April 15, 2013

State reps raise big sums for possible Senate bids


Associated Press

ATLANTA — Several Georgia congressmen have jumped out of the gate with aggressive fundraising efforts as they decide whether to run for the U.S. Senate in 2014.

Republican Rep. Jack Kingston of Savannah raised $842,000 in the first three months of 2013, according to campaign filings with the Federal Election Commission. That’s 10 times what Kingston raised in the first three months of that last election cycle, when he was settled safely in his southeast Georgia district.

At the end of March, Kingston had $1.75 million in his account after starting the year just shy of $1 million.

Democratic Rep. John Barrow’s filings show that the Augusta congressman raised $416,000 from Jan. 1 to March 31. That’s more than double what he raised to start the last election cycle, when he survived the national GOP’s effort to reclaim his seat. He ended the quarter with $440,000 in his campaign account.

Another congressman, Republican Tom Price of Roswell, said he closed the quarter with about $2.1 million in the bank. Price’s detailed report wasn’t available late Monday afternoon, but he began the year with a bit less than $1.6 million. So the new total suggests an impressive start to the year.

Republican Saxby Chambliss began a free-for-all when he announced he won’t seek a third term next year. Kingston, Price and Barrow are all mulling whether to take a shot at the rare open seat.

Two other Republican congressmen have already launched their campaigns, but Paul Broun’s and Phil Gingrey’s first-quarter financial reports weren’t available Monday. Gingrey began the year as the money leader, with a balance of $1.9 million. Broun reported just $155,567 at the end of 2012.

Congressmen can use their House campaign balances for a Senate bid, and the early fundraising numbers offer a window into how the race might play out in the coming months.

With Republicans virtually assured of a hotly contested primary, GOP candidates will have to raise significant sums for the first round before even thinking about a general election.

Democrats hope to avoid a primary. Other than Barrow, non-profit CEO Michelle Nunn is considering the race. She is the daughter of former Sen. Sam Nunn.

National Democrats have identified Georgia as their best shot to pick up a Republican seat. But it remains to be seen how much money the national party committee will be able to steer to Georgia given that the party must defend several Democratic incumbents in Republican-leaning states. Incumbents always get first priority as they party hands out campaign money.

Chambliss spent $15.7 million during his 2008 re-election year, and Sen. Johnny Isakson spent $7.5 million in winning a new term in 2010.