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The latest financial disclosures in a much-watched state senate race show a challenger to Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, is well ahead in his fundraising.

But election laws barred Campfield, whose polarizing statements about homosexuality, gun control and the black caucus have drawn negative attention from national media to Tennessee, from fundraising while finishing the legislative session, which ended in April.

Knoxville News Sentinel political columnist Georgiana Vines reported last week that Knox County Commissioner Richard Briggs has nearly $158,000 in his coffers to unseat Campfield in the Aug. 7 Republican primary. Briggs also is planning more fundraisers in Knoxville, Chattanooga and Nashville. Vines reported that among those contributing $1,500 to Briggs' campaign were Mitch Steenrod, chief financial officer of Pilot Flying J, a corporation in which Gov. Bill Haslam is a part-owner.

Haslam, the former mayor of Knoxville, complimented Briggs publicly this month while criticizing the latest Campfield flap, where the state senator used his blog to compare Obamacare to the Holocaust. Campfield said readers misunderstood his point.

In an interview with The Tennessean last year in Farragut, he indicated he wouldn't let election-year politics silence him.

"I'm sort of fearless in what I do, Campfield said. "I don't really have a whole lot of care if I get beat tomorrow or not. I'm going to do what I think is best."

Reach Heidi Hall at 615-726-5977 or on Twitter @HeidiHallTN.

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