than their challengers when it comes to balance on hand, according to second-quarter campaign financial disclosure statements filed with the Hamilton County Election Commission.

That is also true for two of the three Hamilton County Board of Education races in which an incumbent is involved in a contested race and where all campaign financial disclosure statements have been filed.

Numerous scholarly studies have shown the value of incumbency in federal, state and local races. According to a 2001 study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, for example, the advantage of incumbency in federal and state elections in 2000 was worth about 8 percentage points, four times the advantage it was in the 1940s and 1950s.

The incumbent with the most money in county commission races is Republican District 6 Commissioner Joe Graham, who has more than $23,000 for his race with Democrat David Sharpe. But Sharpe is by far the best financed opponent of an incumbent, having collected more than $15,000.

The county commission candidate with the most money, by more than $15,000, is Republican Chip Baker, who has more than $39,000 on hand in his race against Democrat Elizabeth Baker (no relation) for the open District 2 seat. Elizabeth Baker, in contrast, has $4,895 on hand.

Elsewhere, Republican District 3 incumbent Greg Martin, seeking his first full term on the commission, has more than $22,000 to spend, and Democratic District 4 incumbent Warren Mackey, running for his fourth full term, has nearly $12,000. Their opponents, Democrat Rosabelle Gorman and independent Chris Dahl, have nearly $337 and $0, respectively. Dahl has said he is not taking campaign contributions.

The top second-quarter contributor to a county commission race is Ironworkers Local 704, which gave Sharpe $5,000. Three other individuals, philanthropist Hugh Maclellan to the campaigns of Martin and Graham, Olan Mills II to the campaign of Mackey, and Michelle Peterson of Denver to the campaign of Sharpe, gave the maximum personal contribution of $1,500.

Office-holders, candidates and former candidates also contributed to the races, with U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Chattanooga, giving $500 to Chip Baker; Republican state Rep. Marc Gravitt $200, Republican Assessor of Property Marty Haynes $500, and Republican state Rep. candidate Robin Smith $250 to Martin; BoW-PAC (Republican state Sen. Bo Watson's political action committee) $1,000 to Graham; and former Democratic assessor of property candidate Mark Siedlecki $500 to Sharpe.

Sharpe also got the only other itemized union contribution in the race, $500 from the International Brotherhood of Electric Workers.

The UnifiEd Action PAC, which was formed to identify, recruit and work toward the election of pro-public school candidates, provided more than $5,000 in in-kind contributions to three candidates — all Democrats — in contested races. Gorman got $198.24, Mackey $813.43 and Sharpe $4,452.53.

In nonpartisan school board races, Jenny Hill, seeking the open seat in District 6, has by far the most money on hand — more than $13,000. Incumbent board chairman Steve Highlander in District 9 has nearly $7,000, District 5 challenger Ann Pierre more than $5,000 (from a $10,000 loan she made to her campaign) and District 3 incumbent Joe Smith more than $3,250.

During the second quarter, Smith received the most contributions — $11,550. Hill was second with $8,550 and Highlander third with $3,485.30.

The only individuals who maxed out their $1,500 giving in the races were William Conroy Jr., CEO of JAT Oil (to Smith) and Maclellan (to Smith). Smith also received $1,500 from MAC-PAC.

Office-holders and former office-holders also made their presence known in the races, with Sheriff Jim Hammond's campaign giving $150, Watson's PAC $750 and Chattanooga City Judge Russell Bean $100 to Smith; former Public Defender Ardena Garth $233.51 and Bean $100 to District 5 incumbent Karitsa Mosley Jones; Bean $100, former Assessor of Property candidate Sterling Jetton $100, Hamilton County Circuit Court Judge Kyle Hedrick $100, District 9 County Commissioner Chester Bankston $100, Hamilton County Juvenile Court Judge Rob Filyaw $100, Hamilton County Circuit Court Clerk Larry Henry $200, Watson $1,000 and Hamilton County Clerk Bill Knowles $100 to Highlander.

Among Highlander's expenditures, meanwhile, were $100 to Hedrick's campaign, $125 to the campaign of unopposed Hamilton County Juvenile Court Clerk Gary Behler and $100 to the campaign of Republican State Executive Committee member Bobby Wood. Highlander also loaned his campaign $3,500.

Incumbent District 8 school board representative David Testerman, as of Monday afternoon, had not filed a second-quarter financial disclosure statement.

In sum, eight candidates for contested county commission races took in a total of nearly $37,000 in the second quarter of 2018 for a job that pays $22,786 per year, while nine candidates for school board seats garnered a total of nearly $32,000 for a job that pays a little more than $11,000. We hope contributors will feel the candidates they're supporting — in good policy and governance — are well worth their expenditures.

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