The Jolt: Democrats poised to outspend Republicans heading into campaign’s final stretch

News and analysis from the politics team at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Then Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Raphael Warnock bumps elbows with Stacey Abrams during a campaign rally with then U.S. President-elect Joe Biden at Pullman Yard on Dec. 15, 2020 in Atlanta. Abrams is running to unseat Gov. Brian Kemp and Sen. Warnock is running against former NFL star Herschel Walker. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images/TNS)

Credit: TNS

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Then Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Raphael Warnock bumps elbows with Stacey Abrams during a campaign rally with then U.S. President-elect Joe Biden at Pullman Yard on Dec. 15, 2020 in Atlanta. Abrams is running to unseat Gov. Brian Kemp and Sen. Warnock is running against former NFL star Herschel Walker. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images/TNS)

Credit: TNS

Political ad spending in Georgia’s marquee races is poised to set staggering new midterm records. And so far, Democrats are setting the pace.

An analysis by media guru Rick Dent found that more than $270 million worth of ads have already been booked or reserved in Georgia.

That includes $64 million in the race for governor between Democrat Stacey Abrams and Republican incumbent Brian Kemp. So far, Abrams and her allies account for about $38 million of the spending while GOP ads amount to $26 million.

In the race for U.S. Senate, the ad spending already tops $207 million: At least $90 million to support GOP Senate hopeful Herschel Walker and more than $117 million backing Democrat Raphael Warnock’s reelection.

Warnock has demolished fundraising records for Georgia Senate fundraising this cycle. He is, by far, the highest raising Senate candidate in the country, with an astounding $63 million raised this cycle, and had $22 million cash-on-hand as of his last FEC quarterly report.

And Walker is among the top raising Republican Senate campaigns, too, with about $20 million raised and $6.8 million in the bank as of his most recent filing.

Abrams has brought in nearly $50 million for her governor’s race so far, while Kemp has raised about $31 million.

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BUCKLE UP. Rudy Giuliani is expected in Fulton County Superior Court today to testify to the special grand jury investigating former President Donald Trump for possible election interference.

Judge Robert McBurney ordered the former New York City mayor to come to Georgia by bus, automobile, or any other mode of transport he prefers to respond to the subpoena compelling him to testify in the case.

The AJC’s Tamar Hallerman warns to expect a crush of local and national reporters on downtown streets straining to get a glimpse of Giuliani as he heads into his secret testimony.

Journalist Soledad O’Brien reported spotting him Tuesday night looking healthy and dining at the Ritz-Carlton Atlanta.

And she’s got the insight into what to expect in the case here and elsewhere in the latest episode of the Breakdown podcast with Bill Rankin and in today’s AJC.

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Also today, Trump campaign lawyer John Eastman will be in a Santa Fe court regarding his Fulton subpoena.

And look for U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham and Trump attorney Jenna Ellis, who have both been compelled to answer their subpoenas, for scheduled court appearances in Atlanta next week.

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LISTEN UP. We look at the political implications of Rudy Giuliani’s new designation as a target, not just a witness, in the Fulton County special grand jury investigation, along with Democrats’ statewide sales job for the health care, tax, and climate bill that President Joe Biden just signed, in our midweek edition of the Politically Georgia podcast.

Listen and subscribe at Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or Stitcher.

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WARNOCK’S PIGGYBANK. U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock filed his personal financial disclosures for the 2021 calendar year on Tuesday, and they continue to outline the finances of a man who makes much more than the average Georgian, but lacks the million-dollar fortune of many of his Senate colleagues or his GOP rival Herschel Walker.

The year also brought a reduction in salary and benefits for the head pastor of Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, down from $200,000 the year prior to about $121,000. While Senate ethics rules prohibit most outside employment for members, Warnock’s disclosure form says that the Ethics Committee staff signed off on his Ebenezer salary and benefits.

The biggest source of income for Warnock in 2021 was a $243,750 book advance for his new memoir, A Way Out of No Way, which was released in June.

In total, Warnock reported $367,965.76 in income. That’s down slightly from the $386,439 he reported for 2020, and does not include his $174,000 a year Senate salary, which does not have to be included on the disclosure form.

Warnock also earned $5,750 for five paid speeches in 2021, but all of that money was donated to charity per Senate ethics rules.

HIs bank accounts, pension and various mutual funds are worth between $654,014 and $1.5 million. And his income on these assets, which are reported in ranges, was between $10,606 and $29,800.

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STOP THE STEAL. A group of Donald Trump supporters copied a trove of sensitive election files from Coffee County on the day after the Georgia Senate runoffs in 2021, according to documents produced in response to subpoenas from an election lawsuit.

The bizarre data breach happened at the direction of Sidney Powell, who was a prominent campaign lawyer for former President Donald Trump as he mounted his “Stop the Steal” effort to overturn Georgia’s 2020 election results.

The Washington Post first reported on the documents on Monday, and the AJC’s Mark Niesse followed up by confirming the GBI’s criminal investigation into the incident.

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YOU’RE INVITED. A special invitation to Jolt subscribers: Join the three of us -- Patricia Murphy, Tia Mitchell and Greg Bluestein -- on Thursday at Noon (ET) for a special online briefing about the state of the Georgia races.

We’ll discuss what we’re seeing on the campaign trail and take your questions on all things #gapol.

RSVP here.

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FOUR-PEAT? Gov. Brian Kemp made a bold prediction at Tuesday’s announcement that Atlanta will host college football’s national championship game in 2025.

“As y’all know, Georgia won the national championship last year,” Kemp said to a room that needed no reminders.

“I believe they’re going to repeat this year. Then win the next year. And then we’ll see them win their fourth in a row, mayor, in this game.”

He nodded to Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens, a Georgia Tech graduate who may have taken too many pain medications after fracturing his foot.

“I’m with the governor. We can get Georgia back-to-back-to-back. Then in 2025, we can have the Bulldogs versus the Yellow Jackets, right here for the national championship.”

Georgia Tech has managed just three wins in each of the last three seasons, which is why Dickens quickly added: “That would be amazing – given where my Yellow Jackets got to go to get there.”

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NO SPIKING. Stacey Abrams’ campaign responded to the championship news in kind.

“Today underscored two certainties in this world,” said Abrams spokesman Alex Floyd. “The Georgia Bulldogs will play at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in 2025, and Georgians concerned about gun safety are being forced out of public facilities as a result of Brian Kemp’s extreme agenda on guns.”

As for whether the College Football Playoff selected Atlanta to make a political statement, executive director Bill Hancock said the city “earned” the title game with its amenities, logistics, hotels and leaders.

“Sports and politics don’t mix,” Hancock told reporters. “We’re sports.”

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ON THE ROAD. With Congress in recess and November racing closer, our daybooks are filling up fast, including:

  • U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock launches his statewide bus tour this morning, with rallies Wednesday and Thursday planned for Warner Robins, Dublin, Milledgeville, Eatonton, Conyers, and Stonecrest;
  • U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff, traveling the state himself, joins Sen. Raphael Warnock and Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jack Reed for a press conference at Warner Robins Air Force Base Wednesday;
  • Herschel Walker holds a “Women for Herschel” event in Kennesaw today;
  • U.S. Rep. Drew Ferguson hosts a fundraiser for 2nd District GOP nominee Chris West in Columbus Wednesday;
  • Stacey Abrams holds a “Stacey and the Fellas” event focused on Black male voters in Savannah Sunday.

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HELP NEEDED. Across the country, including Georgia, elections officials are warning that poll worker shortages could have big consequences in the fall, including long lines and delayed results.

The AJC’s Mark Niesse reports that the temporary jobs come with relatively low pay and long hours, making it difficult to hire people in Georgia, where the unemployment rate is a record-low 2.9%.

And it doesn’t help that workers faced threats following the 2020 election by people who wrongly believed the result was fraudulent.

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TIME OUT. Tuesday marked “Help America Vote Day,” and the biggest news of the day was the NBA announcing no teams will play on Election Day in November to allow players, coaches and staff time to focus on nonpartisan “get out the vote” efforts.

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JAIL WARS. In a meeting that went on for hours and featured passionate remarks from Atlanta residents and activists, the City Council agreed to lease beds at its detention center to Fulton County, whose own jail is severely overcrowded.

The AJC’s J.D. Capelouto reports that the lease won’t begin until officials conduct an analysis of Fulton County’s jail population.

The agreement, originally negotiated by Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens and Fulton County Sheriff Patrick Labat, now goes to the Fulton County Board of Commissioners for a vote scheduled for today.

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AUNT FANNY’S NO MORE. Smyrna city crews demolished the one-story house that was once the controversial Aunt Fanny’s Cabin last week, after plans to move the structure to private property fell through, Axios Atlanta reports.

Axios’ Kristal Dixon snapped a photo as the structure was turned to rubble, sending the long-shuttered, racist-themed restaurant to the dust heap of history.

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AS ALWAYS, Jolt readers are some of our favorite tipsters. Send your best scoop, gossip and insider info to patricia.murphy@ajc.com, tia.mitchell@ajc.com and greg.bluestein@ajc.com.

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