by: Steve Gill
The August, 2018 Republican primary is now less than one year away and the field of candidates for Governor seems to be firming up. For Republicans the choices will apparently be between Mae Beavers, Diane Black, Randy Boyd, Bill Lee, and Beth Harwell. With numerous “self funders” in the game, the primary season will almost certainly see spending in the GOP Governor’s race exceed $50 million.
As the late night commercials say: “But wait, there’s more!”
Tennessee is also likely to see a contested Republican Senate Primary battle as Bob Corker faces reelection at a time when voter anger at Washington D.C. is clearly on the rise. President Trump remains extremely popular among his Tennessee voter base, and potential candidates like Mark Green, Andy Ogles, and others continue to gauge their prospects. A contested Senate GOP primary could easily mean another $10-15 million is spending next spring and summer.
Black’s decision to run for Governor and vacate her Congressional seat has opened up Middle Tennessee’s 6th District. Likewise, the decision of Congressman Jimmy Duncan to retire after serving for three decades in the Knoxville-area 2nd District seat leaves a once in two generations opportunity available. Tim Burchett and Jimmy Matlock are already in the hunt. Congressman Phil Roe in the Upper East Tennessee 1st District is the focus of retirement speculation as well. Finally, there is speculation over whether or not George Flinn, who narrowly lost in a crowded field to first-term 8th District Congressman David Kustoff, will seek a one-on-one rematch. Count on another $8-10 million in total congressional primary spending in a still evolving battlefield.
There may be two dozen open seat contests in the State House and State Senate due to retirements, political appointments and vacancies created by incumbents seeking other offices. The open (or soon to be open) State Senate seats of Senators Beavers, Ketron, Norris and Overbey (and with perhaps more to come) are already attracting numerous candidates. That, in turn, creates additional State House openings as Representatives like Mark Pody, Mark White and Dawn White turn their eyes to the Senate. Assuming we have twenty five open legislative seats up for grabs, with a minimum of 50 or more candidates (not counting challenges to incumbents in the mix as well) we may see $5 million in primary spending in those campaigns.
What’s the total tab for 2018 primary spending likely to be? Perhaps $75-80 million, particularly when you factor in independent expenditure committees, special interest groups promoting particular issues, and the local city and county races that will have their general election finals on August 2, 2018 as well. Media companies are drooling at the prospects for a windfall in 2018 while voters are cringing at the unprecedented political assault on their eyes and ears that is looming.
For a moment, just picture what a residential mailbox may look like on July 12, 2018, the day before the first day for early voting in the August 2 primary election. A Republican primary voter will likely have a mail piece from each of the gubernatorial candidates and at least one more from each of their independent expenditure groups: 10 pieces. Another mail piece or two from Senate primary and Congressional primary candidates and their allies: 10 pieces. State house and senate candidates, and interest groups: 6 pieces. Local races such as City and County Mayor candidates, commissioners, Sheriff, etc.: 6 pieces.
That total comes to about 32 pieces of political mail shoved into a single mailbox on a single day as candidates clamor for attention and hope their printed materials make it past the trash can and actually into the house. In terms of volume of printed stuff we are essentially looking at Christmas catalog season…in July. And it won’t just be THAT one day; it will be almost EVERY day leading to August 2. So, get prepared and get a bigger mailbox. And maybe an extra trash can.
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Steve Gill is a conservative media and political strategist and CEO of Gill Media, Inc. He is a frequent contributor to The Tennessee Star.