During his two Senate campaigns, Republican David Perdue had little trouble raising millions in campaign cash. But as he tries to unseat Georgia’s current governor, fellow Republican Brian Kemp, Perdue is struggling to attract donors.
Perdue’s top 30 individual contributors pumped nearly $450,000 into his Senate campaigns in 2014 and 2020, according to campaign finance disclosures. But that same group and his immediate family members have earmarked only $26,200 for his current gubernatorial bid. Meanwhile, Kemp has raised $81,450 from these past Perdue backers.
Purdue’s difficulty in winning back previous donors suggests a broader challenge for him ahead of the May 24 primary in Georgia, which is being closely watched for signs of the national GOP’s direction. Despite the endorsement of former President Donald Trump, Purdue trails far behind Kemp in what is sure to be a costly race, an Associated Press review of federal and state campaign finance records shows.
Perdue just raised $1.1 million from his campaign launch in December through the end of January, an early stretch when candidates typically try to post their most impressive numbers, and he had less than $1 million in cash on hand.
Kemp received $7.4 million as of January 31 and had $12.7 million on hand. The governor, fending off Trump’s fierce criticism for being disloyal to the former president’s false claims of voter fraud in Georgia, has vowed to unleash that money advantage with plans that include spending $4.2 million on television ads alone.
“The nice thing to say is that the fundraising may not have gone as he expected,” said Alec Poitevint, a former chairman of the Georgia Republican Party who supports Kemp.
Perdue turned to Trump for help on Wednesday, appearing with the former president at his Mar-a-Lago resort, where taxpayers will have to give $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 football player Herschel Walker, the top Republican vying for one of the Senate seats. from the United States.
Perdue’s campaign recognizes that it is lagging behind in the race for money and is relying instead on the energy of the GOP’s most loyal voters.
“We will be outsourced and outspent, but we will not be outsourced,” Perdue spokeswoman Jenni Sweat said. “This is a race of people against politicians, and the silent majority is rising up to push back against failed career politicians.” like Brian Kemp. David Perdue is proud to have the support of 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., have given Perdue $121,000. That’s more than 10% of what Perdue raised. Textile Rubber & Chemical Co. also donated $250,000 in January to the Georgia Values Fund, an independent committee that supports Perdue.
That is the only contribution to the fund reported as of March 1.
Howalt did not respond to messages seeking comment. But in January, he emailed the Georgia Recorder regarding his donations to controversial Northwest Georgia U.S. Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, saying he was motivated to support candidates, like Perdue, who back Trump’s false claims of that the 2020 election was stolen.
“The only financial support our family will get will be from ANY RINO (Republicans In Name Only) complicit in blocking investigations into voter fraud and improprieties (GA had plenty) and will not oppose confirming Biden voters where practical.” and advisable to do so, Howalt wrote to the nonprofit news outlet.
Federal and state election officials and Trump’s own attorney general have said there is no credible evidence the election was tainted. The former president’s fraud allegations were also roundly rejected by courts, including those appointed by Trump judges.
One option for Perdue, the 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 bid. As of January 31, he had not offered the same support to the governor’s campaign, but suggested he might.
“We’re going to make sure this is well funded,” Perdue told reporters last week. “We’re going to get our message across.”
For many years a Republican stronghold, statewide races in Georgia have recently become more competitive. In 2020, Joe Biden was the first Democratic presidential candidate to win the state since 1992, a victory that left the GOP reeling.
After campaigning for Kemp in the 2018 gubernatorial election, Trump turned against him in the wake of the 2020 campaign when the governor refused to overturn Biden’s victory, something he was powerless to do. In revenge, Trump recruited Perdue to challenge Kemp in a primary, a move that worries some in the party and will leave the eventual candidate weakened heading into an overall election race against Democrat Stacey Abrams.
Amid the bitterness, some donors say they will simply wait out the primaries without taking sides. Among them is Sunny Park, founder and CEO of Atlanta-based General Building Maintenance, which has thousands of office cleaners across the U.S. A prolific donor to Georgia Republican causes, Park has previously endorsed to both Kemp and Perdue, and gave Kemp $3,750 for his re-election bid before Perdue stepped in.
“Until the primaries are over, I will remain neutral,” Park said. “I told both of them, ‘Go ahead and win and then I’ll come back to you.'”
Some past Perdue contributors, especially those who donated to the dazzling $100 million Perdue raised in 2020, are geared toward donations from Congress and may not care who becomes governor of Georgia. But some big contributors who aren’t donating, like Home Depot founder Bernie Marcus or Atlanta’s Delta Air Lines, are based in Georgia and have a stake in the primary results.
And for them, they may prefer Kemp. Take, for example, Vince Kolber, who previously donated more than $10,000 to Perdue and said he had known and admired him, but nonetheless plans to stay out of the gubernatorial primary.
Kolber, founder and president of Residco, a Chicago-based air and rail freight logistics company and a former two-time Republican House candidate in Illinois, said his sense was that many Republicans nationally “were as angry as Trump was. throughout the post-election period. situation.” That refers to Trump’s lies about the 2020 election playing a role in depressing GOP turnout and costing the party both Perdue’s Senate seat and a second Georgia Senate seat. in January 2021.
“I feel like that is softening now,” Kolber added, but perhaps not quickly enough to cheer Perdue, especially given that Kemp has been a solid governor.
“I haven’t heard anybody say, ‘That guy just went out to lunch’ or he’s crazy or anything like that,” Kolber said of Kemp. “I think he has been well received for what he tried to do. Despite Trump’s dismay at what happened.”
Former Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler, who also lost her 2021 re-election bid, downplayed tensions within the GOP. And where such divisions exist, she said, they won’t determine who ultimately wins.
“The left loves to focus on the divisions on our side,” said Loeffler, who now runs Greater Georgia, a nonprofit designed to boost conservative voter registration and outreach efforts. “What voters are focused on is the harsh realities of liberal politics that play out in their lives every day.” ___
Weissert reports from Washington.