Georgia 2018: An early look at how down-ticket races are shaping up

The crowded race for governor was the top fundraising draw this year, and the six leading contenders for the seat have already raised or loaned themselves more than $7.4 million in the opening months of the contest.

But a quieter financial battle is brewing for down-ticket races. Three incumbents didn’t raise a single dollar for their re-election campaigns. Others were locked in heated multi-candidate battles. Here’s an early look at how those races are shaping up:

Lieutenant governor:

With Casey Cagle running for governor, three Republicans are in the race to succeed him.

Senate Pro Tem David Shafer raised $900,000, among the largest initial fundraising hauls ever for a candidate for Georgia’s No. 2 job. He spent only about $5,000 of that sum.

One of his top rivals, state Sen. Rick Jeffares, reported collecting more than $350,000 in the month since he entered the race - and he had almost that figure in cash on hand. It was a surprising total for a low-profile candidate who didn’t launch his bid to succeed Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle until late May.

A third Republican, state Rep. Geoff Duncan, raised about $230,000 and loaned himself another $100,000. About $300,000 was left in his campaign coffers.

No Democrat has formally announced for the office, though ex-state Sen. Doug Stoner is said to be considering a bid. A fourth Republican, state Sen. Steve Gooch, is also exploring a run.

Attorney General

Republican Chris Carr, appointed to the post late last year by Gov. Nathan Deal, has moved quickly to defend his seat. He raised about $233,000 since the session’s end in late March, on top of the nearly $250,000 he took in through late last year. He’s got about $350,000 on hand.

Carr faces no opponent yet and he dodged a bullet when state Sen. Josh McKoon decided to seek the Secretary of State seat rather than run for the state’s top attorney post. But that’s likely to change, and several Democrats have rumbled about a run.

Secretary of State

The race to succeed Brian Kemp – who is also in the hunt for governor – is one of the top draws. Four Republicans and two Democrats are in the contest.

Alpharetta Mayor David Belle Isle led the pack by raising about $290,000 – and the Republican had spent only $20,000 of that sum through June.

State Rep. Buzz Brockway raised roughly $60,000 and reported about $56,000 in his coffers.

State Rep. Brad Raffensperger raised less than $20,000 and loaned himself another $75,000. He’s got about $80,000 in his campaign coffers.

Two Democrats in the race struggled to gain traction. Former Rockdale tax commissioner R.J. Hadley loaned himself about $4,000 and had $200 left in the tank. State Rep. Dee Dawkins-Haigler reported raising no cash.

One of the biggest names in the race had nothing to report: State Sen. Josh McKoon, the Columbus Republican who spearheaded the ethics and “religious liberty” drives in the statehouse, jumped in the race last week – just after the reporting deadline.

School Superintendent

Richard Woods, elected in 2014, raised nada this year for a 2018 run and had only $3,300 left in the bank. Two Democrats who filed paperwork to challenge the Republican didn’t fare much better.

Sid Chapman, president of the Georgia Association of Educators, raised zilch through June. And Otha Thornton, the immediate past president of the National PTA, hadn’t yet filed a report by late Monday night.

Insurance Commissioner

Incumbent Ralph Hudgens didn’t raise a single dollar for his re-election bid, raising questions about whether the Republican will seek re-election (he has said he will). He had about $130,000 left in his campaign coffers from earlier fundraising bouts.

Two others in the race had negligible fundraising: Republican Shane Mobley reported $500 in his bank account. Democrat Tomeka Kimbrough had $235.

Labor Commissioner

Incumbent Mark Butler also didn’t raise any additional campaign cash this year, and reported about $66,000 in his war chest. No one has yet filed to challenge the Republican.

Agriculture Commissioner

Gary Black, in his second term as the state’s top agriculture official, took in about $60,000 this year and had nearly $90,000 in his campaign coffers. No one has yet filed to challenge the Republican.

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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.