Kingsport Mayor looks to retire campaign debt, asks for donations

KINGSPORT, TN  (WJHL) – Two months after the Kingsport Mayor election was decided, we learned the winner is still raising money to pay off his campaign debt.

Candidates raised and spent tens of thousands of dollars vying for the seat.

The winner, John Clark, raised almost $30,000, but a NewsChannel 11 viewer alerted us to a mailer from Clark asking for continued donations.

Over the course of five months from February to June, Mayor Clark spent just under $55,000.

He was elected in May.

According to this mailer he sent out while he was Mayor-Elect, he is still looking to retire debt for 40 percent of his campaign costs.

From videos to yard signs, Mayor John Clark says it costs a lot to run a campaign even on a local level.

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It is a cost Clark tells us was necessary.

“I felt that I did not have name recognition. To get my messaging out, I needed to hit on all cylinders from a marketing perspective, and that costs money,” said Clark.

According to this mailer Clark sent out 3 to 4 weeks ago when he was Mayor-Elect, it is money he still needs help paying off.

The mailer said in part, “I’m very appreciative for the financial contributions of about 100 friends and family whose donations covered 60 percent of our campaign costs.” It went on to say, “The remaining 40 percent is debt outstanding that I would like to retire with this fundraising initiative.”

“It is nothing that’s mandatory of course,and some people have offered to do this and help me reduce the debt,” said Clark.

When we asked people in Kingsport what they think about a candidate needing help with debt after a campaign, we got mixed reactions.

“I think that is ridiculous,” said Darin Conner.

“If a person wants to help with campaign debt that’s fine,” said Russell Mccarty.

We also asked people what they think about candidates spending tens of thousands of dollars on a local race.

“The next guy is going to want to spend 100 thousand dollars because he is going to want to out do what this guy just did,” said Conner.

“I really don’t think that is excessive, Kingsport is a large metropolitan area,” said Mccarty.

When we dug into the 2013 election, where incumbent Dennis Phillips won his fifth term as Kingsport’s mayor, we found he only spent just over $3,000 on his campaign from January to June of 2013.

Fast forward to 2015, and the amount it took to become mayor is more than 15 times the amount it took just a few years ago.

Clark tells us that mailer asking for donations will be the last.

 Copyright 2015 WJHL. All Rights Reserved.

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