An Atlanta Journal-Constitution analysis found that roughly one-fifth of the contributions that were collected by Democratic candidates in the state’s most closely watched congressional races were for less than $200. By contrast, Republican candidates raised about 4% of their cash from small donors. The analysis involved contributions reported by the candidates during the first three months of the year, and it included Georgia’s U.S. Senate race and the contests for the 6th and 7th congressional districts. (BITA HONARVAR/STAFF)
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Deadline day: Georgia candidates rake in millions in campaign cash 

Georgia candidates reported collecting millions of dollars from donors on Tuesday as they disclosed fundraising figures that were closely watched by activists, donors and operatives as a test of each campaign’s strength. 

U.S. Sen. David Perdue, a Republican running for a second term, posted the biggest numbers by raising about $2.4 million over the last three months. He’ll have more than $6.3 million in the bank for what’s likely to be a record-shattering race. 

His most formidable Democratic fundraising rival was Jon Ossoff, 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. 

Ossoff, an investigative journalist and former congressional aide, raised roughly the same amount of campaign cash over three weeks as his three Democratic rivals raised combined during the three-month quarter. 

Former Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson, the first candidate in the race, raised about $380,000 in a three-month span. Business executive Sarah Riggs Amico collected about $310,000 and loaned her campaign another $400,000. And Clarkston Mayor Ted Terry told the AJC he’s taken in about $90,000 since he entered the race.

“I’m definitely not the establishment-money candidate,” said Terry. “There’s a lot of thinking with your head and not your heart with these donors. The traditional contributors aren’t supporting me, but I’m bringing in a lot of new people.”

The dash for campaign cash will soon intensify with a second U.S. Senate race on the ballot, as Republican Johnny Isakson plans to resign in December because of health issues. 

Only one Democrat has entered that contest - Matt Lieberman, the son of former U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman - but other candidates are certain to join. Lieberman said he’s raised more than $250,000 since announcing his campaign this month. 

Gov. Brian Kemp will appoint a Republican to that seat by the year’s end. His office has received roughly 500 applications, including from politicians, business executives and judicial officials who hope to be considered.

08/06/2019 -- Atlanta, Georgia -- United States Senator David Perdue (R-GA) speaks with media following a talk at the Kiwanis Atlanta Club luncheon meeting at the Loudermilk Conference Center in downtown Atlanta, Tuesday, August 6, 2019. (Alyssa Pointer/alyssa.pointer@ajc.com)
Photo: Alyssa Pointer

Close contests

Georgia’s two most competitive U.S. House races – the suburban 6th and 7th Districts – have drawn more than a dozen candidates who are locked in an intense fundraising battle. 

U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, whose 2018 upset victory capped a string of Democratic wins across the suburbs, raised $620,000 over the last three months, 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 and she has about $630,000 in cash on hand. The other top GOP candidate, state Sen. Brandon Beach, took in about $166,000.

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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, has raised more than $280,000 and has about $700,000 in her coffers. One of her rivals, state Sen. Zahra Karinshak, is on her heels with about $200,000 in donations since entering the race in August.

The top Republican contenders trailed in fundraising. Former Home Depot executive Lynne Homrich collected about $170,000 this reporting period and state Sen. Renee Unterman reported about $130,000 over the same time frame. 

For many candidates who have entered contests since July, the reports were the public’s first peek at their fundraising abilities. For incumbents and others, they were important tests of support.

Former Columbus mayor Teresa Tomlinson, a Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate. AJC file

‘If only $ votes’

Perhaps the most closely watched report came from Tomlinson’s campaign. She had raised about $520,000 the first three months of her campaign, when she was the only Democrat in the race, and her fundraising performance did little to scare off rivals

She and her supporters tried to downplay expectations ahead of this week’s deadline, and her campaign manager Kendra Cotton invoked Ossoff’s defeat as she dismissed his fundraising totals. 

“If only $ votes,” she wrote on Twitter. “Cause we sure saw back in 2017 that one can have $40mil and fade into oblivion. Meanwhile, just 16mo later, a black woman w/ not even a quarter of the resources can actually win the same seat.”

The reference, of course, was to McBath. Tomlinson chimed in, too, writing that she believes she needs to raise between $3 million and $3.5 million to be competitive in a primary, and said “we are on track to do that.” 

Indeed, the fundraising totals don’t necessarily translate to votes or a show of support in 2020. But they serve as an indicator of which candidates are locking up donors and attention in jumbled fields that could grow even more crowded.

And they are an early gauge for challengers and incumbents to demonstrate to voters, interest groups and national operatives their commitment and ability to mount a credible 2020 campaign.

Here’s a look at how much cash some of the candidates in key contests have raised in the latest quarter, which spanned from July through September. The list will be updated as the reports are filed. 

Georgia Senate Perdue:

  • Democrat Sarah Riggs Amico has raised $310,000 since entering the race in late August, and loaned her campaign another $400,000. She has about $425,000 on hand.
  • Democrat Jon Ossoff said he will report raising $800,000 in the three weeks since he joined the contest and that he’ll end the latest fundraising quarter with $1.3 million in cash on hand. 
  • Democrat Ted Terry said he’ll report raising about $89,000 and that he’ll have roughly $60,000 in cash on hand.
  • Democrat Teresa Tomlinson reported raising about $380,000 this quarter and has about $290,000 in her campaign account. 

  • Republican U.S. Sen. David Perdue said he raised about $2.4 million in the latest fundraising quarter and has about $6.3 million cash on hand. 

Georgia Senate Isakson

  • Democrat Matt Lieberman told the AJC he has raised more than $250,000 since he joined the race in early October. Since the contributions came after he announced his campaign in October, he won’t have to file paperwork until next year.

Georgia 6th District

  • Democrat U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath raised $620,000 and that she’ll have roughly $1.34 million in cash on hand.
  • Republican Brandon Beach said he raised $166,000 and has $400,000 in cash on hand.
  • Republican Karen Handel raised about $250,000 has about $630,000 in cash on hand. 
  • Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene said she raised about $100,000 and has $500,000 in cash on hand. 

Georgia 7th District

  • Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux raised more than $280,000 in the last three months, and has nearly $700,000 cash on hand. Among her contributors: former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin.
  • Democrat Nabilah Islam raised roughly $100,000 and has $75,000 in cash on hand.
  • Democrat Zahra Karinshak raised $209,000 and has about $200,000 in cash on hand. Her donors include former Gov. Roy Barnes and ex-U.S. Rep. Buddy Darden.
  • Democrat Brenda Lopez Romero raised $32,000 in the last three months, and reports about $46,000 in the bank.
  • Republican Ben Bullock raised $96,000 and has about $74,000 in cash on hand.
  • Republican Mark Gonsalves raised about $57,000 and loaned himself $50,000. He has about $180,000 in cash on hand.
  • Republican Lynne Homrich raised $170,000 this reporting period and has about $430,000 in cash on hand.
  • Republican Rich McCormick raised about $210,000 this quarter - which includes a $132,000 loan - and has $440,000 in the bank.
  • Republican Renee Unterman raised about $130,000 over the three-month span and has $770,000 in the bank. 

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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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