How Georgia’s top candidates raised their campaign cash

Brian Kemp and Stacey Abrams race of governor (staff photos)

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Brian Kemp and Stacey Abrams race of governor (staff photos)

Georgia’s election is certain to set new state midterm fundraising records with a polarizing rematch for governor and a U.S. Senate race that could again determine control of the chamber.

Here’s a closer look at how the marquee candidates stocked their campaign coffers.

TOTAL CASH

If you needed any reminder that Georgia is the nation’s premier battleground state, look no further than the total campaign hauls.

Gov. Brian Kemp raised more than $31 million in his two campaign accounts since he took office in 2019, roughly doubling what his predecessor Nathan Deal amassed for his entire reelection campaign.

Stacey Abrams obliterated the Republican incumbent’s total, approaching $50 million in overall money raised since she entered the race in December.

A Republican-forged fundraising mechanism is helping to turbocharge their campaign accounts. Candidates can collect unlimited donations through newly created leadership committees that can directly coordinate with the campaigns.


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Herschel Walker and Sen. Raphael Warnock 2022 Georgia Senate election.

Credit: Staff and wire

Herschel Walker and Sen. Raphael Warnock 2022 Georgia Senate election.

Credit: Staff and wire

Combined ShapeCaption
Herschel Walker and Sen. Raphael Warnock 2022 Georgia Senate election.

Credit: Staff and wire

Credit: Staff and wire

In the U.S. Senate race, there’s even greater disparity between the two rivals. Republican nominee Herschel Walker has emerged as one of the nation’s top GOP fundraisers by collecting about $20 million since he launched his campaign in August.

But Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock hasn’t stopped his torrid fundraising after his 2021 runoff victory. He’s tallied about $85 million since he took office, smashing a string of records for quarterly fundraising totals.

OUT OF STATE

The top candidates have expanded their donor bases beyond Georgia, but none so much as Abrams. About 84% of her itemized donations – generally contributions over $200 – and checks to her leadership committee are from out-of-state.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution analysis doesn’t show the complete picture, however. She also tallied $6.7 million in small-dollar unitemized donations that aren’t required to disclose details.

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Democratic candidate for Georgia governor Stacy Abrams talks to a crowd during a campaign stop at the Two Eggs restaurant in McDonough Saturday, July 9, 2022. Steve Schaefer / steve.schaefer@ajc.com)

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Democratic candidate for Georgia governor Stacy Abrams talks to a crowd during a campaign stop at the Two Eggs restaurant in McDonough Saturday, July 9, 2022. Steve Schaefer / steve.schaefer@ajc.com)

Credit: Steve Schaefer

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Democratic candidate for Georgia governor Stacy Abrams talks to a crowd during a campaign stop at the Two Eggs restaurant in McDonough Saturday, July 9, 2022. Steve Schaefer / steve.schaefer@ajc.com)

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Kemp has also appealed to donors from outside Georgia, though his numbers pale in comparison to the Democrat’s haul. He collected about 13% of itemized donations and leadership committee funds from supporters who don’t live in Georgia.

The governor was the only of the four candidates in the state’s top races to raise a majority of his campaign cash from Georgia donors. About 37% of Walker’s itemized donations came from Georgians, while about 11% of Warnock’s campaign checks originated from within the state.

SMALL DOLLAR DONORS

The Senate candidates proved how small-dollar donations have transformed modern campaigns.

Walker raised nearly $8 million from unitemized donations, amounting to about 39% of his total haul. Warnock collected nearly half of his contributions – 46% – from small-dollar supporters. That amounted to a staggering $39 million.

The money raised from small donors played a lesser role in the race for governor. About 14% of Abrams’ donations were unitemized contributions, though that still amounted to $6.7 million. Kemp tallied about $540,000 from smaller donors, just 2% of his total haul.

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U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock and Stacey Abrams greet each other at a 2020 event.

Credit: Associated Press

U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock and Stacey Abrams greet each other at a 2020 event.

Credit: Associated Press

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U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock and Stacey Abrams greet each other at a 2020 event.

Credit: Associated Press

Credit: Associated Press

LEADERSHIP COMMITTEES

The new fundraising vehicles have already transformed the race for governor – and reshaped the financial landscape in Georgia campaigns.

Kemp used his leadership committee to soak up about $5.3 million, including about $4.5 million from within the state. His backers included local GOP donors Don Leebern III and Ben Tarbutton, along with Lucky Bucks, the coin-operated machine firm.

Abrams soared past Kemp’s total, collecting about $18.6 million through her leadership committee. About $1.8 million of that total came from within Georgia.

The contributors include $2.5 million each from Democratic megadonors Karla Jurvetson and George Soros, along with $1 million checks from a pair of labor unions. The Fair Fight group that Abrams founded chipped in $1.5 million and the Democratic Governors Association added another $1 million.