Voting in the 2018 Republican and Democrat primary elections begins today after candidates for statewide and local office have spent record amounts.
So far, the four major candidates for the Republican gubernatorial nomination–Rep. Diane Black (R-TN-06), Knoxville businessman Randy Boyd, Tennessee Speaker of the House Beth Harwell, and Williamson County businessman Bill Lee–have spent more than $37 million in a campaign that began one year and four months ago when Boyd became the first to announce his candidacy.
In the two weeks and six days between now and election day on August 2, the four Republican gubernatorial candidates are expected to spend another $10 to $15 million.
The early voting period begins today, July 13, and continues for 15 days until Saturday, July 28.
“Before a single ballot is cast in early voting, which begins Friday, the contest to succeed a term-limited Gov. Bill Haslam is already the most expensive gubernatorial contest in state history,” as the Chattanooga Times Free Press reported:
Contributions received in the gubernatorial by the four major Republican and two Democratic candidates is a shade over $51 million, according to second quarter campaign disclosures filed Tuesday with the state’s Registry of Election Finance.
Of that amount, some $35 million comes either from the candidates themselves or in the case of one state legislator from a previously created leadership political action committee. . .
Republican Randy Boyd of Knoxville, founder of Radio Systems Corporation, is the biggest self spender, injecting $8.2 million into his effort in the latest April 1 through June 30 quarter. That brings Boyd’s personal stake over the course of the campaign to just over $14.2 million of the total $19.1 million he’s raised. . .
Another Republican candidate, U.S. Diane Black of Gallatin, put another $6.25 million in personal funds into her effort during the second quarter, bringing her total self spending in the GOP primary so far to $10.3 million of her total $12.93 million raised. . .
Republican businessman Bill Lee of Franklin reported raising about $444,000 during the second quarter and spending $3.16 million. He reported a $3.6 million cash balance at the end of the reporting period.
Lee previously made $5.3 million in self-endorsed loans to his campaign out of his total $8.3 million raised
“There are still a lot of undecided voters in the key races across the state and they are unlikely to make a decision and cast their votes in the first week of early voting,” Tennessee Star Political Editor Steve Gill says.
“But the next several weeks are a time when we should see some separation develop in the tight races, particularly as the pressure mounts and candidates may make mistakes or miscalculations. Races won’t be won in the next week, but they can be lost,” Gill notes.
In addition to the hotly contested Republican gubernatorial primary, three highly competitive U.S. House of Representatives Republican primary races are on the ballot:
In the Sixth Congressional District, businessman John Rose, former Judge Bob Corlew, and State Rep. Judd Matheny (R-Tullahoma) are facing off in the Republican primary to( replace Rep. Black.
In the Second Congressional District, Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett, State Rep. Jimmy Matlock (R-Lenoir City), and businessman Jason Emert square off.
In the Eighth Congressional District, incumbent Rep. David Kustoff (R-TN-08) faces the well known and well funded Dr. George Flinn.
A number of competitive primaries are on the ballot in State House of Representatives races as well.