The slow drip of campaign fundraising reports culminated Thursday with a few surprises as state-level politicking begins to ramp up again with Georgia poised for a return to the national spotlight.

Website for Georgia Recorder
This story also appeared in Georgia Recorder

It’s still early to draw many conclusions, and some races – most notably, the governor’s race – are not even fully set. But Thursday’s campaign fundraising deadline gave some candidates a chance to flex their fundraising muscle as the 2022 matchups begin to take shape.

Governor’s race

Republican Gov. Brian Kemp’s is socking away millions in anticipation of a hard-fought reelection bid. He reported raising $3.9 million during the last five months, which brings his total haul for this cycle up to $11.9 million.

Kemp faces at least one primary challenger, Vernon Jones, who is a former Democratic state representative who switched parties last year. Jones announced he had raised $650,000 this cycle and has touted endorsements of those in former President Donald Trump’s inner circle – Rudy Giuliani and Michael Flynn – but not Trump’s personal backing. Trump vowed to help defeat Kemp and has continued to criticize the governor for not supporting his baseless claims that widespread election fraud cost him another term in the White House.

Democrat Stacey Abrams, who narrowly lost to Kemp in 2018, is expected to run again but has not publicly announced her plans. It’s worth noting, though, that the voting rights group she launched two years ago, Fair Fight, reported raising $6 million just this period.

Secretary of State

Trump-endorsed Congressman Jody Hice has reported piling up $576,000 in his campaign to oust embattled Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.

Raffensperger meanwhile raised about $249,000 – less than half what Hice reported. The first-term Secretary of State has faced intense criticism from Republicans since the presidential election, when President Joe Biden became the first Democratic presidential candidate to win in Georgia since 1992. The election results were upheld after two recounts and several failed lawsuits.

Return GOP candidate and former Alpharetta mayor David Belle Isle raised $164,000.

On the Democratic side, Atlanta state Rep. Bee Nguyen jumped out ahead with $387,000. Another Democrat, Manswell Peterson, reported raising about $319,000 but the state ethics commission is investigating Peterson’s campaign finance report as suspicious.

Labor Commissioner

Republican Labor Commissioner Mark Butler has also attracted a challenge from within his party. And fellow Republican Bruce Thompson, who is a state senator from White, stockpiled nearly four times as much in contributions than Butler this period. Thompson reported taking in about $251,000 to Butler’s $65,000.

Butler’s handling of the historic unemployment claims during the pandemic attracted bipartisan ire this session, leading to a measure creating a legislatively appointed chief labor officer that Kemp vetoed over concerns it ran afoul of the state constitution.

For the Democrats, East Point state Rep. William Boddie amassed the most this period with $142,000 – double what Butler reported this period. Nicole Horn and state Sen. Lester Jackson took in $83,000 and $66,000, respectively.

Attorney General

Republican incumbent Attorney General Chris Carr may not need to worry about a primary challenger, but the campaign finance reports offered a glimpse of the battle to come in the general election.

Carr raised about $574,000 this period – a total that was eclipsed by Atlanta Democratic state Sen. Jen Jordan’s $674,000. Carr, however, has tallied nearly $1.6 million for the cycle. Democrat Charlie Bailey, who ran in 2018, raised about $294,000 this period.

Lieutenant governor

Republican Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan’s departure from the state Senate has drawn more than a half dozen candidates so far to the race to replace the frequent Trump critic.

Republican state Sen. Butch Miller, who presided over the Senate when Duncan walked out during the vote on Georgia’s controversial voting measure, easily raised the most at $2 million. Savannah GOP activist Jeanne Seaver raised about $17,000.

The Democrats are off to a slower start by comparison. Political strategist Kolbey Gardner tallied the most at $112,000 and Smyrna state Rep. Erick Allen reported $106,000. Tyrone state Rep. Derrick Jackson and Jason Hayes raised about $73,000 and $42,000, respectively.

Agriculture commissioner

Sitting GOP Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black has challenged U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, leaving the seat open next year.

Ocilla state Sen. Tyler Harper is the only Republican in the race. He reported raising $534,000 – mostly from money he loaned himself.

A few Democrats are firing up campaigns too, including return candidate Fred Swan who reported taking in nearly $52,000 this period. Nakita Hemingway, who came up short against state Rep. Chuck Efstration last year to represent a House district in the northern Atlanta suburbs, raised about $26,000.

Insurance commissioner

Republican Commissioner of Insurance John King, who was appointed to the job after elected commissioner Jim Beck was indicted for embezzling money from a former employer, took in about $46,000. Brookhaven Democratic state Rep. Matthew Wilson chalked up nearly $121,000 – more than double what King reported this period. King, though, has raised nearly $396,000 for the cycle.

Georgia Recorder is part of States Newsroom, a network of news outlets supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity.

Jill Nolin has spent nearly 15 years reporting on state and local government in four states, focusing on policy and political stories and tracking public spending. She has spent the last five years chasing...