In a recent letter to his supporters, mayoral candidate Bill Purcell all but encouraged them to hold back on making contributions to his campaign while he organizes his political network and attracts volunteers for the race.
That may explain why Purcell’s campaign fund-raising disclosure, filed this week with the Davidson County Election Commission, looked somewhat anemic, at least in comparison to the one filed by another competitor, former three-term Mayor Dick Fulton. The mayor’s race doesn’t begin in earnest until 1999, and Purcell has friends who are running races in this year’s countywide elections. It’s possible he wants to avoid being a drain on their more immediate campaign efforts.
”Basically, the strategy Bill wanted to adopt from the beginning, given the time we have in this race, was just to begin meeting with people, listening to people, and building up grassroots support,“ says Patrick Willard, a longtime Purcell friend and aide.
As might be expected, Fulton still commands an impressive army of supporters, and he hasn’t lost his ability to get people to write checks. His disclosure form showed that many of his supporters contributed $1,000 to his campaign, the maximum an individual can give under the law. Fulton’s fund-raising efforts have garnered him $226,850 in total contributions, all since November. Minus his expenses thus far, Fulton still has $200,964 in cash on hand.
Sources of Fulton’s $1,000 contributions include, among many others, prominent contractor Ray Bell, wealthy businessman Tom Cone, longtime Fulton friend and eccentric attorney George Barrett, and Gaylord Entertainment’s political action committee.
Purcell’s financial picture doesn’t look nearly as healthy as Fulton’s, and Purcell has been at his campaign a little bit longer. The former state legislator from East Nashville has raised a total of $34,346. After expenses, he’s left with $24,836 in cash on hand. Purcell also received $1,000 from Gaylord Entertainment’s PAC. His individual contributors include former Tennessee Democratic Party chairman Will Cheek and former Metro Council member Jeff Ockerman.
”We know that we can raise the necessary money at the right time,“ said a recent Purcell memo to friends. ”Our focus now, however, is on personal contact, and we have only raised what we need to operate.“ The memo goes on to say that ”raising substantial funds now seems inappropriate and inconsistent with our goal to build our campaign today, and our efforts for Nashville in the future, on a base of committed volunteers throughout the community.“
Vice Mayor Jay West had about $60,000 on hand the last time he was required to file a disclosure. He says he’s raised about $30,000 in recent months, giving him $90,000 to work with. For the moment, West says, he intends to run for vice mayor, ”unless Mayor Bredesen decides not to run again.“ In that case, West says, he’ll run for the city’s top office.
Meanwhile, Metro Council member-at-large Ronnie Steine is said to be raising money quietly, both to pay off some lingering campaign debt and to establish himself as a candidate either for vice mayor or mayor in next year’s races.
Next guy up
Since Gov. Don Sundquist took office, personal income in Tennessee is up 10 percent, the state’s welfare rolls have been cut by 37 percentmore than two-and-a-half times the national averageand the state’s reserves are about as rich as they’ve ever been.
All in all, it’s a pretty rosy picture. That’s probably why the only person actively talking about challenging Sundquist this November is a feisty, young state legislator with nothing to lose.
Sundquist gave Tennessee’s annual ”State of the State“ speech this week, characterizing state government as ”focused“ and ”solid and strong.“ He offered the General Assembly a $15 billion budget, calling for $330 million in spending for improvements in a number of areas, including education and TennCare.
Sundquist’s budget also adds $25.6 million to the state’s reserve fund, leaving Tennessee with $127 million to draw from in times of emergency.
Even with an outdated tax structure that relies too heavily on sales taxes, Tennessee seems to be in sound fiscal condition. And that’s why, although a long string of Democrats has considered challenging Sundquist, none of them has stuck with the race.
The latest to get in line is John Mark Windle, a 35-year-old country lawyer from Livingston. No doubt, he would make for a fun race.
With a vivacious personality and a decidedly youngish face, Windle could pass for a highschool senior on his way to the prom. His comments are often predictable, but casting one of the youngest members of the state Legislature against someone nearly three decades his senior might be a worthwhile social experiment.
The Democratic Party seems determined to discredit the widely held opinion that Tennessee is enjoying an economic joy ride. Although that may be a tough argument to prove, there is no shortage of explosive legislative issues on which Sundquist’s opposition might challenge him.
For example, privatizing the state’s prison system will be the biggie in the months to come. And when it comes to education, Sundquist wants to energize the state’s public schools by engendering a little competition. He favors ”charter“ schools, institutions still funded with public money but given the flexibility to shape their own curricula.
Ludye goes to court
As WTVF-Channel 5 reporter Larry Brinton recently pointed out, former five-term Metro Council member Ludye Wallace isto quote the colorful character’s past campaign sloganback ”on duty.“
Wallace, who urged his constituents at election time to ”keep Ludye on duty,“ will go down in Metro history as one of Council’s most colorful characters. He represented parts of downtown before redistricting pitted him against fellow Council member Julius Sloss in 1995.
Wallace, who always had something to say on the Council floor, lost the race to Sloss, and he appears to have dropped out of the public eye. Until now. It turns out that General Sessions Judge Phil Sadler has just hired Wallace as a court officer, with a salary of $36,000 a year.
The job may not last long. A recent poll of the Nashville Bar Association’s membership indicates that Sadler is one of the least popular judges in the county. With opposition this summer, Sadler may find himself retired. That wouldn’t be good news for Wallace, who might very well find himself off duty again.
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