Senate District 10 heats up: Outside group helps Democrat; Gardenhire bashes ‘Detroit values’

An independent group is spending $46,000 for a TV ad praising Democratic 10th Senate District candidate Khristy Wilkinson’s support for Insure Tennessee, reports the Times-Free Press. The 30-second commercials is paid for by the little-known Washington, Iowa-based Heartland Accountability Project and began running on Chattanooga TV stations over the weekend.

The ad never mentions the Nov. 8 election or that Wilkinson is running for office. It doesn’t urge voters to cast ballots for her or refer to her opponent, incumbent Republican Todd Gardenhire, of Chattanooga.

But it does boost her name identification. And it represents the first real sign that state Democrats, or someone, is now playing seriously in the District 10 contest, seen earlier in the year as one of just two possible Democratic pickups in a Senate with a 28-5 Republican majority.

…Gardenhire has outspent Wilkinson in the general election and has aired local TV ads promoting his support of some $100 million for public school teachers. He’s spent about $56,000 on those ads and is expected to spend another $10,000 on a cable ad buy.

…Last year, Heartland paid for a radio ad attacking state Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, over a bill requiring Haslam to get legislative approval before presenting a proposed Medicaid expansion plan to the feds. Records show the group was incorporated on March 14, 2014, by a Washington-based law firm. Efforts to reach Curtis Faul, listed as Heartland’s director on incorporation papers, were unsuccessful.


…Wilkinson said she has had no contact with Heartland and supposes the footage of her in the ad was borrowed from Facebook posts about a July event honoring five U.S. servicemen attackedS and killed in Chattanooga last year. Another image shows her engaging a family while campaigning door to door. She noted she’s seen other support in the form of direct mail sent by the Tennessee Education Association’s PAC and Planned Parenthood.

Gardenhire, meanwhile, has sent out a mail piece that extols his “Tennessee values” as a Chattanooga native and a Christian in a political mailer while taking a swipe at Wilkinson, the TFP reports in a separate article.

“She has Detroit values and wants to bring its failures here,” the direct mail piece charges.

Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, also ran the identical piece as an ad in the Cleveland Daily Banner in Bradley County, parts of which also fall in Senate District 10, along with the cities of Chattanooga, East Ridge and Collegedale, and parts of eastern unincorporated Hamilton County.

Detroit has been a longtime poster child for government dysfunction and went into bankruptcy in July 2013. Wilkinson, a Detroit native who says she was born in poverty and left the city at the height of the recession in 2009, has previously noted she understands firsthand what it’s like to be disadvantaged and will consider it to be a strength if she’s elected to the General Assembly.

The senator’s mailer recently began landing in Senate District 10 mailboxes. It features a photo of a smiling Gardenhire, who is seeking a second term, standing on the Walnut Street Bridge with a backdrop of the Market Street Bridge in the background.

“Todd Gardenhire and his opponent couldn’t be more different,” the mailer says. “He’s proven he shares our Tennessee values.”

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