U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston of Savannah nearly doubled the fundraising haul of any other U.S. Senate candidate in the second quarter, while U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey of Marietta still has the biggest campaign bank account in the Republican race to replace Saxby Chambliss.
Trailing in the money chase so far are U.S. Rep. Paul Broun of Athens, who relies more on a grass-roots following, and former Secretary of State Karen Handel, who got a later start and does not have an incumbency perch to raise from.
The results provide an early indication of the candidates’ strength, but do little to clear the muddied field ahead of next year’s voting.
“I don’t think there is a front-runner based on (the fundraising reports), and also surveys I’ve seen and also talk out there,” said Kerwin Swint, political science professor at Kennesaw State University.
Most of the action is on the Republican side in the Senate race. Democrats do not have a big-name candidate, but their expected standard-bearer, nonprofit executive Michelle Nunn, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Monday that she would “be talking about it shortly.”
Kingston had his second consecutive quarter raising more than $800,000. His $807,522 haul gave him $2,347,957 total cash on hand as of the end of June. Kingston’s fundraising prowess comes in part from longevity and power: He was first elected to the House in 1992 and is one of the top members of the Appropriations Committee.
He is also the only declared candidate from South Georgia, though businessman David Perdue of Glynn County is waiting in the wings with an exploratory committee — and enough personal wealth to fund a big chunk of the campaign himself.
University of Georgia political science professor Charles Bullock said Kingston has a higher fundraising bar because he is not well known in vote-rich metro Atlanta, where he will need to spend money on advertising.
Gingrey, whose congressional district includes Atlanta’s wealthy Buckhead neighborhood, raised $415,063 in the second quarter and increased his bankroll to $2,564,096. He entered the race with $2 million stashed away from a decade serving in the House, where most of his re-election campaigns were not particularly competitive. He also has strong connections in the physician community after a career as an obstetrician and gynecologist.
“I would think he would be doing more than that,” Bullock said of Gingrey’s fundraising take, “but it is less critical for him that he has as big of a presence on Atlanta television than (it is for) Kingston.”
Broun got a boost in April with the endorsement of former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, a presidential candidate and influential figure in the Republican Party’s libertarian wing. Broun hoped to draw on Paul’s nationwide network of support for donations. Broun raised $387,626 for the quarter and finished with $400,877 on hand.
Handel did not announce her candidacy until mid-May, leaving her about half the quarter to raise money. Handel, who lost a narrow Republican runoff to Nathan Deal in the 2010 governor’s race, took in $154,015 and had $150,058 on hand as of the end of June.
But Handel touted her ties to incumbents Tuesday by announcing endorsements and “campaign co-chair” positions for Betty Price, the Roswell councilwoman and wife of U.S. Rep. Tom Price; Vivien Scott of Tifton, U.S. Rep. Austin Scott’s wife; and state Sen. Josh McKoon of Columbus, a leader of the push for ethics reform in the Gold Dome. Tom Price and Austin Scott clarified that they were not endorsing anyone yet, with Scott indicating that he would not back Handel.
The campaign to succeed Chambliss already has triggered a domino effect that left three open Republican U.S. House seats.
The northwest Georgia district being vacated by Gingrey showed the most financial firepower. Ex-Rep. Bob Barr raised about $250,000 and has roughly $146,000 in hand after meeting payroll for his high-powered election team. His three Republican opponents showed they were willing to lend themselves money to keep up.
State Rep. Ed Lindsey, who tapped his Buckhead connections to raise about $158,000, lent himself $15,000, while businesswoman Tricia Pridemore, a former Deal appointee, finished with about $132,000 on hand thanks partly to a $50,000 self-loan. And state Sen. Barry Loudermilk gave his campaign a $4,200 loan for expenses to help finish the quarter with about $62,000.
In the Republican contest to represent Broun’s Athens-centered district, state Rep. Donna Sheldon of Dacula emerged with the heaviest war chest. She pulled in $210,000 this quarter and has $175,000 left in the bank. The other four candidates — minister Jody Hice, businessman Mike Collins, retired Army Lt. Col. Stephen K. Simpson and attorney Gary Gerrard — all have less than $100,000 cash on hand. And that includes sizable self-loans by Collins and Gerrard.
Kingston’s coastal district is competitive, too, thanks to a $100,000 check that state Sen. Buddy Carter wrote to himself. He had $215,000 in cash at quarter’s end, while lobbyist David Schwarz and surgeon Bob Johnson both had around $105,000 cash in hand, though Johnson’s was largely because of a $65,000 self-loan. State Rep. Jeff Chapman, who entered the race in June like Johnson, has a campaign piggy bank of about $31,000. All four candidates are Republican.
In what’s become a tradition every two years, Republicans put a target on the back of Augusta Democratic U.S. Rep. John Barrow.
Barrow’s campaign raised more than $480,000 this quarter — much of which he spent flirting with a Senate bid before declining — and finished with nearly $830,000 in his re-election kitty. Augusta businessman Rick Allen, launching a repeat challenge on the Republican side, raised $131,000 and lent himself $10,000. Another GOP challenger, John Stone, reported just $18,000 on hand.
MAJOR REPUBLICAN U.S. SENATE CANDIDATES’
Amt. raised Amt. spent Cash on hand
Paul Broun $387,626 $203,816 $400,877
Phil Gingrey $415,063 $302,681 $2,564,096
Karen Handel $154,015 $3,956 $150,058
Jack Kingston $807,522 $216,688 $2,347,957