WJHL – State Senator Rusty Crowe (R-Johnson City) pulled in more than $180,000 in individual contributions during the first quarter in his bid to succeed outgoing First District Congressman Phil Roe (R-Johnson City).
Political newcomer Diana Harshbarger, meanwhile, tallied the most receipts due largely to a $250,000 personal loan she made to her campaign. Harshbarger had spent $231,000 by March 31.
The figures are among data in Federal Election Commission reports filed Wednesday by the four GOP primary candidates (out of 15) who raised and spent funds in the quarter. The reports provide some interesting glimpses into where money is coming from and where it’s going for the four, who also include former Johnson City Mayor Steve Darden and former Kingsport Mayor John Clark.
A number of the other candidates are on admittedly shoestring budgets, while state representatives Timothy Hill (R-Blountville) and David Hawk (R-Greeneville) entered the race and the fundraising game just after the first reporting period’s March 31 end.
Lending and spending – the self funders
A Kingsport pharmacist who owns a compounding pharmacy, Harshbarger officially jumped into the race in March. She calls herself an outsider and a Trump conservative.
Harshbarger garnered far less individual contributions than the others, at just under $39,000. Of that total, $11,200 came from people at her business, and a significant amount came from other pharmacy-related supporters from outside the state.
Harshbarger’s self-funding left her $289,964 to work with — and work with it she did.
Harshbarger’s deployed a heavy digital advertising approach as she has spent $231,519 through March 31 — nearly four times the total spent by Clark, the second-highest spender.
Much of Harshbarger’s money has gone to Kansas City, Mo., including about $26,000 to Axiom Strategies for consulting and other services, and $188,871 to Ax Media LLC (same address) for a media buy.
The other Kingsport-based candidate, Clark’s $180,219 in receipts were fairly balanced between $79,724 in self-funding and $97,295 in individual contributions. He received $5,000 from the American College of Radiologists’ group.
Slightly over $20,000 of Clark’s individual contributions came from out of state. He spent his money largely in-state, though, with over $40,000 of his $60,794 in quarterly expenditures going to Kingsport-based Cumberland Marketing. Clark spent $8,500 combined on political and fundraising consulting.
Light spending, heavy fundraising
Darden, an attorney with Hunter, Smith & Davis, raised more than $100,000 from individuals. He loaned his campaign $25,000 and had a $1,000 PAC contribution.
Most of Darden’s contributions were from in-state, with about $14,000 of his $105,083 coming from out of state. Darden, whose brother Bill is Roe’s district director, had spent just $1,227 by March 31.
Among Darden’s notable donors are Bank of Tennessee owner Bill Greene, Mullican Flooring CEO Neil Poland and Jim Powell, owner of Powell Construction.
Crowe, a seven-term state senator, outpaced second-place Darden by $75,000 in individual contributions. Nearly all of Crowe’s $181,650 in individual donations came from Tennesseans, with former Mountain Empire Oil Co. (Roadrunner) co-owner Ryan Broyles of Hilton Head, S.C.’s $5,000 donation pretty much the only out of state money.
Crowe spent just $8,247 in the quarter. Of that total, $5,000 was a retainer paid in mid-March to Rachel Barrett & Company, a political consulting firm out of Nashville. Most of the rest was for credit card processing fees.
In addition to Broyles, some notable donors to Crowe’s campaign included Crown Laboratories CEO Jeff Bedard, Rab Summers, retired president of Summers-Taylor, and former Johnson City commissioners Pete Paduch and Phil Carriger and current commissioner Dr. Todd Fowler.
Other contributors included developers Mitch Cox and Terry Orth, Borla Performance Industries owner Alex Borla and Allen Hurley, a Bristol entrepreneur.
Crowe also received the most PAC money, $20,500. That included $2,500 from the National Health Corporation PAC, $1,000 from Concerned Constitutional Conservatives and numerous $1,000 donations from PACs representing fellow state lawmakers.
With Hill and Hawk about to jump into the fundraising and spending fray, the majority of the four kept a tight grip on most or nearly all of their cash.
Crowe entered the quarter with nearly $195,000. Darden and Clark stood midway between Crowe and Harshbarger, with Darden just shy of $130,000 and Clark at $120,535.
Darden’s biggest spend had been $600 for a laptop and printer. Harshbarger, conversely, spent about 80 percent of her first quarter receipts, leaving her the laggard of the bunch with $58,445 on hand as of March 31.