JONESBOROUGH, Tenn. — Incumbent Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy withstood a challenge from county commissioner Robbie Tester Tuesday in a Republican primary that saw about $100,000 spent between the two candidates through April 23.
A closer look at campaign finance reports show Grandy, who is seeking a second term, was clearly the favorite of the county’s business establishment.
Grandy, who will face Independent James Reeves in the August general election, outspent second-term commissioner Tester by a nearly two to one margin — $63,743 to $36,895. Those figures do not include expenses incurred after April 23.
On the receipt side of the ledger, Grandy reported a total of $53,900 in itemized donations from the first of the year through April 23, compared to $37,400 for Tester. Grandy loaned his campaign $10,000 and Tester loaned his $4,000.
Grandy received the limit of $1,600 from 19 different donors, many of them familiar names. Among them were former Congressman Phil Roe and his wife Clarinda Jeanes, each giving $1,600; developer and businessman Clarence Mabe and his wife Cookie each donating $1,600; developer Kelly Wolfe and his wife Jennifer each donating $1,600 through Wolfe Development; and former mayor Dan Eldridge and his wife Tammy each donating $1,600.
Ballad Health CEO Alan Levine and Ballad COO Eric Deaton also each contributed the maximum, as did developer Mitch Cox, Semone Burleson, wife of developer Tommy Burleson, Champion Chevrolet co-owner Andy Dietrich and Dr. Turney Williams and his wife Kerry Reichardt.
Several other prominent people gave the Grandy campaign at least $1,000, including developers Joe Wilson and Ron Gouge, former Ballad board member Barbara Allen and her husband Charles Allen, former Bank of Tennessee President Bill Greene and current president Will Barrett, and current First District Congresswoman Diana Harshbarger.
Tester’s larger donors consisted of a number of family and extended family members. He also received maximum $1,600 donations from James Pearson, his campaign treasurer, Debby Pearson, Timothy Jenkins of Watauga Orthopaedics and Karen Jenkins, and former Johnson City city attorney Jim Epps.
$1,500 donations for Tester came from fellow county commissioner Kent Harris and insurance agency owner Dwight Mitchell. Notable $1,000 donors included Dr. David Sibley, husband of Dr. Denise Sibley, a vocal opponent of COVID-19 restrictions, and Carolyn Broyles, the widow of Roadrunner Markets founder Warren Broyles.
On the spending side, the vast majority of Grandy’s disbursements went to Shell & Miller Advertising. His campaign paid almost $61,000 to the group, including more than $15,000 for direct mail and more than $14,000 for television advertising. The campaign spent in the neighborhood of $20,000 on a combination of voter data, political polling, campaign consulting and its campaign kickoff event and website — all with Shell & Miller.
Tester didn’t use a campaign agency. He spent about $7,000 on newspaper advertising, slightly less than $3,000 on radio ads and $1,000 for streaming ads. Tester sent out thousands of mailers and spent nearly $7,000 on the US Postal Service and about $6,000 more on things like printer cartridges, envelopes and other supplies for those mailers.
Tester’s other large expenditure was more than $7,000 for a combination of signs and posts for large signs.