Georgia Republican gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp, center, walks with President Donald Trump, right, and Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga) as Trump arrives for a rally Sunday, Nov. 4, 2018, in Macon, Ga. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Photo: John Bazemore/AP
Photo: John Bazemore/AP

A 2019 dash for political cash in Georgia ends as a new money push begins 

Georgia candidates racing for top public offices face a fresh fundraising deadline on Tuesday as they try to end 2019 on a high note.

The Democrats competing to challenge U.S. Sen. David Perdue are scrambling to emerge from a jumbled field, while the Republican incumbent aims to distance himself from the pack. 

In Georgia’s other U.S. Senate contest, Democrat Matt Lieberman wants to show he’s a formidable challenger to Kelly Loeffler before he’s joined by a higher-profile contender who could soak up more money and attention. 

Down the ticket, candidates in Georgia’s volatile U.S. House contests are jockeying for front-runner status in crowded campaigns. And state officials who won’t face an election until 2022 seek an early financial edge. 

The details of the latest fundraising quarter, which spans from October through December, won’t emerge for another two weeks. But the dash for cash serves as an important test of campaign strength to the donors, party officials and activists closely watching each contest. 

For presidential candidates, the financial disclosures will be the last time they’re required to reveal their fundraising figures before a round of pivotal nominating contests are held, including the March 24 presidential primary in Georgia. 

In his bid for a second term, Perdue has so far posted the biggest numbers by raising about $2.4 million in the last three-month fundraising quarter. He hopes to build on the $6.3 million he’s amassed in what’s likely to be a record-shattering race. 

His most formidable Democratic fundraising rival the last fundraising quarter was Jon Ossoff, an investigative journalist who relied on the donor network he built during his unsuccessful 2017 bid for Congress to collect about $800,000 in a three-week span since entering the race. 

That’s roughly the same amount of campaign cash as his three top Democratic rivals – business executive Sarah Riggs Amico, Clarkston Mayor Ted Terry and former Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson – raised combined during the same three-month quarter. 

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The disclosures will offer an early glimpse at Loeffler’s fundraising ability. Gov. Brian Kemp tapped the financial executive to the seat in early December, and she quickly promised to spend $20 million of her own cash on the 2020 race. 

Yet her campaign has also sent fundraising appeals to Georgia GOP donors, including a recent email from U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst pitting Loeffler as a “Trump-supporting conservative” eager to smash the status quo in Washington. 

U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, left, and former U.S. Rep. Karen Handel.

Only one Democrat has entered that contest - Matt Lieberman, the son of former U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman - but higher-profile candidates are certain to join. Lieberman had previously said he raised more than $250,000 in the weeks since his October announcement. 

Georgia’s two most competitive U.S. House races – the suburban 6th and 7th Districts – have drawn more than a dozen candidates. 

U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, whose 2018 upset victory capped a string of Democratic wins across the suburbs, raised $620,000 over the last fundraising period, and will have $1.3 million in the bank. About 93% of her contributions came from small-dollar donors.

The Republican she defeated - former U.S. Rep. Karen Handel - raised about $250,000 over the same time frame and has about $630,000 in cash on hand. Other Republican rivals have since abandoned the race or shifted to other contests.

In the neighboring 7th District, where Republican U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall’s retirement has sparked a free-for-all race, about a dozen candidates are scrambling for cash. 

Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux, who narrowly lost to Woodall in 2018, is looking to fend off challengers including state Sen. Zahra Karinshak and activist Nabilah Islam, who casts herself in fundraising appeals as a Georgia version of U.S. Rep. Alexandria-Ocasio Cortez.

Across the aisle, former Home Depot executive Lynn Homrich, physician Rich McCormick and state Sen. Renee Unterman, are among the candidates clamoring for donor dollars and attention. 

Kemp, meanwhile, is hoping to get a jumpstart on a 2022 re-election bid that could involve a rematch against Democrat Stacey Abrams. His campaign sent a note to supporters warning that “liberal Democrats are eager to stop our conservative progress for Georgia in its tracks.”

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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.
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