Money does matter when it comes to political campaigns, but it guarantees nothing.
Though some candidates have gathered more than their opponents in Tennessee’s 6th and 7th House district races heading into the Aug. 7 Republican primary, the amounts cannot adequately forecast results. They do, however, speak to the candidates’ fundraising efforts, the nature of the contributions and the level of effort being poured into their campaigns.
Incumbent Rep.Matthew Hill and challengers Phil Carriger and Todd Franklin are vying for the District 7 nod. It is a swath of geopolitical landscape comprising the southeastern portion of Washington County. Conversely, incumbent Rep. Micah Van Huss is defending his District 6 turf against opponent Clayton Stout. This district basically is Washington County’s “other half” — the northwestern portion.
The Johnson City Press took a look at these candidates’ last three financial disclosures on file with the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance: a 2013 year-ending report, and reports for the first and second quarters of 2014. (Scroll down to see files.)
Carriger, a former Johnson City commissioner, has raised a total of $110,603 within this period; Hill has compiled $68,635, or $41,968 less than his chief rival. Franklin, an admitted long shot, has $609 in contributions over the three reporting periods, and $234 of that came from two loans.
Neither Hill nor Carriger had any outstanding loans. The same is true for Van Huss and Stout.
Of 68 contributions during this period, Hill received money from 54 political action committees. Of those 68 contributions, 63 came from outside District 7. “I’m shocked,” Carriger said Friday after looking at Hill’s reports. “People ought to call him Matthew ‘PAC man’ Hill. It’s obvious none of his money comes out of East Tennessee. If he had to rely on local money, he’d have to pay for his own gas and food. Good Lord, he’s gotten money from his own PAC. I didn’t know you could do that.”
Of 109 total contributions to Carriger, 108 were from individuals. Nineteen were from outside the district, and one PAC contributed to his campaign: Nashville-based Independent Medicine’s PACTN, which contributed $5,000.
“I did accept money from them through a local contact,” Carriger said. “I didn’t contact them; they contacted me and wanted to contribute.”
Hill countered, saying he was not interested in name-calling.
“Obviously, my opponent doesn’t know how PACs work,” he said. “When you see a contribution with the word PAC, you should put the word ‘local’ next to it. I’m very proud to have the support of my local nurses, doctors, firefighters, teachers, Realtors and doctors.
“I’m very thankful for all those donations. For the other side to say, ‘Oh, big money out of Nashville,’ that’s just wrong. I’ll concede the fact that when Mr. Carriger took the $5,000, it came from local doctors. It’s local people that contribute to the PAC.”
Though Carriger has outpaced Hill in contributions over the last three reporting periods, Hill has spent just over $81,000. Carriger spent about $69,000. Franklin spent $251.
“I am surprised so much money appears to be coming from outside the district,” Franklin said. “No matter what, there’s always going to be questions about how political candidates take money. It seems like there’s a better way to go about it rather than taking money from corporations. It’s unfortunate money drives so much of it. You can have great ideas, but if nobody knows about those ideas you become insignificant.”
Meanwhile, contributions in the District 6 race are fairly close, with Van Huss bringing in $30,125 and Stout reaping about $29,000.
Van Huss had 12 total contributions during the three reporting periods. Ten were PACs, five were from outside the district, with two individuals contributing.
Stout reported 51 total contributions, all of which came from individuals. He received no PAC money, and nine contributions came from outside District 6.
Stout said he had reviewed his opponents’ disclosures and was disappointed in the fact that Van Huss, a freshman House member, had leaned on PAC money so heavily.
“For someone that talks about how down to Earth he is — about how in touch he is with the common man — he has very few contributions from within Washington County,” Stout said. “The numbers don’t lie. For someone that talks about being anti-Nashville and antiestablishment ... they sure are carrying the water for him. We’ve been working very hard, and we’re committed to this race.”
Van Huss, who did not return telephone messages Friday, spent roughly $20,000 on his campaign during this period. Stout disbursed just over $13,000.
Early voting for the Aug. 7 state primary and county general elections continue through Aug. 2.
Campaign disclosure files:
• Matthew Hill
• Phil Carriger
• Todd Franklin (Did not file Year End 2013 or 1st Quarter 2014)
• Micah Van Huss
• Clayton Stout
Follow Gary B. Gray on Twitter @ ggrayjcpress. Like him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/garybgrayjcp.comments powered by Disqus