January 9, 2014

Governor’s race enters crucial stage

The Daily Citizen

— Dalton Mayor David Pennington faces a crucial six weeks in his quest to be Georgia’s next governor.

Year-end 2013 campaign contribution reports show Pennington badly trailing incumbent Gov. Nathan Deal, the man he plans to challenge in the Republican primary, in fundraising.

Pennington had raised $374,676.99 and had $241,330.35 on hand on Dec. 31, according to information his campaign filed with the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission.

Deal reported he had raised $7.6 million, almost $4 million of that in the last six months of 2013, and had $4 million on hand.

State School Superintendent John Barge, the third announced candidate for the Republican nomination, had raised $108,000 and had only $25,000 on hand.

Pennington has an advantage over Deal and Barge, and over Democratic candidate state Sen. Jason Carter. State law bans them from fundraising while the General Assembly is in session. Since Pennington does not hold a state office, he faces no such restriction, making him the only candidate for the state’s highest office who can raise money after the session starts on Monday.

Pennington has said he plans to get more aggressive with his fundraising, and he needs to if his campaign is to become viable.

No one could expect him to raise as much money as a sitting governor, particularly one such as Deal who has spent the past three decades in elected office making contacts with donors across the state.

Pennington’s campaign will have to rely on grassroots enthusiasm to make up for that money gap. But if the gap is too large, even the most energetic supporters won’t be enough to overcome the governor.

Pennington needs to show he can raise significant cash, and he must show he can raise money across the state. His campaign contribution report showed that most of his money came from the north Georgia area. If he’s going to run a viable statewide campaign, he must show that people across the state are willing to show their support with contributions.

The next several weeks will show just how effective his fundraising is.