Gov. Brian Kemp is flexing his financial muscles ahead of a challenging re-election campaign.
The Republican will report raising roughly $12 million so far this cycle for his bid for a second term, with about $9 million in cash on hand a year out from the primaries. That includes $3.9 million in cash collected over the last three months, his campaign said Thursday.
Kemp’s rapid fundraising pace set a state fundraising record at this stage in a Georgia gubernatorial contest. And it comes as he faces pressure from challengers on his right flank while he prepares for an expected rematch against Stacey Abrams.
The governor began collecting checks and headlining fundraisers almost as soon as he defeated Abrams in the 2018 race for governor, and he’s held a blitz of recent events around the state. He is also racing to bolster a grassroots infrastructure to rally skittish conservatives behind him.
His fundraising advantage will soon be put to the test. He faces a primary challenge from Vernon Jones, a party-switching former Democrat running as a Donald Trump loyalist. Other Kemp critics could soon enter the GOP race, emboldened by Trump’s promise to punish the governor for refusing to reverse his election defeat.
And looming after the primary is a tough general election campaign. Senior Democrats expect Abrams to make another run for governor, and she’ll have a fundraising juggernaut mobilized behind her. The Fair Fight voting rights group she founded after her defeat has already raised more than $100 million.
Kemp is certain to continue to leverage the power of incumbency as 2022 nears. And a new law that allows state leaders to set up “leadership committees” that can raise unlimited campaign donations from supporters, including during the legislative session, could further boost his bid.
The Republican’s robust fundraising outpaced other incumbent governors. At this stage in their re-election bids, Roy Barnes raised roughly $4 million, Sonny Perdue collected $7.6 million and Nathan Deal amassed about $3.7 million.
At this point in the last gubernatorial race, GOP front-runner Casey Cagle took in roughly $2.6 million, while Kemp tallied about $1.7 million. Abrams, who was not yet a national Democratic figure, had collected about $500,000 in mid-2017.