Parties mirror candidates: Georgia Dems get most of their money from out of state, Republicans in state, AJC finds

Georgia Democratic nominee for governor Stacey Abrams and Republican nominee  Brian Kemp greet each other before a debate last month.   (ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

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Georgia Democratic nominee for governor Stacey Abrams and Republican nominee Brian Kemp greet each other before a debate last month. (ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Georgia's two major parties set fundraising records this year, and where the money came from mirrored the campaigns of their nominees for governor, an Atlanta Journal-Constitution analysis found.

Like Democratic gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams, who raised most of her record haul from outside of Georgia, the state Democratic Party got most of its money from Washington D.C. and states like California.

Since the July runoffs, 79 percent, or about $10.4 million of the $13.1 million in named donations the party received came from outside of Georgia.

Republican nominee Brian Kemp has collected most of his money from donors inside Georgia, and so did the state Republican Party, which as of Oct. 25 had collected $13.2 million since the GOP runoff, about 25 percent of which came from out of the state.

The biggest donations for the state Democratic Party since the runoffs have come from Washington, include $3.5 million from the Democratic Governors Association PAC, $875,000 from Emily’s List, which support female  Democratic candidates, and $550,000 from the National Education Association, the nation’s largest teachers union. Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg also contributed $250,000.

Abrams has been the party’s biggest Georgia contributor since late July. Her campaign has put nearly $1.5 million into the race.

Candidates often give to parties to pay for attack ads against their opponents.

“If you attack, yes it’s going to hurt your opponent and take them down, but it drives up your negatives, too,” said Rick Dent, a Democrat who has worked on campaigns in Georgia and other Southern states. “If somebody else is doing it, it hurts your opponents, but it doesn’t hurt you.”

Besides Abrams, the Democratic Party got a $90,000 contribution from actor, playwright, filmmaker and comedian Tyler Perry. Abrams has likewise received money from a star-studded lineup of actors and actresses, in including Will Ferrell, Tiffany Haddish, Taraji P. Henson, Tracee Ellis Ross and Marlon Wayans.

The Republican Party’s biggest donor since the runoff has been Kemp, whose campaign has contributed $5.7 million. As in the case of Abrams, Kemp’s money has largely gone to attack his opponent.

Jim Beck, the Republican nominee for insurance commissioner, has contributed $250,000 to the party.

The Republican Party has also gotten $200,000 from the president of Allstar Amusement Games, a video gaming company, $100,000 from both a nursing home company and nursing home PAC, and $100,000 from a mutual insurance company.

The GOP's biggest out-of-state windfall - $2 million - came from the Republican Governors Association. The RGA also spent $2 million on attack ads against Abrams using a separate "independent committee" that by law is not  supposed to coordinate with Kemp's campaign.

Rick Thompson, a former executive secretary of the state ethics commission  who works with dozens of candidates and funds, said it’s not surprising Republicans raise more of their money in Georgia than Democrats.

“The Democratic Party  has a hard time raising money in Georgia because they don’t control anything,” Thompson said.

Republicans have held both chambers of the General Assembly and statewide offices since the 2000s. Democrats are hoping to break through this year and donors have been freely giving to both parties and candidates, making this year's governor's race the first $100 million contest in Georgia history.

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