The Georgia Gold Dome, where lawmakers approved education bills on the last day of the 2016 legislative session. TY TAGAMI/AJC

Deadline Day: What to watch as Georgia candidates file campaign cash 

The deadline for Georgia political candidates to file their campaign financial paperwork is Wednesday, and over the next week the first details of their fundraising hauls in 2018 will trickle out. 

A few contenders have already let loose their figures – Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle reported raising more than $4 million in the disclosure period ending on Jan. 31 – but most others are holding their numbers close to the vest.

While fundraising isn’t everything – Jon Ossoff’s $30 million take last year is but a recent example – the figures are important gauges of a candidate’s viability in this year’s races. 

It also sends a message to influential activists and donors still waiting to pick a side – and could signal whether there’s still room for another contender before qualifying in March.

Here are a few factors we’re watching.

The governor’s race. Cagle set a high bar by reporting earlier this month he’s raised a total of nearly $7 million since jumping in the race – a sum that his rivals from both parties seem unlikely to match. Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who raised nearly $2 million in his first report, is under pressure to try to keep pace with Cagle. And state Sen. Michael Williams may dig deeper into his own wallet to boost the $1 million of his cash he’s already spent. 

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and other Georgia Senate leaders this week made the case for two bills to reorganize health care planning in the state and fight the opioid crisis. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Those three candidates are blocked from raising additional cash during the legislative session, which is set to end in March. The other two GOP challengers don’t face the same restrictions. 

Former state Sen. Hunter Hill raked in more than $1 million in last year’s report, and analysts are watching to see if he can double it. But the biggest unknown may be Clay Tippins, a businessman and political newcomer who recently entered the race. He’s trying to carve a lane as a business-friendly conservative and is expected to self-finance at least some of his campaign to give him a jump start. 

The Democratic side will also be under scrutiny. Former House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, a proven fundraiser with a national profile, wasn’t able to pull away from her rival, former state Rep. Stacey Evans in last year’s disclosure. Abrams raised about $540,000 in that report - slightly more money than Evans but with less cash on hand.  

Down-ticket races. State Sen. David Shafer led the pack running for lieutenant governor with nearly $1 million and he had a furious burst of fundraising before the session started. His top rivals – ex-state Rep. Geoff Duncan and former state Sen. Rick Jeffares – want to show that he’s not the only GOP game in town.

On the Democratic side, business executive Sarah Riggs Amico faces a big test with her first fundraising report since she announced her bid. Among those who will be watching is ex-state Sen. Vincent Fort, who is rumbling about a potential run for the state’s No. 2 spot.

Further down the ballot, the jumbled GOP race for secretary of state may have more clarity in the next week. Analysts are watching to see how much of his own cash state Rep. Brad Raffensperger puts into his own campaign and whether state Sen. Josh McKoon has gained traction. Former U.S. Rep. John Barrow hopes a big fundraising report can help lift him above several Democratic rivals. 

Heated races for Insurance Commissioner and Public Service Commission are likely to attract more six-figure hauls to go with Democrat Lindy Miller’s quarter-million take. And Attorney General Chris Carr is amassing a war chest to ward off any serious challengers from both parties. He filed early – and reported about $700,000 cash on hand. 

Rep. Karen Handel. Curtis Compton/

Congressional seats. Donors are likely fatigued after the 6th District race last year attracted a whopping $60 million in spending. But at least three Democratic challengers have signed up to race against Republican Rep. Karen Handel, and two have collected six-figure sums. In the neighboring 7th District, a half-dozen Democrats are circling Republican Rep. Rob Woodall, who is trying to fortify his fast-changing Gwinnett-based district

Legislative races. More than a dozen Democratic newcomers are challenging long-serving Republican lawmakers – including some who have rarely, if ever, faced contested general elections. Some are longshots at best, while others have credible chances to flip GOP-held seats. And Republicans have plenty to defend – about a dozen Republican lawmakers in Atlanta’s competitive northern suburbs have announced plans to leave their seats, some to retire and others to run for higher office. The financial reports will show which ones have the cash to carry out their plans. 

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.