Perdue has less than $1M in the bank, far behind Kemp, Abrams

Brian Kemp, Stacey Abrams and David Perdue

Credit: AJC

Credit: AJC

Brian Kemp, Stacey Abrams and David Perdue

Former U.S. Sen. David Perdue raised only $1.7 million in a crucial three-month period ahead of the May 24 primary, a fundraising deficit that compounds the growing challenges facing his Donald Trump-backed campaign to oust Gov. Brian Kemp.

Perdue, who reported a net worth of roughly $50 million in his financial disclosure, also disclosed he stroked himself a $500,000 check for his campaign for governor. He has about $900,000 in his account — less than a tenth of what’s left in Kemp’s coffers.

It reflects a harsh reality for Perdue’s insurgent challenge: Many of the same donors who dipped into their bank accounts for Perdue’s two U.S. Senate campaigns are either staying neutral in his primary challenge -- or they’re backing Kemp’s campaign for a second term.

Even though his fundraising report revealed he lags far behind Kemp’s balance sheet -- the governor ended the latest reporting period with $10.7 million in cash on hand -- Perdue insisted in an interview that he’s “right where we need to be.”

“He had three and a half years to raise money. So we’re going to get outspent. But I’ve been outspent in every race I’ve been in, from ‘14 to ‘20 to even now,” Perdue said. “What we’re doing is taking our message to the people.”

Trailing Kemp by double-digits in every recent public poll, including an AJC survey that pegged Kemp with a 53-27 lead, Perdue’s only chance at an upset victory is keeping the incumbent governor below the 50% threshold.

That would force a June runoff that would bring more money, more attention and, potentially, more visits by Trump to help boost his campaign.

Kemp is determined to snuff out Perdue’s chances. His campaign raised $2.7 million in roughly 26 days in April to fill the airwaves, and he recently traveled to Perdue’s hometown to sign an income tax cut. He’ll soon ink a budget that includes teacher pay hikes and other perks.

Adding to Perdue’s troubles, an Atlanta Journal-Constitution review of advertising records shows his campaign and its allies with scant spending in the final weeks of the race. That’s compared to millions of dollars worth of airtime booked by Kemp and his supporters.

If Perdue falters, it won’t be because Trump didn’t play his part.

The former president headlined two Kemp-bashing rallies in Georgia, filmed TV ads for Perdue and hosted a Florida fundraiser to boost his cash-strapped campaign account. And pro-Trump groups have booked more than $2.5 million worth of airtime for Perdue.

And last week, Trump used a telephone rally with Perdue to issue a stark warning to his supporters by predicting that both Kemp and Senate GOP frontrunner Herschel Walker would lose in November if Perdue loses.

“One of the problems also is if Brian Kemp gets in, I think it’s going to be very, very hard for Herschel Walker to win,” Trump said of the former football star, whom he’s endorsed to take on Democratic U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock.

“Because I don’t believe Republicans are going to go out and vote for Brian Kemp. And if they’re not voting for Brian Kemp, they’re not going to be able to vote for Herschel Walker.”

The governor has amassed his edge even though he was barred by law from raising money for much of the first three months of the year because state officials can’t collect campaign checks during General Assembly sessions.

Meanwhile, a November contest against Democrat Stacey Abrams looms. She’s far outpacing Perdue in fundraising -- and fast catching up to Kemp’s financial head start.

She has collected $21 million since entering the race in December, including $11.7 million between February and April. She has more than $8 million in the bank after spending big on a mix of TV, digital and radio ads promoting her “One Georgia” campaign theme.