Republican David Perdue’s fundraising for his gubernatorial bid improved this spring, but even as he loaned himself $500,000, the challenger still could not keep pace with Republican incumbent Gov. Brian Kemp.
Including the loan, Perdue raised $2.3 million in the three months ended April 30, the former U.S. senator’s campaign reported Monday. That’s behind the $2.7 million Kemp raised in only 26 days following the April 4 end of the Georgia legislative session. Georgia officeholders are banned from raising money while lawmakers meet.
Perdue had about $900,000 in cash on April 30, less than a month ahead of the May 24 primary, while Kemp had $10.7 million. Kemp has been raising money much longer than Perdue, having taken in more than $22 million for his reelection bid so far, compared to the $3.5 million Perdue has raised.
The winner will face Democrat Stacey Abrams, who has raised more than $20 million so far and had $8 million in cash on April 30. Other candidates in November will be Libertarian Shane Hazel and independent Al Bartell.
Perdue’s campaign noted that 95% of contributors gave less than $200.
“David Perdue is proud to have an army of grassroots supports fueling our campaign,” spokesperson Jenni Sweat said in a statement. Perdue has made former President Donald Trump’s endorsement and Trump’s lies about the 2020 election the centerpiece of his campaign, arguing Kemp can never win over the hard-core Trump voters that will be needed to defeat Abrams.
Kemp has been substantially ahead of Perdue in recent polls, making it increasingly likely Kemp will defeat Perdue without a June runoff, which would be necessary if no one won a majority. Kandiss Taylor, Catherine Davis and Tom Williams are also running in the Republican primary. Kemp spent $5 million during the three-month period, more than twice Perdue’s spending of $2.3 million.
“It is abundantly clear that Georgia Republicans are uniting around Gov. Kemp,” spokesperson Cody Hall said, arguing that Kemp’s record makes him the best choice to beat Abrams.
Perdue has struggled to tap the same network of big donors that sustained his two Senate runs, despite his endorsement by Trump. But some more traditional donors lined up behind him in the most recent report, including alcohol distributor Donald Leebern Jr. and his wife, who gave $24,200. The Leeberns have been prolific donors in Georgia and Alabama politics for decades. Florida Republican Sen. Rick Scott gave $7,600.
Perdue had said he would dig into his own $50 million fortune to help fuel his bid, but did not open his wallet very wide, loaning himself only $500,000.
The report includes receipts from a fundraiser Trump hosted for Perdue at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, where contributors had to give $3,000 to attend. A picture with Trump meant contributing $24,200, the maximum individual contribution for Georgia in this election cycle, including a primary, general election and two possible runoffs.
Fundraising in Georgia has also seen a dispute over Kemp’s use of a leadership committee, a special state fundraising vehicle that allowed the governor to collect unlimited contributions and coordinate spending with his campaign. Both Perdue and Abrams sued over the committee, saying it was unfair that Kemp could take in large amounts while Perdue and Abrams were barred until they won their party primaries.
After an earlier ruling that Kemp could not spend money from the committee against Perdue, U.S. District Judge Mark Cohen ruled last week that Kemp’s Georgians First Leadership Committee cannot solicit or receive contributions until after the primary election and any possible runoff that makes him the Republican nominee for governor.