Independent expenditures target Durham, back challenger

Direct mail fliers attacking state Rep. Jeremy Durham and supporting his Republican primary challenger, Sam Whitson, are being distributed in Williamson County’s House District 65, reports he Tennessean. In turn, Durham is sending out his own fliers combating what he calls “the establishment and special interest groups.”

The purchases for Whitson were made by independent organizations Stand for Children, which focuses on education issues, and Preserving our Community’s Future, a group of Middle Tennessee business leaders with ties to the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce.

Neither organization revealed how much money it spent on the fliers, but Mary McClelland, who works with Stand for Children, said her organization sent out mailers to about 6,000 families.

The flier from Preserving our Community’s Future focuses on Whitson’s life: the fact he’s a retired colonel who served 26 years in the military. It says the U.S. government trusted him with the “highest possible security clearance” after a background check proved his “fitness to serve in a position of high trust and responsibility.”

“PCF was active during the 2016 legislative session, sharing with the public the benefit of proposed legislation enabling the state and local governments in Tennessee to enter into public-private partnerships on transportation projects. PCF will also be involved in providing information to residents of State House District 65 in Williamson County during the 2016 election,” said Darrell Freeman, chairman of the organization, head of technology company Zycron Inc. and former chairman of the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce.

One flier from Stand for Children focuses much more on attacking Durham. Part of the flier reads “Sam Whitson. Focused on Williamson County.” Another part reads “Jeremy Durham: Focused on fighting investigations.”

“Everything from his campaign finances to his personal conduct is under review. Durham simply has not and will not have any time for Williamson County while he is focused on himself,” the flier states.

…In a statement, Durham noted that both of the fliers supporting Whitson were “bankrolled by a special interest group.”

“It’s very clear that the establishment and special interest groups have their candidate and the conservatives want to continue with me. Personally, I do not want the backing of groups that support Common Core and have a director who worked for Barack Obama,” Durham said in an emailed statement.

Daniel O’Donnell, Nashville city director for Stand for Children, previously worked for the Obama campaign in 2007 and as a deputy White House liaison after Obama won the 2008 election.

…In Durham’s campaign flier, paid for by his campaign, he’s heralded as a fighter for Williamson County’s future. The flier, without citing specific votes or legislation, says Durham fought against Common Core, supported fewer standardized tests and favors school choice policies.

Note: Durham is also airing a radio ad with a male narrator depicting him as a conservative under attack from “the liberal media, establishment insiders and Democrats,” followed by Durham’s wife praising her husband.