ATLANTA (AP) — Stacey Abrams’ fundraising continues to accelerate, swamping Republican Gov. Brian Kemp and pushing close to $50 million raised in the seven months since the Georgia Democrat announced her campaign in December.
Abrams announced Friday that her direct campaign and its associated One Georgia committee raised $21.8 million during the two months ended June 30 and together had $18.5 million in cash on hand.
That's far more than the combined $6.8 million Kemp raised for his direct campaign and associated Georgians First committee. Kemp said he had $6.4 million in cash as of June 30.
Abrams also said that One Georgia, a special state fundraising vehicle allowing her to collect unlimited contributions and coordinate spending with her campaign, raised $6.3 million before May.
The leadership committee had not reported numbers at an earlier deadline because of legal disputes. Abrams started collecting contributions for One Georgia before the May 24 primary, in which she was unopposed for the Democratic nomination. However, state ethics officials ruled that she could not use the leadership committee vehicle until she was officially certified as the Democratic nominee after the primary, even though state party officials argued she was already the party standard-bearer as the only Democrat who filed to run.
Abrams spokesperson Jaylen Black said Friday that the campaign understands from state ethics officials that it is free to spend all of the leadership committee money that it raised before she became the official nominee.
Both Kemp and Abrams are spending heavily. Abrams has already spent more than $30 million with the general election campaign just begun. Kemp has already spent more than $17 million as he dismantled former U.S. Sen. David Perdue and others in the Republican primary.
The 2022 races in closely divided Georgia are likely to blow past old records, with a torrent of political spending expected from candidates, political parties and outside groups in the gubernatorial contest and the U.S. Senate race between Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker.
Kemp has raised more than $31 million, topping the $22.4 million he raised in his win over Abrams in 2018. But Abrams has raised $49 million in a much shorter period, with far more cash on hand. It's a flip from the decades when Georgia Democrats scratched for resources while Republicans generally enjoyed strong fundraising thanks in part to business contributions.
Abrams campaign manager Lauren Groh Wargo said more than 240,000 donors have given $100 or less to Abrams. She argued that Abrams must strongly outspend Kemp to overcome the advantages he gets from being a sitting governor, including the ability to command news coverage and hand out federal COVID-19 relief money.
“While we are gratified by the strong fundraising we have secured to date, we understand that our campaign must continue to dramatically outraise and outspend the incumbent in order to create a level playing field,” Wargo wrote Friday in a publicly distributed memo.
She said Abrams would spend the money “on deep, continuous and thoughtful engagement with the most diverse electorate in the state’s history," in keeping with Abrams' voter mobilization approach.
Kemp spokesperson Tate Mitchell said Kemp will run on his record while acknowledging that “Abrams and her liberal allies can — and will — continue to outraise and outspend our campaign.”
“Far-left radicals from across the country are bankrolling Stacey Abrams' campaign to bring the failed agenda of D.C. Democrats to Georgia,” Mitchell said in a statement.
Georgia candidates have a grace period ending Friday to file after the June 30 deadline. Neither Abrams nor Kemp had filed their actual reports with state ethics officials as of Friday afternoon. Libertarian Shane Hazel hadn't filed yet and independent Al Bartell said he raised $50 during the period.
Both Perdue and Abrams sued over Georgia's leadership committee rules, saying it was unfair that Kemp could take in large amounts while Perdue and Abrams were barred unless they won their party primaries.
After an earlier ruling that Kemp could not spend money from the committee for his campaign against Perdue, U.S. District Judge Mark Cohen ruled that Georgians First Leadership Committee could not solicit or receive contributions until after the primary election made Kemp the Republican nominee for governor.
Follow Jeff Amy on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jeffamy.
An earlier version of the story listed incorrect fundraising totals for Libertarian Shane Hazel and independent Al Bartell.