Republican David Perdue raked in millions of dollars in campaign contributions during his two Senate races. Perdue is struggling to raise funds as he seeks to topple Georgia’s sitting governor, fellow Republican Brian Kemp.
According to campaign finance filings, Perdue’s top 30 individual contributors contributed roughly $450,000 to his Senate races in 2014 and 2020. However, the same group and their immediate family members have contributed only $26,200 to his current governorship campaign. Meanwhile, Kemp has raised $81,450 from Perdue’s prior donors.
Purdue’s struggles to reclaim prior contributors point to a larger hurdle for him ahead of Georgia’s primary on May 24, which is being widely scrutinized for clues about the national Republican Party’s future. Despite former President Donald Trump’s support, Purdue is behind Kemp in what is expected to be a costly campaign, according to an Associated Press assessment of federal and state campaign finance records.
Perdue only raised $1.1 million from the beginning of his campaign in December through the end of January, a period when candidates normally aim to put up their best statistics, and he had less than $1 million in cash on hand.
By the end of January, Kemp had earned $7.4 million and had $12.7 million in the bank. The governor, who has been under fire from Trump for being disloyal in the wake of the former president’s phony accusations of election fraud in Georgia, has committed to use that financial advantage, spending $4.2 million on television commercials alone.
“The kind thing to say is maybe the fundraising hasn’t gone as well as he had hoped,” Alec Poitevint, a former chairman of the Georgia Republican Party and a Kemp supporter, said.
On Wednesday, Perdue will seek Trump’s assistance, appearing with the former president at his Mar-a-Lago estate, where attendees must donate $3,000 to attend. A photo with Trump will set you back $24,200.
That comes ahead of Trump’s planned campaign-style event in northeast Georgia later this month, which will include Perdue and Herschel Walker, the leading Republican candidate for one of the state’s U.S. Senate seats.
Perdue’s team concedes that it is trailing in the money battle and is instead focusing on the enthusiasm of the GOP’s most ardent supporters.
Perdue spokesman Jenni Sweat stated, “We’ll be outraised and outspent, but we won’t be outworked.” “This is a race between the people and the politicians, and the silent majority is rising up to reject failed career politicians like Brian Kemp.” David Perdue is thrilled to have the backing of a large grassroots conservative network that will help him win in May and November.”
Perdue is currently depending on one family in particular. Perdue has received $121,000 from Chip Howalt, his wife Cynthia, and their three Dalton-based firms, including Textile Rubber & Chemical Co. That’s more than a tenth of the money raised by Perdue. Textile Rubber & Chemical Co. also contributed $250,000 to the Georgia Values Fund, an independent group that supports Perdue, in January.
That was the fund’s single donation as of March 1st.
Howalt has not responded to requests for comment. However, he told the Georgia Recorder in January that his donations to disputed northwest Georgia U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene were driven by his desire to assist politicians who embrace Trump’s phony assertions that the 2020 election was stolen, such as Perdue.
“Any RINO’s (Republicans in Name Only) participating in delaying investigations into Voter Fraud and Irregularities (GA had several) and not objecting to confirm the Biden Electors when practicable and prudent to do so,” Howalt wrote to the nonprofit news source.
There is no credible proof that the election was corrupted, according to federal and state election authorities, as well as Trump’s own attorney general. Courts, including judges Trump selected, have all dismissed the former president’s charges of fraud.
One possibility for Perdue, a former CEO of Reebok and Dollar General, is to put his personal money into the campaign. According to Open Secrets, a nonpartisan organization that analyzes political expenditures, he had assets valued between almost $15.2 million and $42.5 million in 2018. During his 2014 Senate race, Perdue also lent or donated more than $5 million to his campaign. He hadn’t pledged the same support for the governor’s candidacy as of Jan. 31, although he has hinted that he would.
Last week, Perdue told reporters, “We’re going to make sure this thing is adequately supported.” “We’re going to spread the word.”
Georgia’s statewide elections have lately become more competitive after many years as a Republican bastion. Joe Biden was the first Democratic presidential candidate to win the state since 1992 in 2020, a triumph that stunned the Republican Party.
After campaigning for Kemp in the 2018 governor’s election, Trump turned against him after the governor declined to reverse Biden’s victory, something he had no authority to do. As retaliation, Trump enlisted Perdue to run against Kemp in a primary, a move that some in the party fear could damage the eventual nominee in the general election against Democrat Stacey Abrams.
Despite the animosity, other contributors say they will just watch the primary unfold without taking sides. Sunny Park, the founder and CEO of Atlanta-based General Building Maintenance, which employs thousands of office cleaners around the country, is one of them. Park, a frequent supporter to Georgia Republican campaigns, has backed both Kemp and Perdue in the past, giving Kemp $3,750 for his reelection campaign before Perdue got in.
“I’m going to stay neutral until the primary is finished,” Park remarked. “I told both of them, ‘Go ahead and win, and I’ll be right back.'”
Some prior Perdue donors, particularly those who contributed to the eye-popping $100 million that Perdue raised in 2020, are more concerned with congressional donations and may not care who becomes Georgia’s governor. However, several major donors who aren’t donating, such as Home Depot founder Bernie Marcus and Atlanta’s Delta Air Lines, are located in Georgia and have an interest in the primary’s outcome.
And it’s possible that they like Kemp. Take, for example, Vince Kolber, who has contributed more than $10,000 to Perdue and claims to have met and respected him, but has decided to remain out of the governor’s race.
Kolber, the founder and chairman of Residco, a Chicago aviation and rail transportation logistics firm, and a former two-time Republican House candidate in Illinois, said he had the impression that many Republicans across the country were “just as mad as hell as Trump” about the post-election situation. That relates to Trump’s falsehoods about the 2020 election, which lowered Republican turnout and cost the party Perdue’s Senate seat as well as a second Georgia Senate seat in January 2021.
“I feel that’s easing now,” Kolber noted, but not quickly enough to bolster Perdue, especially considering Kemp’s good performance as governor.
“I haven’t heard anyone say, ‘That man was simply out to lunch,’ or anything like that about Kemp,” Kolber added. “I believe he was well-received for what he attempted. Regardless of Trump’s displeasure with what occurred.”
Kelly Loeffler, a former Republican senator who lost her reelection effort in 2021, downplayed intra-party tensions. And, she said, where such splits exist, they will not decide who wins in the end.
“The left loves to focus on our side’s divides,” said Loeffler, who now leads Greater Georgia, a charity aimed at increasing conservative voter registration and outreach. “What voters are concerned about are the unpleasant realities of liberal politics as they play out in their daily lives.”