Kemp, Abrams haul in three times the campaign cash they did in 2018

Brian Kemp and Stacey Abrams set fundraising records when they faced off in the 2018 governor’s race, spending about $48 million combined. They have more than tripled that figure in this year’s rematch.

Kemp, who narrowly won the 2018 contest, and Abrams reported Tuesday that through Oct. 25, they had raised more than $165 million. And big money has continued to flow in since then.

The money has gone to pay for nonstop advertising and a ground game of canvassers and texters in a nationally watched contest that has brought in contributions from across the country.

Tuesday was the deadline for the last major campaign finance report before next week’s midterm elections. The latest filings this week by state candidates show how much of a battleground Georgia has become since the closely contested Kemp-Abrams fight of 2018 and the Democratic victories in the presidential and U.S. Senate contests two years later.

Kemp reported raising more than $8 million over much of the past month and ending the latest reporting period with $10.3 million in the bank. In total, he’s raised about $69 million for his reelection bid, well above the $21 million he spent to beat his Democratic opponent in 2018.

Abrams, who has long had a nationwide fundraising network and collects most of her money from outside Georgia, reported raising more than $11.5 million over the past 3 1/2 weeks and ended the latest fundraising period with $5.6 million in the bank. She has raised nearly $97 million, after spending $27 million in 2018.

The fundraising numbers are bloated in part because Republicans in the General Assembly last year created leadership committees to allow a few select candidates — including Kemp and Abrams — to raise unlimited contributions from donors.

Currently, candidates have a cap on how much they can raise from a single donor when they raise cash for their main campaign operations. Statewide candidates are allowed to raise $7,600 from individual donors for the primary and again for the general election.

There are no limits on leadership committees. Combined, Abrams and Kemp had raised about $80 million through their leadership committees by Oct. 25, with contributions as large as $5 million at a time from wealthy donors and groups.

Both campaigns have invested tremendous resources into a grassroots apparatus that’s helped set midterm turnout records during the early voting period.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution also reported earlier this month that the major candidates — including Kemp, Abrams and U.S. Senate hopefuls — and outside groups supporting them combined to spend or schedule more than $360 million worth of advertising.

Some of the donors to the leadership committees in the past few weeks have been repeat customers. For instance, the National Education Association, a Washington-based teacher’s union, had previously given Abrams’ One Georgia fund $400,000, but it chipped in an additional $150,000 this month.

Democratic megadonor Karla Jurvetson of California, who previously contributed $3.5 million to Abrams’ leadership committee gave another $1.5 million this month. The political action committee of Fair Fight, the voting rights organization she started after losing in 2018, has contributed more than $3.5 million in cash and in-kind services, including about $600,000 in the past month.

A group largely funded by a Macon nursing home company previously gave Kemp’s Georgians First fund $100,000. It gave an additional $125,000 a few weeks ago. Republican megadonor Timothy Mellon of Wyoming, grandson of banking tycoon Andrew Mellon, in September contributed $5 million — the largest individual donation to the committee. He gave an additional $500,000 a few weeks ago.

The largesse isn’t just at the top of the ticket. State Sen. Burt Jones, R-Jackson, the GOP nominee for lieutenant governor, has raised about $10.4 million, while Charlie Bailey, an attorney who is the Democratic nominee for the job, has taken in $2.9 million. In 2018, the two top party nominees for that office raised less than $5 million combined by the late October reporting period.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has raised $3 million for re-election and his Democratic opponent, Rep. Bee Nguyen, D-Atlanta, has taken in $3.6 million, a large haul for a challenger in a race well down the ballot.

Attorney General Chris Carr has reported raising $4.76 million for his re-election bid so far, while his Democratic opponent, state Sen. Jen. Jordan, D-Atlanta, reported taking in $3.46 million. Carr has raised more than twice as much as he did by the same time in 2018, and Jordan more than four times as much as the attorney general’s Democratic opponent that year.