Fundraising efforts for outgoing state Sen. Andy Berke's bid for Chattanooga mayor have been easy money so far—the candidate has been running unopposed for months and has been able to access leftover cash in his accounts from previous campaigns.
But the candidate, hardly a new-timer at running for office, has high hopes that interested residents of his hometown will rendezvous for his fourth annual Bruce, BBQ and Berke Fundraiser next month. Although the Oct. 4 event won't be open all night, supporters can attend between 5:30 and 7:30 p.m. at Lindsay Street Hall.
It's no secret Berke's love runs deep for Bruce Springsteen. The senator estimates he's seen The Boss perform at least 25 times, and Springsteen's tracks have provided Berke with a creative way of engaging voters since he assumed office in 2007.
For the past three years, Berke has hosted fundraisers featuring exhaustive Springsteen playlists and simple Southern food for a suggested donation of $25.
In an interview with Nooga.com, Berke said the event would carry a less-serious tenor than other fundraisers and was designed to ensure that, although attendees could feel welcome to leave loose change, no one would be left on the outside looking in.
"We want people to know this is an opportunity every year to come out, have fun and listen to some music while talking about things that matter," Berke said. "It's a low bar of seriousness. There's a lot of fundraisers, but we wanted to make sure that this one has access for people who might not want to commit huge sums of money but are still interested in getting out and supporting someone. Anybody can come."
Scratching out a setlist previewing the spirit of the night, the senator pointed to "Reason to Believe," the closing track on Springsteen's 1982 album "Nebraska," as having an influence on his thoughts regarding his own candidacy. Berke said that despite Chattanooga's struggles, he was convinced the city was a paradise whose better days are yet to come.
"I've been thinking a lot about that song," Berke said. "The chorus is 'still at the end of every hard-earned day, people find some reason to believe.' As I go around, I think people are hungering for leadership and that they're looking for reasons to believe. We want to go out there and make sure that they understand we live in the greatest place in the world and that there is an opportunity to make it even better."
Since announcing his candidacy in May, Berke has been experiencing a breakaway in fundraising. At the most recent report, the candidate reported having more than $360,000 cash-on-hand to put toward his campaign and has taken one step up in his efforts by attending recent fundraisers outside Chattanooga.
The mayoral election is in March.
Updated @ 10:14 a.m. on 09/27/12 to change the release date of "Nebraska" from 1984 to 1982.