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VOL. 125 | NO. 99 | Friday, May 21, 2010

Some GOP Candidates to Skip Fundraiser Over Cost

The Associated Press

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CHATTANOOGA (AP) - Some Republican candidates in Tennessee's 3rd Congressional District race say they plan to skip a Saturday GOP fundraiser after they were hit with a demand to pay $2,000 for the right to speak there.

Candidate Chuck Fleischmann told the Chattanooga Times Free Press he will boycott the Hamilton County GOP fundraiser in Chattanooga, which will include a straw poll, because of the "pay-to-play" policy.

"I think all candidates should be able to speak – or none of the candidates should be able to speak," said Fleischmann, an attorney who has put $544,000 of his own money into his campaign.

Harold Coker, the party's Hamilton County vice chair, told the newspaper that although there is "no charge for the candidates to speak," they can't speak unless they purchase two tables at $1,000 each.

Robin Smith's campaign bought enough tickets for her to speak, as did Art Rhodes'.

Smith, a former state GOP chairman, said she is "being supportive of local candidates and the local party."

Candidate Van Irion (ER'-ee-ahn) said the policy shows "how party bosses run elections." Irion said he will attend a weekend Tea Party event in Gatlinburg instead. He said "any straw polls or any other press releases that come out of that Lincoln Day Dinner are pretty much going to be a joke."

Third District GOP candidate Tommy Crangle said he too is going to the Tea Party event in Gatlinburg instead of the Lincoln Day Dinner.

Another candidate, Bradley County Sheriff Tim Gobble, said he will attend the fundraiser but didn't buy enough tickets to speak.

The newspaper reported that individual tickets are $55, according to a county GOP e-mail. Each table seats eight. Tables for gubernatorial candidates are $1,600 each.

Smith described the timing of her opponents' comments so close to the straw-poll vote as "sour grapes."

Rhodes said he welcomes the opportunity to speak. Looking ahead to the Aug. 5 primary, he said, "These are people who are going to vote."

Coker said he was disappointed that some of the candidates will not attend.

"We would have expected all of them to be able to speak and support the party," he said. "I'm surprised that they're not. I'm disappointed that they're not."

Coker was not available for comment by telephone at the party office Thursday and did not return an e-mail request for comment.

The 3rd District seat opened up because incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp is running for governor. Others vying for the seat include Republicans Jean Howard Hill, Grover Travillian and Rick Kernea; Democrats Alicia Mitchell, John Wolfe, Brenda Freeman Short and Brent Davis Staton; and six independents.

___

Information from: Chattanooga Times Free Press, http://www.timesfreepress.com

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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