About 20 people attended this morning’s invitation-only fundraiser for presidential candidate Newt Gingrich at the Chattanooga Choo Choo.
The former House Speaker briefly spoke with reporters before the fundraiser, mainly focusing on his plan to reduce gasoline prices to $2.50 per gallon if elected. The private fundraiser was closed to the media.
Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger and Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond were among the attendees, but both men said they were there in their official capacities.
Others paid the fundraiser’s $1,000-per-head admission fee, including Chattanooga businessman Michael Fillauer, who owns a local medical supplies company.
“He’s very articulate and extremely intelligent,” he said. “I have concerns about the other candidates having those same qualities.”
Gingrich and his wife, Callista, toured a Choo Choo train car room afterwards.
The $1,000 bought about an hour with Gingrich, but also bagels, muffins, danish, coffee and hot tea, attendees said.
A couple dozen Occupy Chattanooga protesters stood outside the Choo Choo, hollering slogans as motorists drove by.
“Newt Gingrich, go away, racist, sexist, anti-gay,” they said, borrowing a line they used when current GOP presidential frontrunner Rick Santorum visited Chattanooga last week.
Gingrich is expected to appear at public rallies in Dalton and Rome later today.
Polls show the former 10-term Georgia congressman with a slim Peach State lead, but a new Vanderbilt University poll of likely Republican voters in Tennessee put him in last place among the four remaining GOP nominees.
Santorum holds a commanding lead in the Vanderbilt poll, released Sunday, and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Texas Congressman Ron Paul are second and third, respectively.
For complete details, see tomorrow’s Chattanooga Times Free Press.