On setting a state record for campaign spending and candidate self-financing

Nine months before the April qualifying deadline for gubernatorial candidates, those officially seeking the office have already collected $8.4 for their campaigns — $3.4 million through self-funding.

“If we have tight primary races and a tight competitive general election this one could hit $35 or $40 million,” said Kent Syler, a political science professor at Middle Tennessee State University, tells The Tennessean in a report noting the 2018 gubernatorial campaign is shaping up to set a state spending record.

A new state campaign spending record is possible, even probable. But the current state spending records are arguably somewhat higher than the figures cited elsewhere that include only spending by general election candidates, not losers in the primary. It’s a virtual certainty, on the other hand, that the developing gubernatorial races will set a record for self-financing.

 

The most expensive Tennessee political campaign so far was the U.S. Senate race in 2006, won by Republican Bob Corker over Democrat Harold Ford Jr. in the November general election. Corker and Ford combined spent about $34 million with Corker using $4.1 million of personal funds.  Corker’s two primary opponents, Ed Bryant and Van Hilleary, spent about $2.2 million each, so the campaign total was more than $38 million. (Corker’s total was $18.6M; Ford $15.3M.)

The most expensive Tennessee gubernatorial campaign was in 2010, when Bill Haslam defeated two serious Republican primary opponents, followed by a much easier win over Democrat Mike McWherter in November. Haslam spent $16.7 million with $3.5 million in self-financing and McWherter $3.4 million and the overall campaign cost is often pegged at $20 million. But if you add the two GOP primary candidates Haslam defeated, the total was about $27 million. Ron Ramsey spent $3.1 million and Zach Wamp $4 million.

As for the Tennessee record of self-spending by one individual, it’s Corker’s $4.1 million. That’s roughly the same amount of self-spending for all candidates combined in the 2010 gubernatorial campaign — Haslam’s $3.5 million combined with Ramsey’s $200,000 loan to his campaign and Wamp’s $400,000 loan. (Ramsey and Wamp were able to repay their loans; Haslam’s loan has not been repaid.)

Ergo, Boyd is halfway to a record for self-financing with the filing of his first disclosure and Lee is not far behind. Corker and Haslam both waited until much later in their campaigns to put in significant personal money. And if multimillionaire U.S. Rep. Diane Black gets into the gubernatorial campaign race, she can be expected to quickly put in a substantial amount of personal funding in playing catchup against primary opponents who are already traversing the state and planning big advertising efforts.

Note: The Memphis Flyer today has some further musing from an old guy on the gubernatorial campaign HERE, including the suggestion that Boyd is the frontrunner at this embryonic stage of the proceedings. See also previous post listing basic figures from initial filings of candidate campaign finance reports HERE.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *