Dem leads in fundraising for GOP-drawn Nashville House seat

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Democrat Heidi Campbell led in fundraising and spending last quarter in an open U.S. House race in Tennessee, where Republican Andy Ogles has taken a lower-key general election approach in a Nashville congressional district that the GOP redrew in hopes of picking up a seat.

Campbell, a state senator from Nashville, raised $533,000 and spent $183,500 according to her federal campaign finance report from mid-July through September — a timeframe that includes the lead-up to the August primary election and the first months of the November general election. She recently bought her first TV ad after facing no Democratic primary opponent.

Ogles raised $242,400 and spent $126,500 in the same period, with $73,200 of that spending occurring up until the Aug. 8 primary election, in which he defeated a crowded Republican field. Ogles, the former Maury County mayor, hasn’t deployed any TV ads for the November election. Neither have any third-party groups, which spent heavily on his behalf in the primary contest. He also hasn’t accepted offers to debate Campbell.

The strategy appears to indicate that Ogles and his conservative backers think the GOP-led redistricting process provided enough cushion for a Republican win. The district voted for former President Donald Trump over President Joe Biden by 12 percentage points in 2020. With the House Democratic majority on the line, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee hasn’t added any of the three seats that divide Nashville to the list of seats it plans to spend on this election.

Campbell, meanwhile, is hoping that national issues that have surfaced this year — primarily, the end of the constitutional right to abortion — mean Republicans are overestimating their odds. She has highlighted other positions and comments by Ogles — the furthest right of the three top candidates in the primary field — to stir up interest in the race, including remarks that exemptions for rape and incest in abortion bans are a “red herring” and that the “next thing we have to do is go after gay marriage” by allowing each state to decide on the legality of marriage for same-sex couples.

During redistricting early this year, Tennessee Republicans redrew the state’s 5th Congressional District with an eye toward gaining an additional GOP seat in Congress. The move spurred Nashville’s longtime Democratic representative, Jim Cooper, not to seek reelection, creating an open race in a newly drawn district — now snaking through six counties.

Meanwhile, Trump endorsed Ogles on Saturday after initially endorsing his former State Department spokesperson, Morgan Ortagus, in the primary. Ortagus and two other candidates in the race were booted off the primary ballot by state GOP officials over their voting records. Ogles also recently posted a photo from a event with U.S. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn and U.S. Reps. John Rose and Chuck Fleischmann.

Since entering the race in April, Ogles has raised nearly $507,000 and loaned his campaign $320,000, while spending $445,500. Campbell has raised $855,000 and spent $257,500. Campbell heads into the final weeks of the campaign with a cash advantage, with $597,400 left on hand, versus $455,800 for Ogles.

Beth Joslin Roth, Campbell’s campaign manager, said outraising Ogles signaled that voters are not supportive of his “extreme agenda.”

“We’re not surprised no one is buying it,” she said.

Ogles’ campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

Meanwhile, in the 7th Congressional District — one of the other two districts that include Nashville — Republican U.S. Rep. Mark Green raised $142,600 last quarter and spent $472,300. His Democratic opponent, Odessa Kelly, raised $226,400 and spent $151,900.

Over the election cycle, Green has spent $1.6 million, while Kelly has spent $782,700. Green has released the first — and, so far, only — TV ad in the race. The district’s voters favored Trump over Biden by 15 percentage points in 2020.

In the 6th Congressional District — the last Nashville district — Rose has $1.3 million cash on hand. His Democratic opponent Randal Cooper has not reported any fundraising or spending since entering the race.

Early voting for the November election begins Wednesday.

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Kimberlee Kruesi in Nashville contributed to this report.

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