The Georgia race for governor continues to shatter campaign money records as Democrat Stacey Abrams and Republican Brian Kemp reported Friday that they combined to rake in about $22 million in contributions over the past three months.
The reports, which cover a three-month period from July 1 through Sept. 30, underscore the dynamics that have shaped the race. Abrams raised most of her cash from out-of-state donors and small-dollar supporters, while Kemp benefited from well-connected industry and statehouse special interests in Georgia.
The new financial reports put the overall amount raised by candidates in the race, so far, at about $56.5 million, a sum that makes the contest by far the costliest of its kind in state history.
That’s not counting money pouring into the race from third-party groups who aren’t allowed to coordinate with the candidates. Such groups — mostly from the Washington area — have poured millions of dollars into the race and expect to play a major role in funding TV ads and mailings in the campaign’s final days.
Kemp reported Friday that he raised $11.7 million over the past three months in his bid to become Georgia’s next governor, far exceeding the pace of Gov. Nathan Deal and other GOP predecessors. Abrams reported collecting $10.2 million in that period.
The Republican reported having about $6.6 million on hand for the final stretch, while Abrams had about $4.9 million as of Sept. 30.
Abrams and Kemp have collected those giant cash hauls even though neither entered the race as the favorite of the well-heeled Capitol crowd. That distinction went to Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, who amassed more than $11.6 million before he was trounced by Kemp in the July primary runoff.
During the GOP nomination contest, Kemp raised less than half as much money as Cagle, but he poured much of the cash into a swath of airtime for the final stretch of the race. That helped him amplify President Donald Trump’s surprise endorsement.
Abrams has become a bona fide national Democratic star, and she has peppered her schedule with fundraising trips across the nation. Much of her money was raised outside the state, but her campaign also highlighted small-dollar support from tens of thousands of Georgia donors.
Abrams had raised $16.2 million as of Sept. 30, quite a haul for the nominee of a party that has been out of power in Georgia since the early 2000s.
“Since the beginning of this campaign, Stacey Abrams has been talking with Georgians from all walks of life in all 159 counties. Our campaign has invested in reaching out to voters in every community, which is why we are seeing tremendous enthusiasm for Stacey Abrams’ bold vision for this state,” said Lauren Groh-Wargo, her campaign manger. “Fueled by small-dollar contributions from across the diverse communities of Georgia, our campaign is in a powerful position to capitalize on the energy of the voters and their hunger for a candidate who hears them and speaks to the issues they care about most.”
The torrent of cash assures even more spending on flyers to fill mailboxes and litter doorsteps, ads that flood the airwaves and fill websites and mobile phones, and expanded field staffs to knock on doors and organize rallies.
The nature of the fundraising will also likely fuel more scathing campaign attacks for Kemp, who has already relentlessly pummeled Abrams over her out-of-state support.
At every campaign stop across rural Georgia this week, Kemp mocked her fundraising trip to San Francisco and claimed she was taking orders from “socialist billionaires” who want to impose their values on the state.
Abrams raised millions from small-money donors whose names weren’t reported. However, of the $7.89 million from donors that Abrams disclosed in the most recent reporting period, about $4.2 million came from outside Georgia, including $1 million from California and $850,000 from New York, according to a review by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Among her big-money donors were actors and entertainers such as Chris Rock ($5,000), Jada Smith ($5,000), Regina Hall ($5,000), Heather Thomas ($6,600) and Kate Capshaw ($6,600), Chicago Cubs co-owner Laura Ricketts ($6,600), DreamWorks founder Jeffrey Katzenberg and his wife ($13,200), and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo ($6,600).
John Watson, the chairman of the Georgia Republican Party, said: “She needs a lot of extreme left-wing money to spend on commercials to convince Georgians she’s not an extreme left-wing candidate. She must think we are pretty simple-minded.”
The state GOP, which will play a major role in helping push Kemp’s message, reported taking in $5.4 million in the past three months. The majority of the money came from a few big donors, including $2.3 million from Kemp’s campaign, $750,000 from the Republican Governors Association, and $200,000 from two big nursing home companies.
It’s a busy election year, and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is keeping the spotlight on the leading candidates for governor, Republican Brian Kemp and Democrat Stacey Abrams. Recent AJC stories have examined Kemp’s finances and Abrams’ position while in the state Legislature as a leading collector of per diem. Look for more at ajc.com/politics as the state heads for the general election on Nov. 6.
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