Competitive GOP County Mayoral Primary Turns Into Million-Dollar Battle
Walnut Street Bridge view of Coolidge Park.
Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

A competitive battle in a Tennessee GOP mayoral primary has led to a three-way, million-dollar-plus battle to control the future direction of a key conservative region.

Republican candidates Matt Hullander, Sabrena Smedley, and Weston Wamp have collectively raised more than $1.23 million toward the Hamilton County primary race, with voting on May 3.

The vacant seat left by current Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger, who is stepping down after this term, has become a conservative battlefield as the county of more than 367,000 residents fights to maintain its Republican identity after back-to-back mayoral contests won by Democrats. Hamilton County is located in the southern part of the state, borders Georgia, and its county seat is Chattanooga.

“Hullander, former CEO of the home-improvement company HullCo., raised and spent the most. He reported total receipts of $508,000, a figure that includes a $50,000 loan the businessman made to his campaign earlier in his effort, which began in mid-2021,” according to the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Hamilton County Commission Chairwoman Sabrena Smedley reported  $387,770 through the first quarter of 2022. Wamp, son of former Tennessee Republican Rep. Zach Wamp, reported $342,756.

Just one Democratic candidate, Matt Adams, is on the ballot in the Republican-heavy race. The Chattanoogan reported Adams raising just $8,433 through March 31.

Wamp, who has lost two previous GOP elections for his father’s former congressional seat, claims he is confident the outcome will be different in his latest campaign.

“In December, our campaign wrote a detailed, $330,000 budget that would allow us to do everything we needed to do to win. We are grateful to report that we fully funded our campaign in late March and have now raised more than $350,000 in donations for the primary. We have the resources needed to win,” he told The Chattanoogan.

Smedley also displayed confidence ahead of the competitive primary.

“Hamilton County wants a mayor who’s ready for the job from day one, someone with experience in both business and government,” Smedley told the Times Free Press, noting she is not a full-time politician.

Hullander, the current fundraising leader, has been endorsed by the district’s GOP Rep. Chuck Fleischmann.

“Matt Hullander is clearly the best choice to lead Hamilton County. In today’s political climate, it is rare to find a person with the character, business acumen, and devotion to Hamilton County which I see In Matt. Over the years I’ve watched Matt grow in his personal and professional life, expanding the Hullco business enterprise, and taking the Hullander name into new ventures for the benefit of our community. He holds the skills and temperament to succeed, and I believe he will lead our community in an exemplary form,” Fleischmann said in a statement in March.

Hullander has also been endorsed by former University of Tennessee football coach Phil Fulmer, who called the candidate “a true Hamilton County success story.”

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