When it comes to fundraising, Knoxville mayor Bill Haslam continues to dominate his competition in the Tennessee gubernatorial race. By about 25 minutes, Haslam became the first gubernatorial candidate to release his first quarter campaign fundraising totals today, just beating Chattanooga congressman Zach Wamp, one of his three opponents in the Aug. 5 Republican primary. The general election is Nov. 2.
But the more important numbers were not nearly so close.
Haslam reported receipts of $1.3 million in donations from Jan. 15 through March 31, pushing his total fundraising effort over the $7 million mark.
Wamp was not apologizing for raising more than $500,000 in the 10-week period, putting out a release boasting that "Wamp sails past $3 million fundraising mark." He has raised $3.2 million and reports that there remains nearly $2.2 million cash on hand.
As often happens, the candidate not in the fundraising lead often talks about not needing "the most" money, just needing "enough" money: "This election is about ideas, vision and passion and how to make Tennessee even better, not just about money. So we don't need the most money to win but just enough to carry our message to more voters all across Tennessee."
Wamp's campaign quickly changed the subject to his success in straw polls that have been conducted at various county-wide GOP gatherings. Wamp feels very confident he's winning among grass-roots conservatives, although the other Republican in the race, state senate spearer Ron Ramsey, has been going after that claim, painting Wamp as a career Washington politician with a poor record on fiscal discipline.
Haslam's campaign emphasized the depth and breadth of his fundraising success, with more than 9,000 contributions, and that has allowed Haslam to avoid dipping into his considerable personal wealth for a campaign loan. After spending nearly $1 million on a get-to-know-him advertising campaign during the Winter Olympics, the Haslam camp began airing its second TV ad last week, a 30-second spot on cable only that focuses on his family.
The release from Haslam, whose wife was raised in Memphis, used a quote from Memphian Brad Martin up high: "The broad-based financial support Bill Haslam has received is indicative of Tennesseans' enthusiasm for his unique combination of successful private-sector and public-sector executive experience." Haslam is also planning what the campaign calls a "three-straight-day" stop in the Memphis metropolitan area May 5-7 to focus on voters and issues here.
The other Republican in the race, state senate speaker Ron Ramsey, had not released his numbers as of 4:30 p.m. Monday, though he is constrained by rules limiting fundraising during legislative sessions. The only remaining Democratic candidate, Jackson businessman Mike McWherter, also had not released his numbers; McWherter is doing an old-fashioned campaign fly-around today. He's due in Memphis at 4:55 p.m. at the Tennessee Technology Center's administration building, 550 Alabama Avenue.