Money on campaigns' minds as deadline looms

The receipts have been tallied, but midnight Thursday looms large in the race for the July 20 primaries for governor.

Thursday night is the deadline for the 14 gubernatorial hopefuls to file quarterly campaign finance reports with the State Ethics Commission detailing how much money they have raised and spent over the past three months. And with just 12 days to go before votes are actually counted, these final reports offer an important glimpse at campaign strength in the final stretch.

Little is known thus far about how the candidates performed, but recent behavior could give some indication. Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine, in a report his campaign filed Wednesday with the Ethics Commission, said he raised $850,000 in two months and has $1.83 million in cash on hand for his Republican campaign for governor. In all, he has raised close to $4 million.

That is expected to again lead the Republican side, where only former state Sen. Eric Johnson (R-Savannah), with about $1.75 million in cash on hand at the beginning of the period, was at the same level.

Both Oxendine and Johnson have inundated local media markets with television advertising, an indication that their fund-raising has continued to be successful. Meanwhile, former U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal (R-Ga.) launched his first ad of the campaign on Wednesday, and former Secretary of State Karen Handel is the only major Republican not yet on the air. Her campaign, however, has promised that in “just a few days” her TV campaign will begin.

But a spokesman for Handel, Dan McLagan, would not say how many days is “a few.” Handel had raised the least amount of money of the top four Republican candidates, with $1.33 million in contributions and $573,000 in cash on hand April 1. Deal was third with about $800,000 on hand.

On the Democratic side, former Gov. Roy Barnes is expected to again dominate the money conversation. Barnes had already raised $3.6 million through March 31 and had more than $2.8 million on hand. It is expected that he had another good quarter and, in fact, has already reported raising $4,000 since July 1.

Attorney General Thurbert Baker had raised $1.34 million but had $625,000 on hand. Former Adjutant Gen. David Poythress ($300,000 on hand at the end of the last period) and House Minority Leader DuBose Porter (D-Dublin), who had about $285,000 in his account, are third and fourth, respectively.