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Corker gets $2K from Sundquist
Mar 07, 2005 12:00 am
Chattanooga Mayor Bob Corker has raised $2 million in his bid for Tennessee U.S. Senate seat in 2006, but a $2,000 contribution from former governor and Republican Party lightning rod Don Sundquist has given his primary opposition room to nip at his heels.
A Federal Election Commission disclosure of Corker's fund-raising in 2006 includes a Dec. 10, 2004 contribution of $2,000 from the former governor.
Sundquist was ostracized by most of the Tennessee Republican Party toward the tail end of his term for advocating a state income tax. Though retired and seemingly inactive on the GOP political scene, Sundquist remains a divisive figure in the state GOP.
The phrase "Sundquist Republican" has become a popular refrain in state-level races in Tennessee by Democrats looking to steal the tax issue from Republican candidates.
Corker served in the first Sundquist term as the Commissioner of Finance, but left before Sundquist won re-election in 1998 on an anti-income tax platform and then did an about-face on the issue in his second term.
Corker would not speak Sundquist's name when asked about the contribution by The Lebanon Democrat, but said simply his campaign was enjoying "broad-based support."
"We have received broad-based support from people with all kinds of backgrounds," Corker said Thursday. "We are pleased with all of that support."
A millionaire real estate developer, Corker is known best as a business candidate with fiscal conservative credentials. Corker's opponents in the primary, State Rep. Beth Harwell and former Congressman Ed Bryant, both appear to be running races based more on a social conservative message.
Harwell, who recently ended a term as Tennessee GOP chairperson, said the issue of Corker's relationship with Sundquist "made sense" given Corker's role under the former governor.
"It would seem reasonable that Don Sundquist would be supporting him," Harwell said. "I think these are questions Mayor Corker has to answer. Certainly, there is an association between the Don Sundquist administration and the income tax. So, I think that is something Mayor Corker has to answer for himself."
Another potential candidate in the Senate GOP primary, former Congressman Van Hilleary, is well acquainted with the specter of the Sundquist administration.
Hilleary lost a close race to now Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen in 2002, a race that came in the wake of the Sundquist administration's income tax upheaval. It was the first time a Democrat had won statewide office in almost a decade in Tennessee.
A longtime political advisor to Hilleary said though he was not yet in the race the contribution was not a shock since Hilleary has been campaigning as if he is preparing to enter the contest.
"That contribution came as no surprise to us," political consultant Brad Todd said. "They (Corker and Sundquist) have always been close."
Managing Editor Clint Brewer can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 13 or by e-mail at email@example.com.