That means that when new fundraising numbers come out in a few days, the disclosures will likely show that Abrams has a sizeable lead over Kemp. As such, the incumbent has accelerated its fundraising efforts to keep up as much as possible.
Abrams officially entered the race last December — some nine months later than the incumbent governor — but was just $1.6 million behind him in fundraising, according to financial disclosure forms filed in March for each campaign committee. By now, Abrams may have overtaken Kemp; the filing deadline for the second quarter was June 30, and results will be released in early July.
“Stacey Abrams has always been an elite fundraiser. And I don’t think that dynamic is going to change,” said Chip Lake, a veteran GOP consultant from Georgia. “Look, him [Kemp] doesn’t have to outperform Stacey Abrams, but he can’t be blown out of the water.”
In addition to the tenure advantage, Kemp actually emerged stronger from his bitter primary race. Trump’s anger at Kemp for failing to support his false claims that the 2020 election was fraudulent threatened to split the party, but Kemp’s overwhelming victory over Trump-backed David Perdue in May gave the governor a jolt way to the parliamentary elections.
But to keep up with the pace of Abrams’ fundraising, Kemp’s team is expanding its contacts with donors outside of Georgia who can contribute six-figure checks to its executive PAC, and it pays several fundraising consultants to do the work.
“We have entered this general election fully aware that we will be outmatched and spent,” said Cody Hall, spokesman for Kemp. “But you know, it comes down to how well we can keep up, and we’re confident about that.”
Hall added that fundraising nationally is something Kemp could have done better in 2018 and has now made it a priority.
This includes face-to-face meetings with some of the party’s most prominent donors. Last October, Kemp flew to Wisconsin to meet Liz Uihlein, the billionaire CEO of shipping giant Uline, which has a campus in Braselton, Georgia, northeast of Atlanta.
Uihlein political adviser Tony Povkovich told POLITICO that the two have spoken about their families, voter integrity, the state’s recovery from Covid and the Port of Savannah. Thereafter, Uihlein wrote Kemp two checks: one for $250,000 in January and one for $150,000 in April, according to the financial disclosure forms for Kemp’s PAC, Georgians First Leadership PAC.
According to the latest financial disclosure forms, some of the PAC’s largest donations come from national companies like Uline that operate in Georgia. One of them is Majestic Realty, a private commercial real estate development company based in California with a regional office in Atlanta, which donated $250,000 to Kemp last November.
Another is SDH Management Service, a two-year-old LLC affiliated with Brett Steele, the vice president and chief legal officer of Smith Douglas Homes, a Woodstock, Georgia-based homebuilder with operations throughout the Southeast. SDH sent $150,000 to the PAC in July 2021.
Kemp has also attracted national figures to fundraisers – most notably former President George W. Bush, who contributed $5,000 at an event in Texas.
“When you’re involved in a shooting, you don’t care where your ammunition was made, you just need it,” said John Watson, the Georgia GOP chairman during the 2018 election cycle. “Because of that, it’s going to be aggressive outreach give and continue to give with national donors and small donor programs. I expect this will be an absolutely critical part [Kemp’s] overall financing plan.”
To increase his fundraising numbers against Abrams, Kemp’s campaign has also enlisted the services of several financial advisory firms. According to Tate Mitchell, Kemp’s publicist for the campaign, the Campaign Consulting Group handled the state’s fundraising. Kemp’s team also has Washington, DC-based Dogwood Consulting Group, who has worked with the Senate Leadership Fund, and Briarwood Strategies, who was engaged by the Scalise Leadership Fund and Drew Ferguson for Congress this cycle and last help paid. for fundraising advice according to the Federal Electoral Commission.
Leadership PACs are new to this election cycle in Georgia. For the first time, gubernatorial candidates can operate leadership PACS that accept unlimited donations and vote directly with candidates in addition to their main campaign committees. Kemp has already raised an additional $4.7 million through this new campaign tool.
It is not yet known how much Abrams brought in leadership PAC. Abrams started her PAC in March, but was forced to stop contributing until she won the primary and became the official Democratic Party gubernatorial candidate in May; Because he is the incumbent, the law allowed Kemp to raise funds for his PAC before the primary.
Based on early disclosures from her contributors, Abrams has at least $3.5 million: $1 million of which came from Democracy II, a PAC run by liberal mega-donor George Soros; $1 million from the Democratic Governors Association; and $1.5 million from Fair Fight Inc, the political action committee of the nonprofit Abrams founded in 2018.
Her campaign committee has about $20.8 million — slightly behind Kemp’s campaign committee, despite raising funds less than half the time. She also paused fundraising after the Supreme Court’s draft abortion decision became public to support reproductive rights groups.
The razor-thin margins for the Georgia election have made fundraising even more competitive since the last gubernatorial election. Joe Biden won the state in his presidential campaign by fewer than 12,000 votes. The Senate races of the last cycle were won by Democrats Sens. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock in runoffs by 50,000 and 90,000 votes, respectively. And all four Senate candidates on the ballot have broken fundraising records; In a single two-month reporting period before the election, the candidates collectively raised more than $340 million.
Abraham once said Georgia was a “cheap date.” when he persuaded Democrats to run there ahead of the 2020 general election. She was right about the possibility of attracting more Democratic officeholders, according to the 2020 cycle results, but those results came at a high cost and this year’s races are expected to continue the trend.
“Each cycle becomes more expensive. And I think this one will be more expensive than the last one – like any future election cycle,” Watson said. “Whatever the cost before, I can only guarantee you one thing: This time it will be more.”