Filling the Campaign Coffers
The three leading candidates for Knoxville mayor are mining familiar and sometimes overlapping territory for campaign funds.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the donor bases for the leading candidates for Knoxville mayor reflect the candidates themselves.
Businessman Eddie Mannis is drawing on the Knoxville business community. City Councilman Marshall Stair, an attorney, is getting donations from a large swath of the legal world. Former school board chair Indya Kincannon is tapping into the education and professional realms, plus an extensive nationwide network of friends and family.
The candidates' personal and professional backgrounds provided comfort zones for fundraising. The three other candidates in the race -- Fletcher Burkhardt, Calvin Taylor Skinner and Michael Andrews -- have reported raising negligible amounts.
Mannis raised the most money during the second quarter of the year, though he still lags behind Stair in overall contributions. Heading into the last two months of the primary campaign, Stair had $249,414 on hand, Mannis had $161,959 and Kincannon’s account stood at $90,364.
Each of the candidates raised money from Knoxvillians from all walks of life, though their personal and professional backgrounds provided comfort zones for fundraising.
Mannis raised $114,606 during the three months ending on June 30. “I feel good about it,” Mannis said of his fundraising efforts. “We’re getting contributions from all over.”
Many prominent area business leaders are backing Mannis, who owns Prestige Cleaners and Prestige Tuxedo. Clayton Homes CEO Kevin Clayton, Wes Stowers of Stowers Machinery, railroader Pete Claussen, auctioneer Sam Furrow, industrial developer Joe Hollingsworth of Clinton, and Rita Cochran, director of operations for Discovery Inc., donated to his campaign.
More than a few developers and builders also are on board with Mannis. Justin Bailey of Bailey & Co., H.E. Bittle III of Hardin Valley Land Partners, Bruce Bosse of Merit Construction, Danny Kirby of DK Development, Maribel Koella of NAI Koella/RM Moore, Rodney Lawler of Lawler-Wood, and J. Stephen Ridenour of J.S. Ridenour Construction are donors.
“After 34 years in business, I have a good reputation with the business community. It indicates they’re confident I can run a successful business,” Mannis said.
He also received donations from current and former elected officials, mostly Republicans. State Rep. Martin Daniel, County Commissioner Randy Smith, former City Councilman Nick Pavlis and former Knox County Clerk Foster Arnett Jr. wrote checks to the Mannis campaign.
Stair raised $87,309 for the quarter, nearly $28,000 less than Mannis, but had already built up a big lead in fundraising. “We feel good about where we are (with) fundraising, but we understand the importance of the ground game,” Stair said.
Stair, who in his day job is an attorney with Lewis Thomason, persuaded 74 of his fellow lawyers to donate to his campaign over the past three months, as well as two former judges -- Bill Swann and Daryl Fansler -- who listed their occupations as mediators.
“This is a local race. You raise funds from the people who know you,” Stair explained.
Stair also had people from the political scene donate funds. During the 2nd quarter, Councilman Mark Campen gave the curious total of $533.80, while former county Commissioner Wanda Moody gave $200. Joan Ashe, the wife of former Mayor Victor Ashe, gave $100. Former Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale and former County Commissioner John Schmid also made donations to Stair’s campaign.
Like Mannis, Stair has received donations from prominent business leaders. Raja Jubran of Denark Construction, Pete DeBusk of DeRoyal, former Metro Pulse publisher Joe Sullivan, Ashley Capps of AC Entertainment, developer and planning commissioner Tim Hill, and Christy Lockwood, chief operating officer of LHP Capital, are in Stair’s camp.
Kincannon hasn’t raised much money from the local heavy hitters. Most of her donations in the early going came from teachers, professionals, professors and North Knoxville residents familiar to her from her service on the school board.
Kincannon’s financial disclosure report for the 2nd quarter lists 318 individual donations from 298 donors, with the average donation being $229. Her receipts totalled $72,770.
“This is our strongest quarter to date and we are gaining momentum at the perfect time,” Kincannon said. “I am thrilled by all of the support we have seen in our fundraising efforts. We will use the funds to continue conversations with voters and earn the support of Knoxville residents in every neighborhood.”
In the past three months, she also reached out to a vast nationwide network developed over the years since her student days at Haverford College and Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.
“Everyone I know from Princeton is into policy and politics and practice. They want to help me personally, but they also know Knoxville,” she said, adding that not one of her out-of-town supporters is trying to curry favor from her through their donations.
During the second quarter, Kincannon received donations from 24 states, plus the District of Columbia (her father was the head of the U.S. Census Bureau). Among them are New York City Councilman Mark Levine; CBS Executive Vice President for Investor Relations David Bank; and Brook Gesser, an advisor to Democratic U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York.
Kincannon has some supporters from local public life in her corner. Former Knox County Schools superintendents Jim McIntyre and Allen Morgan are contributors, along with former County Commissioner Mark Harmon and state Rep. Gloria Johnson. Knoxville’s poet laureate, Marilyn Kallet, also has contributed to Kincannon’s campaign.
Kincannon also is receiving support from union locals and Emerge Tennessee, a network of Democratic women running for public office across the state.
A lot of donors are hedging their bets, at least during primary season. A look at Haslam family donations is instructive. The family that controls Pilot Corp., at least until Berkshire Hathaway completes its acquisition, has split its campaign contributions between Mannis and Stair.
Pilot founder and family patriarch Jim Haslam, his wife Natalie, son Jimmy and daughter-in-law Dee gave a collective $6,200 to Mannis. Daughter Ann Bailey and her husband, Steve Bailey, contributed $6,000 to Stair, with equal amounts split between the primary and general elections. Jimmy, Natalie and Dee Haslam also contributed $1,500 each to Stair’s primary campaign. Bill Haslam, the former mayor and Tennessee governor, has not made a contribution to any candidate, according to the records.
Others gave to multiple campaigns as well. Public relations executive Cynthia Moxley gave to Mannis, while her husband and business partner at Moxley Carmichael, Alan Carmichael, donated to Stair. Bankers Sharon Pryse and Dale Keasling gave to both Stair and Mannis, as did former Councilman Larry Cox and developer Jeffrey Nash.
Retired printing company executive Jim Ullrich and developer Tim Graham gave to Kincannon and Stair. King of the bet-hedgers may be downtown developer Leigh Burch, who donated to all three leading candidates.
Early voting begins Aug. 7, with the primary Election Day falling on Aug. 27. In the mayor’s race, a candidate who garners more than half the votes in the primary is automatically named the winner. If no one gets a majority, the top two vote-getters advance to the general election.
“Passing the Hat” (July 11, 2019)
“Making Connections” (March 8, 2019)
“Preparation, Policy and Politics” (Feb. 25, 2019)
“Honor, Prestige and Politics” (Jan. 31, 2019)