Two years ago, U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall cruised to reelection in his Gwinnett and Forsyth-based House district, easily defeating a Democrat who challenged him on a shoestring budget.
The financial picture couldn’t be more different in 2018. Carolyn Bourdeaux, his current Democratic opponent, has clobbered him in the fundraising department. Her campaign said Tuesday that she outraised the Lawrenceville Republican by a margin of more than three to one between July and October.
During that same period, Democrat Lucy McBath raised nearly twice as much as Congresswoman Karen Handel, R-Roswell, next door in the 6th Congressional District.
The election of Donald Trump prompted not only a record number of female candidates to run for office in Georgia but also a surge of campaign donations from inside and outside the state, according to new federal filings. That could spell trouble for Republican incumbents who are looking to fend off spirited challengers in the north Atlanta suburbs.
Bourdeaux this week posted what could very well be a record-breaking sum in the 7th District. She said she raised more than $1 million in three months from roughly 3,500 individual donors.
“I am deeply grateful for the support of so many and remain committed to carrying the banner for the middle class families that are making this campaign work,” the policy studies professor said in a statement.
McBath reported raising $961,000 in that period, which began three weeks before the Democratic primary runoff and stretched through Sept. 30.
Money isn’t everything in political campaigns -- Jon Ossoff raised nearly $30 million in last year’s 6th District race and still lost to Handel -- but it’s certainly helpful as the Democratic challengers look to build up their name identification against their well-known opponents. McBath and Bourdeaux have unveiled network television ads in recent weeks aimed at introducing themselves to voters ahead of next week’s Atlanta Press Club debates.
The GOP incumbents, meanwhile, have focused on their D.C. voting records as they’ve ramped up their own fundraising efforts. Handel and Woodall logged their highest totals of the 2018 campaign during the third quarter, respectively reporting $540,000 and $294,000 this week.
They’ve also hit their opponents for raking in money from out-of-state donors.
A substantial chunk of McBath and Bourdeaux’s most recent campaign contributions have come from outside of their districts and states. Both have benefited from organizational help from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and left-leaning fundraising platforms such as ActBlue, which allow people from across the country to easily donate to political campaigns.
Handel has also zeroed in on McBath’s affiliation with Everytown For Gun Safety, the gun control group that once employed McBath – the Democrat is on a leave of absence until after the election – and has plowed $3 million into the race.
McBath has disavowed the proliferation of dark money in politics but said she does not consider Everytown’s spending to fall into that category. (It does – its political action arm is a 501(c)(4), which does not need to disclose its donors and can spend unlimited amounts on elections as long as it does not coordinate with campaigns.)
“While our opponent’s employer is spending millions in yet another attempt to buy this seat with out-of-state money, we have the right candidate with a record of results that reflects the values of the 6th District,” said Mason Rainey, Handel’s campaign manager.
McBath’s campaign hit Handel on Tuesday for “posting weak fundraising numbers because she is out of step with this district.”
Handel received assists from many of her GOP colleagues in Georgia’s congressional delegation, including Tom Graves, Austin Scott and Doug Collins, as well as the NRA’s Political Victory Fund, Equifax and Delta Air Lines. Her campaign said that nearly 80 percent of the roughly $365,000 she raised from individuals came from within the state.
Some of the House’s top Democrats contributed to McBath’s campaign coffers, including Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer and Jim Clyburn, as well as the political arms of Planned Parenthood and the Congressional Black Caucus. She also received $5,000 from Hillary Clinton, whom McBath was a surrogate for in 2016, and the PAC of potential 2020 candidate Kirsten Gillibrand.
McBath’s camp said it received donations from roughly 26,500 people, a unusually large number for a non-statewide candidate. Her campaign said the average contribution was roughly $36.
Bourdeaux has zeroed in on Woodall’s donations from political action committees affiliated with corporations, contributions that are common among congressional incumbents. She’s vowed not to take any such money, although she did receive PAC funding from groups such as the International Brotherhood of Electrical Engineers and the League of Conservation Voters Action Fund.
Woodall received donations from the PACs of hometown companies such as Home Depot, Southern Company and Coca-Cola, as well as $2,000 from President Trump’s campaign committee.
Here are the latest fundraising numbers, which cover early July through Sept. 30. Figures have been rounded:
Republican U.S. Rep. Karen Handel
On Hand: $979,000
Democrat Lucy McBath
On Hand: $706,000
Republican U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall
On Hand: $548,000
Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux
Raised: $1.05 million
On Hand: $821,000
Read more about Georgia’s congressional races:
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.
Download the new AJC app. More local news, more breaking news and in-depth journalism. AJC.com. Atlanta. News. Now.
Download the new AJC app. More local news, more breaking news and in-depth journalism.
With the largest team in the state, the AJC reports what’s really going on with your tax dollars and your elected officials. Subscribe today. Visit the AJC's Georgia Navigator for the latest in Georgia politics.
Your subscription to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism. Visit the AJC's Georgia Navigator for the latest in Georgia politics.