Campaign finance report reveals candidates' coffers


The latest round of campaign finance reports have been filed, giving voters insight into how much money candidates are raising and spending on their bids to gain office.

For instance, the two candidates for governor have raised nearly $22 million and spent $12.4 million between them over the last three months.

Republican Brian Kemp raised about $11.76 million over the most recent reporting period, which spans July 1 to Sept. 30, while Democrat Stacey Abrams raised about $10.22 million.

Kemp, Georgia’s secretary of state, has about $6.6 million on hand after spending about $5.6 million in July, August and September. Abrams, the former House minority leader, spent about $6.8 million over the reporting period and has about $4.9 million in cash on hand.

The local race with the most money pouring in is for the District 6 seat in the Georgia Senate, which represents Smyrna, Cumberland and south Marietta, as well as Buckhead and north Fulton.

State Sen. Jen Jordan, D-Atlanta, was elected in a special election last year and has $215,563 in cash on hand to fund her reelection after raising $172,178 during the most recent reporting period.

Republican Leah Aldridge is challenging Jordan after losing to her in last year’s special election. Aldridge raised $138,405 over the reporting period and has about $178,604 on hand.

IMPORTANCE OF MONEY IN CAMPAIGNS

A candidate’s ability to raise money is sometimes seen as a litmus test for a candidate’s viability or seriousness, according to Kerwin Swint, political science professor and interim dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Kennesaw State University.

In addition to being able to send out more campaign fliers and broadcast more political ads, Swint said candidates with large war chests also get more media attention — he refers to it as a “money primary.”

However, Swint noted that the candidates with the most money don’t always win, pointing to two examples: the reelection campaigns of former Gov. Roy Barnes in 2002 and former Cobb Chair Tim Lee in 2016.

Barnes outspent Republican Sonny Perdue five to one in 2002 but still lost, though this was a case of a particularly vulnerable incumbent, Swint said.

Lee was defeated by current Chair Mike Boyce who spent less money but was able to win due to a superior grass roots effort, Swint said.

This phenomenon of better-funded candidates being defeated is becoming more common, Swint said, due to the rise of social media and the relative low cost of reaching voters over those platforms and a greater focus on grass roots mobilization.

“Over the last couple of election cycles, we’re seeing more and more examples of the candidate with less money actually winning,” Swint said.

INCUMBENTS TYPICALLY RAISE MORE THAN CHALLENGERS

Swint said it’s “almost always the case” that most incumbents are able to raise more money than their challengers because they have established networks they can reach out to in order to finance their campaigns. But, he said, that’s not always the case.

“It’s a little unusual, but it happens” he said. “It could mean that the incumbent is already vulnerable and so a well-established challenger is able to raise good money. It could mean that some PAC interests are aligned against a particular incumbent that they’d like to take out, so they’re heavily funding a challenger. It could be a wealthy challenger, self-funded.”

In three statewide races, Democratic challengers have better financing than the Republican incumbents they seek to unseat.

Incumbent Republican Chuck Eaton represents District 3 on Georgia’s Public Service Commission, raising about $103,826 over the reporting period to give him about $237,561 in cash on hand for his reelection campaign.

Democrat Lindy Miller is running for Eaton’s seat and raised $330,151 over the same period to give her $443,063 in cash on hand.

The same trend can be seen in the campaign finance reports filed by candidates for labor commissioner — Republican incumbent Mark Butler has $5,875 on hand compared to Democrat Richard Keatley, who has $51,078 on hand — and state school superintendent, where incumbent Republican Richard Woods has about $6,320 on hand compared to Democrat Otha Thornton Jr., who has $11,470 in cash on hand.

Locally, one Republican has outraised the Democratic incumbent she’s challenging. Republican DeAnna Harris, who is running to replace state Rep. Michael Smith, D-Marietta. Harris raised about $13,315 over the period to give her about $27,613 on hand, while Smith raised about $10,370 and spent about $6,025 over the same period to record $5,449 in cash on hand.

Two Democrats running for Republican-held seats in the Georgia House raised more money over the reporting period than the incumbents they are challenging but have much less cash on hand due to the incumbents carrying large campaign chests over from previous elections.

Democrat Luisa Wakeman raised $32,774 over the reporting period, slightly more the $30,150 raised by her opponent, state Rep. Sharon Cooper, R-east Cobb. But Cooper has $214,585 on hand for the election while Wakeman has just $49,152 in her coffers.

It’s the same story in House District 44, where Democrat Chinita Allen raised $6,482 over the reporting period while Republican state Rep. Don Parsons, R-north Cobb, raised $3,350 over the same period. But Parsons has the cash on hand advantage with $90,662 compared to Allen’s $6,435 thanks to previous contributions.

NO INCUMBENT? NO PROBLEM

Without an incumbent in the race, it’s a tossup which candidate will raise the most money.

In House District 36, which sits in deep red west Cobb, incumbent Republican state Rep. Earl Ehrhart is retiring. Running to replace him is his wife, Republican Ginny Ehrhart, and Democrat Jen Slipakoff.

Ginny Ehrhart raised $30,750 during the reporting period compared to about $26,734 raised by Slipakoff. However, Slipakoff has about $70,935 in cash on hand, nearly double the $38,052 Ginny Ehrhart has.

Another Democrat outraising his Republican opponent in a race without an incumbent is John Barrow ($463,126 on hand) over Brad Raffensperger ($152,672 on hand) in the secretary of state’s race.

On the flip side, in House District 40, Republican attorney Matt Bentley has about $63,547 on hand compared to Democrat Erick Allen, who has $34,095 on hand. The race is for the seat being vacated by retiring state Rep. Rich Golick, R-Smyrna.

Another example is in the race for lieutenant governor. Republican Geoff Duncan, a former state representative, has about $1.12 million in cash on hand after raising about $1.2 million over the reporting period. Democrat Sarah Riggs Amico has about $345,068 on hand after raising $464,686 during the reporting period.



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