2018 Governor’s Race: Show Me the Money
The race to replace Knoxville’s own Governor Bill Haslam started last year and even before that with one or two of the candidates. The ads have now begun in earnest and the only folks really happy about that are in the media, particularly in television, because of the mass amounts of money that will be expended on advertising by at least 6 candidates. Before August of this year, most of us are going to be sick of hearing about which Republican and Democrat can make Tennessee even greater in the future. I don’t think we will see any of them touting the slogan of “making Tennessee great again.” By any measure our state is in great shape, especially financially because our Constitution mandates a balanced budget. If only the Founding Fathers had thought of that for our country, right?
What is going to be interesting to watch will be the amount of money each of the six major candidates will pull out of their own pockets or pocketbooks to fund their campaigns. The latest disclosures showed the following: Republicans: Knoxville’s Randy Boyd -$7.4 million but of that he has personally written a check for $4 million; 6th District Congressman Diane Black- $2.75 million of which she put in $1 million; Speaker of the House Beth Harwell “raised” $5 million but of that, she loaned her campaign $3.1 million and transferred $987K from her state House committee; businessman Bill Lee had $3.5 million, $2 million of his own money. On the Democrat side, former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean reported $2.6 million with a paltry $200K coming from his pocket. Democrat House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh raised $800K with $500K being from him. That already totals about $23 million “raised” with a tidy $11 million coming from the candidates’ bank accounts or their campaign accounts!
What that likely means is Tennessee will see the most expensive gubernatorial campaign in our state’s history. Does it matter? Does it send the message that only the wealthy and affluent can run for governor? Certainly a candidate has to be able to raise enough money to compete, to buy name identification if he or she doesn’t already have it and to pay for overpriced, out of state consultants who consistently assure their candidates they can’t win without buying more last minute ads and mailers. And of course enough to pay the consultants a hefty fee. Gone are the days where a candidate could give “stump” speeches at the courthouses and hope to win. Even having grassroots organizations in all 95 counties no longer assure victory.
It really is about the money and the ability to raise it, transfer it or write a personal check for it. And we have already seen a lot of personal checks written by the candidates and it’s only February, $11 million in fact.