The major-party candidates now running for Georgia governor: (top row, from left) Republican Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, former state House Democratic leader Stacey Abrams, Republican Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp and former Republican state Sen. Hunter Hill, (bottom row, from left) Republican businessman Clay Tippins, former Democratic state Rep. Stacey Evans and Republican state Sen. Michael Williams.
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

A tide of new cash rocks Georgia governor race

The candidates for Georgia governor added millions of dollars more to their campaign fundraising hauls over the last two months, according to financial reports filed late Friday.

The two Democrats and five leading Republicans collected thousands of new donors – and began to seriously ratchet up their spending – ahead of the May 22 primary. In all, the candidates have raised or loaned themselves more than $22 million. 

The report covers a two-month period between Jan. 31 and March 31. State officeholders are banned by law from raising campaign cash during the legislative session, which ended early March 30. It’s why three of the GOP candidates had little new fundraising to show in the latest filing. 

Here’s a breakdown of where each candidate stands: 

Former House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams (D): Abrams outraised her opponent, state Rep. Stacey Evans, by about three-to-one over this period as she began to stockpile more campaign cash. The Atlanta Democrat’s last report showed she spent about 80 percent of her contributions; in this latest one, her rate of spending dropped to about 73 percent. (Her campaign has long said it has embraced an unconventional strategy that relies less on TV advertising and more on personnel and organizing.) About two-thirds of her contributions came from out-of-state, but the $325,000 her campaign said she raised from Georgia donors outpaced Evans overall this period. Among her donors are two children of billionaire George Soros, whose family hosted a fundraiser for her last year, author Judy Blume and Stephanie Blank, a prominent children’s advocate who is the ex-wife of Falcons owner Arthur Blank.

Total contributions this period: $1,006,947.23

Total contributions to date: $3,280,652.59

Cash on hand: $898,553.85

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle (R): The GOP front-runner remains, by far, the leading fundraising despite scant new donations this period due to the legislative session. He has set aside $4.5 million to a wave of advertising that started last month and will escalate through the primary, and has relied on the Capitol crowd – a collection of lobbyists and powerful industry groups – to help pad his campaign coffers. He also started spending that money at an accelerated pace, dishing out $1.2 million on expenses including consulting fees and TV airtime. His donors included the foundation of golfer Davis Love III and GOP strategist John McLaughlin.

Total contributions this period: $20,206.50

Total contributions to date: $6,790,315.32

Cash on hand: $4,535,511

Former state Rep. Stacey Evans (D): After pumping in more than $1.2 million of her own money into her account earlier this cycle, the Smyrna Democrat didn’t dip deeper into her own wallet to reinforce her campaign. She wound up spending more money this cycle – about $400,000 - than she took in as she begins to ramp up her TV time. She has twice as much cash on hand available for the primary as her opponent, with nearly $1.4 million in the bank compared to about $560,000 for Abrams. (The rest of the money is partitioned for a runoff or general election.) Evans’ donors include Jane Kidd, a former chair of the Democratic Party of Georgia, former U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young and Dan Halpern, a restaurateur and major Democratic National Committee fundraiser. She also collected donations from Cousins chief executive Larry Gellerstedt, who leads a task force charged with helping to recruit Amazon’s second headquarters, shortly after he criticized a move by Cagle and Republicans to spike a tax break that would have benefited Delta Air Lines. 

Total contributions this period: $321,496.32

Total contributions to date: $2,617,889.90

Cash on hand: $1,486,522.63

Former state Sen. Hunter Hill (R): The Buckhead Republican is in a tight race for what could be a No. 2 spot in a GOP runoff, and he’s tapped the well-heeled district he once represented as well as retirees in Sea Island. Among his notable donors this quarter are Braves chief executive Terry McGuirk and Robert Loudermilk of the Loudermilk Companies real estate firm. He spent about twice as much as he raised this period, including more than $500,000 on campaign ads.

Total contributions this period: $442,891.90

Total contributions to date: $2,702,053.54

Cash on hand: $1,120,864.48

Secretary of State Brian Kemp (R): Faced with the same constraints as other office-holders, the Athens Republican raised little new cash and dipped deeper into his coffers to start airing sustained TV ads touting his immigration crackdown proposals. He spent more than $500,000 over the last two months, largely on TV airtime and associated costs.

Total contributions this period: $34,970.26

Total contributions to date: $2,920,108.74

Cash on hand: $1,631,521.28

Businessman Clay Tippins (R): The Capgemini executive kept pace with several of his top rivals in campaign donations in the final stretch of the race. With help from several well-known executives, including carpet magnate Bob Shaw and attorney Lin Wood, he ended the quarter with roughly as much money on hand as Kemp. He shelled out $540,000 this period, including roughly $300,000 with two firms linked to Georgia operative Nick Ayers, who is Vice President Mike Pence’s top aide: Target Enterprises and Bask Digital Media. 

Total contributions this period: $405,177

Total contributions to date: $2,544,518.28

Cash on hand: $1,591,518.83

State Sen. Michael Williams (R): The accountant has fueled his campaign with about $1.5 million in loans but has had troubles raising cash. His latest fundraising figures show he’s collected about $300,000 in donations and has most of his hoard - about $1.27 million - still in the bank. 

Total contributions this period: $4,501.45

Total contributions to date: $1,786,003.86

Cash on hand: $1,268,818.23

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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.