- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 2, 2016

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - More than $16 million in political contributions has flowed to candidates running for seats in the Tennessee General Assembly this year.

That total includes $1.5 million given to candidates in the final reporting period before next week’s general election. The Senate Republican Caucus also reported spending $669,000 in October on advertising critical of Erin Coleman, the Democratic challenger to GOP Sen. Steve Dickerson in Nashville.

Coleman, who has received about $162,000 in contributions during the campaign, celebrated a bit of free media Wednesday with an endorsement from President Barack Obama.

Dickerson has brought in $625,000 for his race against in his closely divided district. About $120,000 of that amount has come in the form of direct and in-kind contributions from the Senate Republican Caucus.

Republican Gov. Bill Haslam also has taken time off from his schedule to knock on doors with Dickerson. Both Haslam and Dickerson have announced they don’t plan to vote for Republican nominee Donald Trump for president.

“I am here to help people who are in districts that are very competitive districts to begin with,” Haslam said told reporters after campaigning with Dickerson last week. “Steve has worked incredibly hard and has been a terrific senator, and it would be a shame if he didn’t come back to keep helping us.”

In an email to supporters, Tennessee Democratic Party Chairwoman Mary Mancini touted Coleman’s endorsement of Obama, a former state senator in Illinois.

“As a former state lawmaker, President Obama knows how important it is to have strong leadership in every state,” Mancini said.

Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, a Collierville Republican with no Democratic opponent this year, has quietly received the largest amount of campaign donations with $655,000 in receipts this election season.

Norris is among several potential gubernatorial candidates to succeed term-limited Haslam in 2018. Others include Republican Sen. Mark Green of Clarksville and House Speaker Beth Harwell of Nashville. Each has raised about $515,000.

The top 12 recipients are Republicans, combining for more than $5.3 million in donations.

Democrat Gloria Johnson has received about $233,000 for her bid to reclaim the Knoxville seat she lost to Republican Rep. Eddie Smith two years ago.

The Tennessee Relators PAC has been the top donor to Statehouse candidates, giving a total of $258,000. The next highest contributor was the Senate Republican Caucus with $233,000, followed by the Tennessee Bankers Association PAC with $230,000 and $177,000 from the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of Tennessee.

Other big donation totals include $170,000 from the PAC of the Tennessee Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union; $149,000 from the AT&T; of Tennessee PAC and $134,000 from the Jack Daniel’s PAC.

Republicans came into this election year with supermajorities of 28-5 in the Senate and 73-26 in the House.

Early voting for next week’s election ends Thursday.

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