GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush took in $345,000 in campaign contributions from Georgia between July and September. That topped any other Republican candidate in the third quarter by more than $100,000. Curtis Compton /
Photo: Brant Sanderlin
Photo: Brant Sanderlin

Jeb Bush, Hillary Clinton dominate race for cash in Georgia

Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton continue to dominate Georgia’s 2016 money race, as each easily outraised their competitors for the Republican and Democratic presidential nomination in the year’s third quarter.

An Atlanta Journal-Constitution analysis of Federal Election Commission filings, however, found Bush bested his second-quarter haul while Clinton’s take from Georgians fell by nearly 60 percent. The disclosures, filed earlier this month, detail only direct contributions to candidates, not money raised by super PACS that can receive unlimited amounts.

The Republican Bush raised almost $345,000 from July through September after bringing in $319,000 in the previous quarter. Clinton, a Democrat, raised more than $250,000 in the third quarter after raking in more than $600,000 from April through June.

The third quarter marked the first time that insurgent Republican Donald Trump had to file disclosures with the FEC, and the billionaire businessman raised just more than $31,000 in Georgia. Trump raised just $3.93 million overall.

Harry Chatfield, who owns Atlanta Precision Spindles in Lawrenceville, gave Trump $250.

“Anybody with half a brain in their head knows this country is in big trouble,” Chatfield said. “As a small businessman, we know this country has to be run like a business. We need to have someone in there who is business-savvy.”

Chatfield said all that matters is that a candidate has sense.

“Look at the establishment politicians,” he said. “What have they done for us?”

On the Democratic side, Vermont U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders raised more than $68,000 in Georgia in the third quarter, up from $38,000 in the second. While that is far behind Clinton’s haul, Sanders’ supporters say it is his message, not his wallet, that matters.

“He is sincere and truthful and not part of the political machine,” said Elizabeth McKinstry of Gwinnett County, who gave $35 to Sanders. “Corporate subsidies and the increase in income inequality are really bad. Our nation is heading in the wrong direction.”

John Wegner is a senior lecturer at Emory University’s environmental science department. The last presidential candidates he supported were Democrats George McGovern, who ran in 1972, and Eugene McCarthy, who first ran in 1968. Wegner said Sanders is their political descendant, a bona fide liberal who thinks “about the common good more than the individual good.”

Neither McGovern nor McCarthy won the White House, however, and Wegner said he isn’t sure Sanders can, either.

“It would be a heck of an interesting presidential campaign,” Wegner said. “Whether he can win or not, I don’t know, but I think we need substantial upheaval in the way the government and the country is run.”

Perhaps the most notable Georgia disclosure belongs to Republican Ben Carson, who raised more than $230,000 here in the third quarter, almost $100,000 more than he did in the previous three months.

Lynne Allen, who serves as treasurer for a family-owned turf company in Adel, has been a Carson fan for years.

“I see him as an honest, hardworking person that loves the ideals that I love about America, which is that everyone has a chance to better themselves, to strive to help those around them,” Allen said. “He has the intelligence, the ideals. Regardless of what happens, this is a great American person.”

Predictably, supporters of Bush and Clinton said the numbers bode well for their candidate’s chances in Georgia’s March primary.

“Jeb is continuing to build and grow his base of support in Georgia,” said Eric Tanenblatt, the leader of the global government affairs team for the Dentons law firm. “Donors are looking beyond the noise coming from other candidates and see Jeb as the person with the vision, experience and strength to lead our country at such a pivotal time for our country.”

But despite Bush’s success in raising money in Georgia, Bloomberg Politics reported last week that the former Florida governor’s campaign laid off some senior staff and ordered pay cuts to remaining employees in an effort to save $1 million a month in an attempt to reset his campaign as he continues to trail Trump and Carson, among others, in polls of key states.

Bush has raised nearly $25 million nationally, third-best among Republicans. He trails Carson and Texas U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz. Clinton leads all candidates with $76 million raised.

Clinton backer Tharon Johnson, who helped run President Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign in key Southern states, said Clinton’s financial disclosures show she has “invested the time and resources to galvanize key, traditional donors in Georgia to get them to contribute early money to her campaign.”

Clinton, Johnson said, is building on her “long-standing, diverse coalition of donors,” but she is also building on Obama’s fundraising successes in 2008 and 2012.

Clinton continued to bring in cash from top Georgia Democrats, including former Attorney General Thurbert Baker, who gave $2,200; former U.S. Rep. George Darden, $2,000; and former Gov. Roy Barnes, the maximum $2,700.

Sanders, meanwhile, saw most of his money come in small donations. His average contribution was $104, compared with more than $300 for Clinton.

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