The Democratic presidential campaign of U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota did well in drawing at $220,000 in donations from Georgia in the past six months even though her polling and fundraising at the national level have not been as strong. (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)
Photo: Bill Pugliano
Photo: Bill Pugliano

Which 2020 Democrats are Georgia donors backing?

Georgia Democrats have yet to coalesce around who to support for president. An analysis of campaign disclosures shows that the state’s donors are just as undecided.

An Atlanta Journal-Constitution review of thousands of federal financial records showed former Vice President Joe Biden was the top Democratic fundraiser in Georgia over the past six months — but only by a narrow margin.

U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris of California and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg were right behind him, followed by surprisingly strong financial support for U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, who trails the top contenders both in the polls and in fundraising.

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont was peppered with small-dollar donations that were the trademark of his 2016 run for president, attracting a range of donations from pastors to professors, as did U.S. Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

The rest of the field had middling financial support from Georgia donors, with some collecting a few hundred dollars — or nothing at all.

The preliminary data from the Federal Elections Commission detail the early fundraising edge for President Donald Trump, who carried Georgia by about 5 percentage points in 2016. He raised more than $800,000 from state donors over the past six months, according to the newspaper’s analysis.

Still, although no Democrat has emerged as the clear fundraising favorite in Georgia, the figures point to broader enthusiasm about next year’s vote. Georgians have given more than $1.5 million to Democratic White House hopefuls this year.

‘Gravitas’

The scattered financial support reflects the unsettled field. An NBC News poll of about 1,200 Georgia voters released over the weekend found Biden leads the pack with 31%, followed by a knot of three candidates — Harris, Warren and Sanders — clustered in the teens. All the other Democratic candidates were in single digits.

Only a handful of high-profile Georgians have endorsed a Democratic hopeful. And a recent AJC survey found that hardly any state elected officials, leading Democratic figures and grassroots activists have decided on a candidate in the sprawling field yet.

» ELECTION 2020: Georgia Presidential candidate visit tracker

» MORE: Democratic presidential hopefuls emphasize Georgia’s big role in 2020

It’s not for lack of attention. An AJC analysis shows that major candidates have made more than a dozen trips to Atlanta. And Democrats swear they plan to zero in on Georgia this election in hopes of flipping the state for the first time since Bill Clinton’s 1992 victory.

The roughly $340,000 that Biden has raised in Georgia since he entered the race in late April reflects a mix of well-heeled donors and veteran politicos, such as former Gov. Roy Barnes, who listened to the ex-vice president’s pitch in June in the two-story den of an Atlanta airport concessionaire.

There were also grassroots Democrats who quickly donated to Biden because they see him as the best Democratic hope to defeat Trump next year.

U.S. Senator Kamala D. Harris, D-California, addresses supporters while holding a campaign rally at Morehouse College on Sunday, March 24, 2019, in Atlanta. The Democratic candidate for president is at least the fifth presidential candidate to visit Georgia in the 2020 cycle. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com
Photo: ccompton@ajc.com/Curtis Compton

“I’m hopeful he has the gravitas to back Mr. Trump down. I’m a commercial real estate broker, and I don’t vote for people who walk away from the deals they put together,” said Gina Johnson, who lives in Big Canoe and donated about $110.

“I’m hoping Joe Biden can bring everyone back together and we can get back to a society of centrists,” she added. “I hope we can get back to the middle.”

‘Hallowed ground’

Harris’ collected about $320,000 from Georgia donors after years of cultivating support in the state, including campaign visits in 2017 and 2018 to endorse Keisha Lance Bottoms in the Atlanta mayor’s race and Stacey Abrams in her campaign for governor. In March, Harris swung by two famous Atlanta institutions and raked in nearly $20,000 in Georgia contributions in the days after the visit.

» ELECTION 2020: Which Democratic candidates raised the most through March

» DIGGING DEEPER: White House hopefuls court Georgia, which is ‘now more than an ATM’

Buttigieg’s fundraising success — his nearly $25 million national haul over the past three months has propelled him to the upper tier of 2020 candidates — trickled down to Georgia. He amassed at least $315,000 in Georgia, including at least $12,000 in the days after a March visit.

That trip featured a private fundraiser at one of Atlanta’s Democratic institutions — Manuel’s Tavern — which he called “hallowed ground” before warning dozens of his supporters that Trump “can absolutely win again, as unpopular as he may seem” if Democrats nominate a status-quo candidate.

Klobuchar raised at least $220,000 in Georgia, backed by a fundraiser early this year with some of the state’s old-guard Democratic figures that include Barnes and ex-U.S. Rep. Buddy Darden. And small-dollar donors helped top off Sanders’ campaign.

One of them was Kathy Gatto, a film editor who chipped in about $150 to his campaign. She recognizes that he’s trailing in the polls and is “not optimistic about his chances at the moment, but I’ll keep pulling for him and donating when I can swing it to help.”

Susan Todd-Raque, an art adviser, once was a solid Sanders supporter. But this year, she was among hundreds of Georgians who sent a check instead to Warren, whom she considers a more refined candidate better able to compete with Trump.

“She gets it. She gets the Trump playbook. She has a plan to fight for the middle class,” said Todd-Raque, who gave $175. “She understands what we need to do to give everyone the opportunity to do better — and she knows that right now the system is rigged against that.”

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Data specialist Isaac Sabetai contributed to this article.

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