Republican gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp before a live taping of the Tuesday’s gubernatorial debate for the Atlanta Press Club at the Georgia Public Broadcasting studio in Atlanta, ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM
Photo: Alyssa Pointer
Photo: Alyssa Pointer

The Jolt: GOP has edge in a $12 million air battle for governor

Spending on TV ads in Georgia’s race for governor has nearly reached $12 million since September, with Republican-aligned groups edging out Democrats and their allies.

An iQ Media analysis obtained by the AJC shows that GOP-friendly organizations have spent roughly $6.7 million on TV airtime, compared to $5.2 million by Democrats.

On the GOP side, the biggest spender has been the Republican Party of Georgia, which has put $4.4 million behind gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp, followed by the Kemp campaign itself with $1.6 million in spending. The National Rifle Association, which has endorsed Kemp, has bought or reserved about $725,000 in airtime. 

The Democratic Party of Georgia’s coordinated campaign for Stacey Abrams has spent $3.7 million so far, and the pro-Abrams PowerPAC Georgia has chipped in another $900,000. Abrams’ campaign has spent about $500,000 and the state party another $215,000.

The iQ Media analysis looks gubernatorial spending only, and doesn’t include other contests where heavy investments have been made in both Democratic and Republican candidates. Everytown for Gun Safety, for instance, has spent $3.7 million in ads backing Lucy McBath in her Sixth District congressional race against GOP incumbent Karen Handel.

On Monday, the National Republican Congressional Committee reserved $1.4 million TV airtime on Handel’s behalf.

In the gubernatorial contest, not surprisingly, TV cash has been concentrated on the expensive Atlanta media market, followed by Savannah, Macon, Augusta and Chattanooga. 

Even more interesting is a breakdown in tone. In Atlanta, for instance, about half the ads run by Republicans were negative while 44 percent are positive. The rest are classified as “contrasts.”

For Democrats, roughly two-thirds of the ads that aired in Atlanta were negative spots and only about 16 percent were positive.

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We told you earlier today that a new NBC News/Marist poll is the latest survey to raise the possibility of a runoff in the Georgia race for governor, given the presence of Libertarian Ted Metz in the contest.

That same post added this wrinkle: Gov. Nathan Deal has served notice that he intends to call the General Assembly to order on Nov. 13 to address emergency spending for Hurricane Michael clean-up in south Georgia.

The session is anticipated to last five days, during which Secretary of State Brian Kemp, because he is a state constitutional officer, would be barred from raising any campaign contributions aimed at the Dec. 4 runoff.

But Kemp isn’t the only incumbent who could be headed for a runoff. On Nov. 6, Libertarians could also play a role in two hot down-ballot races for the state Public Service Commission.

Libertarian Ryan Graham is on the ballot with Republican incumbent Chuck Eaton and Democrat Lindy Miller. And John Turpish is the Libertarian in the race with GOP incumbent Tricia Pridemore and Democrat Dawn Randolph.

Both Eaton and Pridemore would be barred from raising money during the legislative session. The financial implications of a fundraising hiatus could be larger in those two contests than in a gubernatorial runoff.

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A clash over law-and-order legislation at Tuesday’s debate has triggered a new policy fight between Stacey Abrams and Brian Kemp.

A day after the debate, the Republican campaign seized on Abram’s assertion that she “helped pass” a new crackdown on gang violence. State Rep. Bert Reeves, R-Marietta, a key Kemp ally, took the lead.

He authored House Bill 874, an overhaul of the state’s street crimes laws seen as one of the nation’s toughest, and pointed to Abrams’ “no” votes on that measure.

"Without any doubt, I assure you, Stacey Abrams did not help pass this bill. She was against it,” he said, adding: “To go on TV and claim that she helped pass HB 874 is ridiculous and it is simply not true."

This is a touchy area for Abrams, who has been pummeled by Kemp for weeks over her opposition to new sex offender restrictions because they limited the sentencing discretion of judges.

The Abrams campaign quickly pointed to another proposal, the 2010 “Georgia Criminal Street Gang and Terrorism and Prevention Act,” that earned Abrams’ support.

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What’s old is new again. Georgia Democrats found a familiar way to target Republican Brian Kemp: The state party re-released a particularly brutal attack ad that Casey Cagle unleashed against him days before the July GOP runoff. Find all the gory details here.

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Larry Sabato’s “Crystal Ball” gang at the University of Virginia has slightly shifted its view of the Sixth District congressional race that pits Republican incumbent Karen Handel against Democrat Lucy McBath, moving it from “likely Republican” to “lean Republican.”

No doubt the Sabato group is reacting to the NRCC announcement on Monday that it would put nearly $1.4 million in broadcast television ads behind the freshman lawmaker.

On a related note: McBath was profiled in the New York Times yesterday, part of a larger story about how candidates this year have tackled issues like as racial injustice on the campaign trail. It’s worth your time.

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We hear that U.S. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy will be in the state today to help raise money for local Republican candidates, including U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall. The Californian is considered the favorite to be speaker next year should the GOP hold onto the House.

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Several advocacy and watchdog groups say they’ve allied themselves with the Georgia Ambulance Transparency Project, an initiative to restore transparency and ethics to the provision and delivery of emergency services across the state.

Among the new members: Common Cause, Georgia Conservatives in Action, Georgia Ethics Watchdog, Main Street Patriots, Athens 4 Everyone, Athens Area Citizens for Better EMS Response Times, and Barrow County Board of Commissioners Chairman Pat Graham.

Georgia is carved into 10 ambulance service regions, overseen by state-appointed councils that select providers. State law allows ambulance company executives to serve on these councils – sometimes at the expense of their business rivals.

The coalition is seeking legislative changes when the General Assembly convenes in January.

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A third-party group called iAmerica Action has launched a new texting operation that aims to mobilize Latino and Asian-American Pacific Islander voters who are concerned about Brian Kemp’s stance on illegal immigration. Read more about the effort here.

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