(WJHL) – “I’ve got a good shot at being your next congressman.”
That’s the message from both State Senator Rusty Crowe (R-Johnson City) and State Representative Timothy Hill (R-Blountville), the two candidates closest to leader Diana Harshbarger in a recent poll of likely voters in the Tennessee First Congressional District Republican primary.
Harshbarger, who handily led a crowded field in the scientific poll of 800 likely voters conducted June 21-24, declined multiple requests to discuss the results with News Channel 11. Harshbarger garnered 22.4 percent in that poll to Crowe’s 14.0 percent and Hill’s 11.3 percent.
Four other candidates (State Rep. David Hawk, former Kingsport and Johnson City mayors John Clark and Steve Darden, and Knoxville doctor Josh Gapp) were bunched between 6.1 and 5.0 percent. Slightly more than a fifth (21.4 percent) of respondents were undecided.
Though he’s seen little movement in his support and name recognition since a January poll Spry conducted, Crowe said he’s just getting cranking on campaigning after a spring spent concentrating on his state legislative job. Tennessee’s General Assembly didn’t pass a budget until June 19.
“It’s great news to me that your poll shows me in that top category because I’ve really been serving the people here and not focusing on the congressional campaign that I need to be running,” Crowe said.
Crowe is also the only candidate among the top three who hasn’t released any TV ads. That process was likely delayed due in part to a split with his communications team a few weeks ago, but Crowe said he’ll start appearing over the airwaves next week.
Hill also spoke positively of his showing, saying it was “an honor to be mentioned in the top tier of candidates.”
Hill said his lead in the poll among voters who rank “right to life” as their most important issue is a sign his policy positions will stand him in good stead when voters head to the polls.
“We know that as they start to look at the race and as they look for the proven conservative pro life, pro Second Amendment and pro President Trump (candidate) they’re going to come into the fold and we’re looking forward to their support,” Hill said.
The money question
Federal Election Commission reports from the quarter ended March 31 show Harshbarger made a $188,000 ad buy during the quarter. Her total first-quarter receipts of $289,964 included a $250,000 loan she made to her own campaign.
Crowe said that kind of ability to self-fund — also shared to at least some extent by former Kingsport mayor John Clark and Knoxville pathologist Josh Gapp — does tilt the playing field to some extent.
“I think she pledged to put a couple million dollars into TV,” Crowe said of Harshbarger. “And you know I don’t have a million dollars. I’ve given a million dollars of service to the people I serve and that’s what I’m proud of.”
Crowe, who has served in the state senate since 1990, had $203,150 in first quarter receipts. The vast majority came from individuals, and the rest was from $25,000 in PAC donations. He said he raised another $150,000 or so in the quarter that ended June 30.
Hill ran his first TV ad June 2, well after Harshbarger and a couple of weeks after Clark, who was seventh in the poll at 5.0 percent. He entered the race near the deadline, reported no first quarter fundraising and wouldn’t divulge how much he’d raised in the second quarter.
“Money isn’t everything, but you have to have enough money to get your message out,” said Hill, adding that he has enough to do what he needs to do. “And so we’ve been very blessed and fortunate to have a tremendous level of support and I say thanks to all who’ve been part of it.”
Financial reports from the April 1-June 30 quarter must be submitted to the Federal Election Commission by July 15.
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