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GOP hopefuls dig deep to self-fund congressional bids

State Sen. Renee Unterman announces her congressional bid on June 6, 2019 in Buford, Georgia. (Christina Matacotta/christina.matacotta@ajc.com)
State Sen. Renee Unterman announces her congressional bid on June 6, 2019 in Buford, Georgia. (Christina Matacotta/christina.matacotta@ajc.com)

Credit: Christina Matacotta

Credit: Christina Matacotta

Some spending upwards of $250,000 to underwrite campaigns

Republican candidates in Georgia are reaching deep into their wallets to fund their congressional bids.

Several first-time U.S. House candidates loaned or donated six figures to their campaigns in the competitive north Atlanta suburbs between early April and late June, according to recently released federal disclosures.

The list includes multiple Republicans vying for their party’s nomination in the 7th District, the open seat based in Forsyth and Gwinnett counties that’s considered among the most competitive in the country.

Former Home Depot executive Lynne Homrich loaned her campaign $250,000 - matching the amount she fundraised during her first weeks in the race - and donated an additional $8,400.

Emergency room doctor Richard McCormick, another first-time candidate, gave $301,000 to his operation.

“Rich is going to put his money where his heart is," said Bo Swanson, McCormick's campaign manager.

The biggest candidate contribution came from state Sen. Renee Unterman, who loaned her campaign more than $600,000 in the days before the fundraising deadline.

Financial disclosures for her state Senate campaign filed earlier this month show she transferred an identical amount out of that account, listing them as “return of excess contributions/loan repayment.”

An Unterman spokesman said she did not make a direct transfer between her state and federal campaigns. Instead, he said the Buford Republican was repaying herself for the more than $650,000 she loaned her campaign when she first ran for the Statehouse that was never paid back.

For the more than $74,000 Unterman raised during her first month in the race, she relied on allies in the state Senate such as Dean Burke and Frank Ginn. Other contributors include Jay Davis, a liquor distribution titan; lobbyist and attorney Ed Lindsey; and health care executive Monty Veazey.

Fundraising isn’t everything, but it helps show which candidates are gaining momentum – and who has the means to dip into their own pockets to supplement outside donations, no small thing in metro Atlanta’s pricey media market.

Georgia State professor Carolyn Bourdeaux led the fundraising pack among 7th District Democrats, notching more than $280,000. She relied heavily on small-dollar donors – at least one-fifth of her contributions were for less than $200 – and got help from many of her allies. State Sens. Nan Orrock and Elena Parent wrote checks, as did former U.S. Sens. Wyche Fowler and Sam Nunn.

No fewer than 15 candidates have filed paperwork to run in the 7th after U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall, R-Lawrenceville, announced his retirement in February.

The wide open race is likely to garner national attention – and a barrage of outside cash – as Election Day nears.

The same is expected in the neighboring 6th District, where U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Marietta, collected about $670,000 in the second quarter. Her fundraising haul put her among the top 30 House incumbents, according to data compiled by Axios.

State Sen. Brandon Beach outraised every other Republican in the district that stretches from east Cobb County through north Fulton County to north DeKalb County – including former U.S. Rep. Karen Handel – by leaning on a group of influential conservatives that includes close allies of former Gov. Nathan Deal: railroad magnate Charles Tarbutton, liquor distributor Don Leebern, investor Richard Tucker and packaging executive Phil Wilheit.

Handel returned to many of the donors who helped her defeat Democrat Jon Ossoff in the 2017 special election to raise $210,000, nearly one-fifth from PACs. Former Rep. Tom Price’s PAC chipped in $2,000; other PACs for House Speaker David Ralston and U.S. Reps. Liz Cheney and Austin Scott contributed.

Among Handel’s donors, the biggest chunk of contributions came from the Rollins family, which controls the Rollins Inc. pest control firm, which gave her at least $20,000 over the past three months.

Meanwhile, business owner Marjorie Taylor Greene loaned her inaugural campaign $500,000.

Here is how much candidates in the 6th and 7th congressional districts reported in Q2 (numbers are rounded): 

6th District 

State Sen. Brandon Beach (R) – Raised: $235K, Loans: none; Cash on hand: $312K

Marjorie Taylor Greene (R) – Raised: $23K; Loans: $500K; Cash on hand: $478K

Former U.S. Rep. Karen Handel (R) – Raised: $210K; Loans: cone: Cash on hand: $488K

U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath (D) – Raised: $672K; Loans: none; Cash on hand: $929K

Nicole Rodden (R) – Raised: $59K; Loans: $100K; Cash on hand: $154K

7th District 

Carolyn Bourdeaux (D) – Raised: $281K; Loans: none: Cash on hand: $531K

Ben Bullock (R) – Raised: $147K; Loans: none: Cash on hand: $141K

Marqus Cole (D) – Raised $25K; Loans: none; Cash on hand: $9K

John Eaves (D) – Raised $70K; Loans: none; Cash on hand: $60K

Mark Gonsalves (R) – Raised: $73K; Loans: $50K; Cash on hand: $114K

Lynne Homrich (R) – Raised: $250K; Loans: $250K; Cash on hand: $455K

Nabilah Islam (D) – Raised: $108K; Loans: none; Cash on hand: $90K

State Rep. Brenda Lopez Romero (D) – Raised: $72K; Loans: none; Cash on hand: $51K

Richard McCormick (R) – Raised: $314K (includes $301K donation from candidate); Loans: none; Cash on hand: $314K

State Sen. Renee Unterman (R) – Raised: $75K; Loans: $603K; Cash on hand: $674K

Other candidates who did not file disclosures or raise money in Q2: Republicans Lisa Noel Babbage, Lerah Lee, Joe Profit, Jacqueline Tseng; Democrat Rashid Malik