Georgia candidates face 'dramatic’ coronavirus fundraising deadline

The aggressive pleas for campaign cash that greet every quarterly deadline might seem more insistent now, with the coronavirus pandemic draining bank accounts and sapping interest in political contests.

The quarterly fundraising deadline Tuesday would typically be a major moment in Georgia politics, a final fundraising test for state and federal candidates before the May 19 primary.

But the disease's spread has vastly complicated efforts to restock campaign bank accounts by ending the traditional electioneering and forcing contenders to resort to virtual fundraisers.

It's hollowed out the bank accounts of major donors, making them less likely to stroke large checks, and left other contributors scrambling to figure out their next paycheck.

Small-dollar donors, who already play an outsize role in Georgia politics, could be even more essential in the coming weeks.

And candidates must find a way to appeal to Georgians for contributions without sounding indifferent to their struggles amid a crisis that’s upended the economy.

>>More: How coronavirus has transformed Georgia politics

State lawmakers, meanwhile, faced a different sort of challenge: Since the legislative session was suspended but not adjourned, they can't raise any campaign cash until it's gaveled over.

It’s no esoteric issue. The scramble for campaign cash could prove the decisive factor in crowded contests in less than two months for local posts, congressional seats and the Democratic race to take on U.S. Sen. David Perdue.

The last-minute appeals from candidates suggest a range of strategies.

Former Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson, a Democrat seeking to challenge to Perdue, has kept her pitch brief: "There's so much more that goes into a campaign than just money. It's about the values you lift up and the people you fight for." 
Two other competitors for the seat, Sarah Riggs Amico and Jon Ossoff, seized on reports about Perdue's stock trading before the economic nosedive to appeal for small donations.

The Rev. Raphael Warnock, a Democratic contender for Georgia’s other U.S. Senate seat, held a virtual fundraiser Monday with Stacey Abrams and urged supporters to pony up for his “first public fundraising deadline.”

One of his rivals, Republican U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, was peddling sets of "Drain the Swamp" straws on social media. And Ted Terry, a DeKalb County commission candidate, sent a fundraising plea stocked with pictures of his campaign aides.

“Some campaigns had to lay off staff, during this dramatic dip in fundraising across the nation,” he wrote. “These are tough times for us all. I committed to my team all the way through to election day, and that is what are going to do.”

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