Some candidates for local offices say they aren't raising money for the effort, while the amounts other candidates are raising and spending raise the eyebrows of their opponents.

Democrat Kenny Smith, a candidate for the Hamilton County Commission District 8 seat, has raised nearly $65,000 since August 2009. Some of the money has come from unions.

His Republican opponent, Tim Boyd, has repeatedly hammered those connections, saying the money means Smith will be controlled by those interests.

Smith has said he's "working very hard to earn every vote I get" and said he feels "humbled" by the contributions. Having the money helps him reach people he may not have met in person, he said.

Raising lots of cash is an issue in other races as well. Two GOP rivals for the 3rd Congressional District nomination, Robin Smith and Chuck Fleischmann, have battled over the amount of personal money Fleisch-mann has put into his campaign - about $600,000, according to his most recent figures. Fleischmann said he's ensuring he won't be controlled by special interests.

"It takes a lot of money to run a credible, viable campaign for public office," Fleischmann said. "That's just the reality."

On the opposite side of the equation is Terry Turner, an independent running for the District 8 Hamilton County Commission seat, who said his personal beliefs keep his hands from reaching out for donations.

"I don't see the need to bother people to ask them for money," he said. "It's more about making contact with people knowing the community and knowing the people in it."

Richard Ford, who is running as an independent against County Mayor Claude Ramsey, a Republican, said he's not collecting money because he doesn't want to "owe anybody any favors." He said he's spent less than $500 out of pocket on his campaign.

"I might not have as fancy a signs and all the advertising, but I've earned every bit of it," he said.

In the 3rd Congressional District race, some candidates report spending less than $5,000 so they don't meet federal filing guidelines.

Grover Travillian, a Republican vying for the 3rd Congressional District, said he's had second thoughts about his decision not to raise more than $5,000. He said he was reluctant to take money from certain groups and political action committees because he thought it would look bad. He still believes candidates who raise money owe favors.

"For a congressional run, you need a minimum of $100,000 to get your name out there," Travillian said. "I could have raised more. I didn't try."

Dr. Richard Wilson, a professor of political science at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, said there is a long history in the United States of candidates with considerable personal wealth running in - and winning - elections. As far as not raising anything, Wilson said it's probably not as principled as some candidates make it sound.

"It sounds a bit more like an excuse for why one hasn't done well in fundraising," he said.

Dr. Bruce Oppenheimer, a Vanderbilt University political science professor, said not raising anything might work in a race with a very small number of voters. But raising nothing for a larger race requires a gimmick that attracts a lot of free media coverage, he said.

Oppenheimer said raising and spending lots of money on a campaign could have "diminishing returns" for a candidate. Candidates who raise large sums of money could face an election issue, but only if the candidate raising it has enough money to get that negative message across.

Spending large sums of money also has its own pitfalls, he said. There are candidates running in Tennessee's 8th Congressional District buying advertising on national television, he noted.

"They must be hitting 20 people outside the district for every one they're hitting in," he said. "There's this other question of how much money you raise and how do you use it?"