Photo by Caleb Revill / MTSU Sidelines
Story by Ghaliah Almuyidi / Contributing Writer
Contributions by Ken Blake / MTSU Associate Professor of Journalism
Three wealthy Middle Tennessee zip codes have supplied nearly one-third of all the cash that individual donors have given to the two candidates vying for Tennessee’s open U.S. Senate seat, an analysis of federal donation records shows.
The analysis of Federal Election Commission data as of July – the most recent available – found that Belle Meade (37205), Forest Hills (37215) and Brentwood (37027) account for 31.5 percent of all the money given as itemized individual contributions, which indicates money given from individual donors. All three cities are clustered south of Nashville and considered to be among the most upscale communities in the area.
Belle Meade donations totaled $620,730, $421,185, or 68 percent, of which went to Democratic candidate Phil Bredesen. Most of the $653,631 donated by Forest Hills residents also went to Bredesen: $372,212, or 57 percent.
Republican Marsha Blackburn, meanwhile, took in $304,101 of the $381,706 given by Brentwood residents, or about 80 percent.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median household income is $195,208 in Belle Meade, $188,867 in Forest Hills and $148,340 in Brentwood. For comparison, the median household income for Murfreesboro is $53,241. All of these income statistics come from data gathered from 2012 to 2016 by the U.S. Census Bureau.
Across Tennessee, there are eight zip codes that donated more than $100,000. All are clustered around Nashville, except for one that is south of Knoxville. Refer to the map below for more details.
According to Kent Syler, a professor of political science at MTSU and former manager of Congressman Bart Gordon’s first campaign, “those are very wealthy, influential, active in politics and educated areas.”
“The donations tell you that the Democrats have more energy this time than before,” Syler said. “It also tells that they have good quality candidates.”
Additionally, the most recent primary election poll results show Bredesen with 91.5 percent of the Democratic primary votes while Marsha Blackburn holds 84.5 percent of the Republican votes.
“This is the first time since 2006 that there are solid Democratic candidates running for the governor race and the Senate race,” Syler said.
The 2018 election for the Senate seat will take place Nov. 6.
Data for the analysis were downloaded via the itemized individual contributions links in the Federal Election Commission donation summaries for Bredesen and Blackburn. For both candidates, the data reflect donations received as of July 13. Campaign laws require both candidates to provide updated data by Oct. 15 and then again by Oct. 25, the last report due before the election.
Once downloaded, the data for Bredesen and Blackburn were combined, aggregated by the zip code of the donor, then mapped.
As of July 13, Bredesen had taken in about $4.9 million in contributions, with $4.5 million of it from individuals and the rest from political action committees and other sources. Blackburn had brought in about $7.4 million in contributions, with about $5.5 million of it from individuals and the rest from PACs and other sources.
Both listed total receipts of about $8 million, with Blackburn taking in about $1.8 million from PACs compared to Bredesen’s approximately $300,000 in PAC money. Meanwhile, Bredesen had lent his campaign about $3.5 million, while Blackburn listed no loans.
Bredesen had about $2.9 million in cash on hand, while Blackburn had about $7.2 million.
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