As the state heads toward a May 22 election, the Democratic primary race for governor has become a two-candidate contest that likely will be decided outright on election day. On the Republican side of the aisle, however, there are a great many more moving parts. For those interested in the GOP contest, here is a basic analysis of the current status of the race, based on reported fundraising for the past six months.
Total Gross Funds Raised
Casey Cagle: $6.8 million
Brian Kemp: $2.9 million
Hunter Hill: $2.3 million
Clay Tippins: $2.1 million (includes $500,000 personal loan)
Michael Williams: $1.7 million (includes $450,000 personal loan)
Once numbers are reduced to actual cash on hand — subtracting known expenditures and the amount the candidates cannot spend until the runoff or general election — things look very different.
Net Funds Available to Spend in Primary
Casey Cagle: $5.3 million
Brian Kemp: $2 million
Michael Williams: $1.34 million
Clay Tippins: $982,000 (after $250,000 early media buy)
Hunter Hill: $897,000 (after $365,000 early media buy)
There are some factors to consider in analyzing these numbers:
- The three leading candidates in cash on hand (Cagle, Kemp, Williams) cannot raise money during session because they hold state elected office. So, there’s definitely room over the six or seven weeks before adjournment for Hill and Tippins to close some of this gap in available funds.
- Candidate loans can be tricky to estimate as cash available to spend. Georgia law allows candidates to show loans on the balance sheet, not spend them, and recoup them at the end of the election. The presumption is that the candidates will actually spend the money, but that is not always the case.
- Assume $500,000 to $1 million in costs to do the non-TV functions of a statewide primary campaign (staff, overhead, mail, fundraising, digital, phones). The remaining balance can be spent on TV. A robust week of statewide television in Georgia costs about $600,000 to $800,000. This puts Kemp on the air statewide for two to three weeks, Cagle up for four to six weeks, and the other three candidates not on TV in a major way unless they raise more money or cut back on other core voter contact functions.
- It is highly unlikely that a six-candidate field (including this GOP primary’s sixth, albeit non-credible, candidate) results in an outright win for any candidate. This race is extremely likely to go to a runoff.
- These numbers do not include what independent groups may or may not spend during the primary. Depending on their level of engagement, there could be large amounts of outside money that is not reflected in fundraising totals.
Given the above, this looks — based on what is known today about polling and fundraising — like a race that will head to a runoff between Cagle and one of the other candidates. Right now, Kemp is positioned to be on TV statewide for 2-3 weeks and he currently holds the second-place spot in the polls. This means that, based on current information, Kemp is most likely to end up in the second-place spot. That said, there is plenty of statistical room for Tippins, Hill or Williams to move into second place, but this will depend on (a) whether their early TV buys have moved the poll numbers at all, (b) whether they can significantly close the cash-on-hand gap that separates their campaigns from those of Kemp and Cagle, and (c) whether and how independent groups choose to engage.
As always, this update ends with the disclaimer that trying to predict anything in the current electoral environment is a sketchy endeavor on a good day.