Nunn continues to outpace Republicans in U.S. Senate money chase

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Democrat Michelle Nunn continued her eye-popping fundraising pace in the U.S. Senate race by announcing a $3.45 million haul over three months, which is more than the Republican runoff participants combined.

The Nunn campaign has drawn broad support from national Democrats hungry to make red-state Georgia competitive this fall, as Republicans David Perdue and Jack Kingston battle it out ahead of Tuesday’s runoff election.

Nunn spent $1.53 million in May and June, leaving her with $4.75 million on hand. Kingston had $1.16 million and Perdue had $783,000 at the beginning of July, and both were likely to burn most of those sums on the runoff.

Georgia Democrats were buoyed by the numbers as a sign that for the first time in years they are out-raising the Republicans statewide. State Sen. Jason Carter also raised more money than incumbent Republican Gov. Nathan Deal in the second quarter.

“It’s going to take the Republican nominee weeks, if not months, to regroup, while Nunn will be able to immediately deploy resources towards her general election campaign strategy,” said Tharon Johnson, an Atlanta Democratic strategist not directly affiliated with the Nunn campaign.

But there will be plenty of money flowing for both sides in what could be a pivotal race nationally. The race is already set to eclipse Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss’ 2008 runoff win as the most expensive U.S. Senate race in Georgia history, according to FEC data on candidate fundraising.

Nunn, the daughter of former Democratic U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn, has now raised $9.3 million since entering the race a year ago. By comparison, Kingston has raised $5.2 million, and Perdue has raised $2.6 million and added $3.1 million of his own money.

Republican donors find either Kingston, a longtime congressman, or Perdue, a former CEO, to be stronger than some of the other GOP primary candidates who were known primarily for controversial statements and hard-right stances.

Many GOP donors who stay out of primaries will jump into the general, and unlimited Super PAC money can arrive out of nowhere.

“Republicans in Georgia dodged a bullet,” said Joel McElhannon, a Georgia GOP consultant. “We could have ended up with a (Rep.) Paul Broun, but instead we ended up with a Jack Kingston or David Perdue.

“And either one is going to be a strong nominee, and have all the advantages going into the fall against Michelle Nunn. … Whoever our nominee is, is going to have full support from the national party, Super PACs, the donor class all across Georgia. Folks that traditionally give to campaigns, they’re going to be giving to the nominee.”

Super PACs have dumped millions into trying to sway the GOP primary. A Super PAC formed for Nunn, Georgians Together, has raised just $70,000 this year.

Still Nunn’s personal edge at this stage is striking. It has been a long time since Georgia Democrats raised money on par with Republicans — who took total control of the state in the past decade.

Nunn’s haul was among the top reported fundraising figures for Democrats across the country. Kentucky’s Alison Lundergan Grimes, who is running against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, brought in $4 million, while U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., raised $3.5 million, but those were the only two higher numbers released so far.

While Super PACs can spend unlimited sums on TV ads, candidate money can be more effectively plowed into registering and turning out voters — the key for Democrats who must change the face of Georgia’s midterm electorate to have a chance to win.

“This will allow her to strategically control how her money is spent on grassroots efforts, TV and mail,” Johnson said. “But most importantly to continue to help register the hundreds of thousands of voters that we need to register to win.”

Nunn’s figures do not include the money from a Washington fundraiser this month co-hosted by Virtual Murrell, an early leader of the Black Panther Party who called the U.S. government a “racist, ethnocentric, imperialist dog” and later went to jail on bribery charges. The Nunn campaign said it would return Murrell’s donation.

Kingston also returned donations after the Atlanta Journal-Constitution questioned him about $80,000 that might have been illegally funneled to him by Palestinian national Khalid Satary. The FBI is investigating Satary but not the Kingston camp.

The Satary case has been included in attacks by the two candidates in Georgia’s longest-ever runoff, that is seeing big spending on television ads that likely will leave the Republican nominee with little money after the vote. The Perdue campaign said that $110,000 of its cash is earmarked for the general by FEC rules.

Nunn said she has a total of 39,000 donors. The Perdue campaign has 2,162 contributors, while the Kingston campaign did not provide its number.

Republicans have bashed Nunn for raising money around the country, and through April she had brought in more than half her money from out of state, while the Republicans’ money mostly came from Georgia.

“She’s done a good job of making herself kind of a celebrity candidate for Democrats across the country,” McElhannon said. “Strategically, Georgia is an important possible pickup for them that could stop the Republican takeover of the U.S. Senate.”