Trump Pick in Georgia Governors Race Doesn’t Draw Donor Herd | New Policies

By JEFF AMY and WILL WEISSERT, Associated Press

ATLANTA (AP) — In his two Senate campaigns, Republican David Perdue has had no trouble amassing millions in campaign money. But as he attempts to unseat Georgia’s incumbent governor, fellow Republican Brian Kemp, Perdue struggles to attract donors.

Perdue’s top 30 individual contributors injected nearly $450,000 into his Senate campaigns in 2014 and 2020, according to campaign finance information. But that same group and their immediate family members only directed $26,200 for his current gubernatorial bid. Kemp, meanwhile, raised $81,450 from those previous Perdue backers.

Purdue’s difficulty winning back previous donors suggests a broader challenge for it ahead of Georgia’s May 24 primary, which is being closely watched for signals over the direction of the national Republican Party. Despite backing from former President Donald Trump, Purdue is well behind Kemp in what is sure to be a costly race, according to an Associated Press review of federal and state campaign finance records.

Perdue has raised just $1.1 million since launching his campaign in December through the end of January, an early period when candidates typically try to post their most impressive numbers, and he had fewer a million dollars in cash.

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Kemp had taken in $7.4 million as of January 31 and had $12.7 million on hand. The governor, defending himself against fierce criticism from Trump for being disloyal about the former president’s false claims of voter fraud in Georgia, has pledged to release that cash benefit with plans that include spending $4, $2 million just for TV commercials.

“The nice thing to say is maybe the fundraiser hasn’t been where he expected,” said Alec Poitevint, former chairman of the Georgia Republican Party who supports Kemp.

Perdue is turning to Trump for help on Wednesday, appearing with the former president at his Mar-a-Lago resort, where contributors will have to donate $3,000 to attend. A photo with Trump means spending $24,200.

That’s ahead of a campaign-style rally Trump plans to hold later this month in northeast Georgia that will feature Perdue and former soccer player Herschel Walker, the top Republican contender. for one of the U.S. State Senate seats.

Perdue’s campaign recognizes that it is behind in the race for money and instead relies on the energy of the GOP’s most loyal voters.

“We’ll be overwhelmed and spent, but we won’t be overwhelmed,” Perdue spokeswoman Jenni Sweat said. Perdue is proud to be backed by a strong network of grassroots conservatives who will propel him to victory in May and November.

For now, Perdue is particularly dependent on one family. Chip Howalt, his wife Cynthia and their three Dalton-based companies, including Textile Rubber & Chemical Co., gave Perdue $121,000. That’s more than 10% of what Perdue harvested. Textile Rubber & Chemical Co. also donated $250,000 in January to the Georgia Values ​​Fund, an independent committee supporting Perdue.

This is the only contribution the fund has reported through March 1.

Howalt did not respond to messages seeking comment. But in January, he emailed the Georgia Recorder about his donations to controversial Northwest Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene that he was motivated to support candidates, like Perdue, who back the fakes. Trump’s claims that the 2020 election was stolen.

“The only financial support our family will get will come from ANY RINO (Republicans in name only) complicit in blocking investigations into voter fraud and irregularities (GA had plenty of that) and not opposed to confirming Biden voters when it is convenient and advisable to do so,” Howalt wrote to the nonprofit outlet.

Federal and state election officials and Trump’s own attorney general said there was no credible evidence the election was tainted. The former president’s fraud allegations have also been flatly dismissed by the courts, including by Trump-appointed judges.

One option for Perdue, former CEO of Reebok and Dollar General, would be to infuse the campaign with his own money. He had assets worth between nearly $15.2 million and $42.5 million in 2018, according to Open Secrets, a nonpartisan group that tracks political spending. Perdue also lent or gave his campaign more than $5 million during his 2014 Senate run. As of Jan. 31, he hadn’t offered the same support for the governor’s campaign, but suggested he might do it.

“We’re going to make sure this thing is well funded,” Perdue told reporters last week. “We will get our message across.

For many years a Republican stronghold, statewide racing in Georgia has recently become more competitive. In 2020, Joe Biden was the first Democratic presidential candidate to carry the state since 1992, a victory that left the GOP reeling.

After campaigning for Kemp in the 2018 gubernatorial race, Trump backfired in the aftermath of the 2020 campaign when the governor refused to overturn Biden’s win – which he didn’t. the power to do. In revenge, Trump recruited Perdue to challenge Kemp in a primary, a move some party members fear will leave the eventual nominee weakened ahead of a general election race against Democrat Stacey Abrams.

Amid the bitterness, some donors say they will simply wait for the primary to go ahead without taking sides. Among these is Sunny Park, founder and CEO of Atlanta-based General Building Maintenance, which has thousands of office cleaning employees across the United States. re-election bid before Perdue intervened.

“Until the primary is over, I’m going to stay neutral,” Park said. “I said to both of them, ‘Go ahead and win and then I’ll be back with you.'”

Some former Perdue contributors, especially those who gave for the $100 million Perdue raised in 2020, are geared toward congressional giving and may not care who becomes governor of Georgia. But some big contributors who don’t donate, like Home Depot founder Bernie Marcus or Atlanta’s Delta Air Lines, are based in Georgia and have a stake in the primary’s results.

And for them, they may simply prefer Kemp. Take for example, Vince Kolber who has already donated more than $10,000 to Perdue and said he’s met and admired him, but plans to stay out of the gubernatorial primary nonetheless.

Kolber, founder and chairman of Residco, a Chicago aviation and railroad logistics company and a former two-time Republican house candidate in Illinois, said he felt many Republicans nationally “were just mad as hell as Trump throughout the post-election situation.” This refers to Trump’s lies about the 2020 election playing a role in declining Republican turnout and costing the party both Perdue’s Senate seat and a second Georgia Senate seat in January 2021.

“I feel it’s softening now,” Kolber added, but maybe not fast enough to back Perdue, especially since Kemp has been a solid governor.

“I didn’t hear anyone say, ‘That guy was just out for lunch,’ or crazy or anything like that,” Kolber said of Kemp. “I think he was well received for what he tried to do. Trump’s dismay at what happened did not stand up.

Former Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler, who also lost her re-election bid in 2021, played down tensions within the GOP. And where such divisions exist, she said, they will not determine who ultimately wins.

“The left likes to focus on the divisions on our side,” said Loeffler, who now heads Greater Georgia, a nonprofit designed to boost conservative outreach and voter registration efforts. “What voters are focusing on are the harsh realities of liberal politics that play out in their lives every day.” ___

Weissert reported from Washington.

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