With July 22’s runoff elections a week away, candidates for several high profile positions will be emptying their war chests to buy direct mail advertisements, employ callers and purchase commercials in an attempt to drive supporters to the polls. And some candidates have large war chests.
For example, there is about $2 million cash on hand between Republican U.S. Senate candidates Jack Kingston and David Perdue.
“I’m sure both of those candidates are going to … continue to raise money right up to the last possible minute,” said Kerwin Swint, a political science professor at Kennesaw State University.
According to disclosure filings on the Federal Election Commission’s website, Kingston, an 11-term congressman, has received more than $7 million in contributions over the course of his candidacy, including about $2 million in the last three months alone. Kingston had about $1.2 million cash on hand as of June 30.
“He’s really benefited from the establishment Republican Party; people who normally give money, other elected officials in the party (and) other candidates and their fundraising networks have largely rallied to Kingston,” Swint said.
Swint pointed to Kingston’s reputation and name recognition as reasons for drawing such support.
“I think it’s familiarity,” Swint said. “They know him. They’re aware of his record. They consider him to be a known quantity, that sort of thing. I don’t know if it’s anything necessarily about Perdue they don’t like; I just think they’re more comfortable with somebody they know.”
Meanwhile, Perdue, the former CEO of Reebok and Dollar General, has personally loaned or contributed $1.5 million to his own campaign within the last three months. Since March 31, Perdue has received about $2.7 million in contributions — including his own — but he only has about $783,000 cash on hand.
Kingston has both outraised and outspent Perdue: Kingston has about $6.2 million in total expenditures compared to about $5 million for Perdue. Some quick math reveals Republicans vying for Georgia’s Senate seat have spent more than $11 million — before the general election has even begun.
“Both candidates are benefiting from spending by super PACs,” Swint said. “Kingston has benefited by a lot of money from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Perdue has a super PAC supporting him. So some of the spending you’re seeing is sort of off the books.”
A political action committee, or PAC, is an organization established to raise money for political causes; a super PAC is a special type of PAC that has no restrictions on the amounts of money it can receive or on the sources of the money. Additionally, super PACs are not required to disclose their donors, which means the money cannot be traced back to its source.
Even finances in the race for U.S. House
While they haven’t spent as much as their counterparts running for Senate, Bob Barr and Barry Loudermilk — Republican candidates for the District 11 seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey — have each raised more than $700,000.
According to filings on the Federal Election Commission’s website, Loudermilk, a former state senator, has raised about $375,000 since March 31, bringing his total contributions to about $734,000. With about $600,000 in expenditures, Loudermilk is left with about $135,000 cash in hand.
Barr, a former U.S. representative, has brought in about $220,000 since the end of March, but $40,000 of these contributions were in the form of loans Barr made to his own campaign. Barr has raised a total of about $881,000 since the race began; after spending about $710,000, Barr has about $170,000 on hand for the final week of his runoff campaign.
In terms of fundraising and spending, Swint said Barr and Loudermilk are relatively even.
“In fact, if you take out Barr’s loans, they have almost the same cash on hand,” he said.
Weatherford’s finances balloon since primary
In the race to replace Helen Goreham as District 1’s representative on the Board of Commissioners, Bob Weatherford and Bill Byrne are relatively even financially, but it hasn’t always been that way.
Byrne has raised about $47,000 since the start of the race and has spent about $39,000, leaving him with about $8,000 to finish the race.
Weatherford has about $9,000 on hand after receiving about $58,000 in total contributions, but about $42,000 of those funds came since March 31.
“It looks like Weatherford ... obviously his fundraising picked up after the primary,” Swint said. “(Weatherford is) now outraising Byrne, but it’s pretty competitive. They both have around nine grand on hand. I assume a lot of that will go into direct mail in the next couple weeks.”
While national candidates will spend campaign funds on television and radio ads or far-reaching Internet operations, Swint said candidates in local races focus more on direct contact with voters — either by speaking to them over the phone or getting a flier in their hand.
“Congressional candidates are in a position to use multiple media, unlike the school board and county commission races,” Swint said. “In a race like that, usually it’s direct mail — direct mail and telephone calling, some kind of combination of that.”
Going into the red to win
According to filings on the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission, Juanita Stedman, a candidate for Cobb Superior Court Judge, has quite a financial lead over her opponent, Ann Harris.
Stedman has raised about $192,000 since the start of the race, and after about $152,000 in expenditures, she has about $40,000 on hand for the campaign’s final week. Harris, on the other hand, has raised about $89,000 since the race to fill retiring Judge Jim Bodiford’s seat began, but she has spent about $148,000, leaving her campaign about $59,000 in debt.
“That’s quite a discrepancy between Stedman and Harris right now,” Swint said.
Swint couldn’t speculate as to how Harris’ campaign became underwater; he did, however, say he sees her campaign signs quite frequently.
Cost of unseating an incumbent
A close look at the finances in the race between Board of Education member Tim Stultz and challenger Susan Thayer reveals the cost of trying to defeat an incumbent.
“It’s always more of a financial challenge to run against an incumbent,” said Swint. “And usually, when someone unseats an incumbent, normally what you see is they’ve outraised and outspent them. That’s usually just what it takes to beat an incumbent.”
According to filings on the Cobb Board of Elections website, Stultz has raised a total of about $3,000 over the course of the campaign; he currently has about $750 on hand. Thayer, meanwhile, has raised more than $7,000 since March 31 and has more than $21,000 on hand. However, Thayer personally loaned $20,000 to her own campaign in March and has outspent her opponent 3 to 1, which Swint takes as a sign of her resolve.
“As far as fundraising, that’s a real mismatch,” Swint said. “Stultz has barely raised any money, but that’s not that uncommon for a school board race. Usually, they’re low-dollar affairs. The fact that Ms. Thayer been able to contribute $20,000 of her own money means, first of all, she’s in a financial position to be able to afford that, and second of all, she’s determined to be successful.”