NASHVILLE — While U.S. Sen. Bob Corker is the fundraising champion of Tennessee politics this summer, his fellow incumbent Republicans at the state Legislature level aren’t doing too bad in financial readiness for challenges in the Aug. 2 primary elections, a review of reports shows.
Corker’s campaign reports collecting about $840,000 in the past three months, ending June 30, while spending $1.46 million. The senator still had $7.4 million in the bank. New disclosures from the four Republicans opposing him in the primary were not available Saturday, but based on earlier reports Corker will likely maintain his funding advantage of $20 to $1 or so.
The 24 incumbent Republican state legislators facing primary challenges, meanwhile, began the final month of campaigning with about $1.7 million in cash on hand, according to a Tennessean tally. Their challengers, collectively, had about half that.
Reports filed with the state Registry of Election Finance show a substantial disparity between most East Tennessee incumbents and their challengers. In large part, that is because most political action committees, which collectively donated more than $1.4 million to legislative candidates in the past three months, tend to favor incumbents.
The leading PAC in donations to legislative candidates during the last quarter is operated by Students First, an organization set up to promote education reform by former Washington, D.C., school superintendent Michelle Rhee. The PAC gave $105,000 to legislative candidates, including 18 incumbent Republicans and one incumbent Democrat, in amounts of up to $10,000. The group, which is pushing legislation to authorize school vouchers in Tennessee next year, did not donate to any challengers but did pitch in on some open seats.
House Speaker Beth Harwell and House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, who collect substantial PAC money in their own campaign accounts and in “leadership PACs” they operate, helped incumbents stay ahead by donating about $40,000 each to GOP candidates last quarter.
Most are incumbents, but Harwell and McCormick have also broken tradition by taking sides in six contested Republican primaries for open seats as well. They gave $1,400 each, for example, to Gary Loe, who is opposed by Vanderbilt Brabson in Knox
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