With the Georgia 2020 primary less than six months away, Athens voters have donated $17,555.03, as of July 30, to the 10 Democratic candidates who qualified for the most recent presidential debate on Sept. 12. In less than two weeks, 12 candidates will face off in another debate on Oct. 12.
Candidates must report the money they raise and spend to the Federal Election Commission. The most recent FEC quarterly reporting period ended Sept. 30 — candidates must file their reports by Oct. 15. The second fundraising quarter ended at the end of July.
“It’s not a whole lot of money we have seen come out of here yet,” UGA political science lecturer Jeffery Glas said.
Campaign fundraising relies heavily on personal connections to individual people or areas, Glas said. Athens voters may not be donating much in this election yet because they don’t feel a direct connection with the candidates.
“If we had a candidate running for office that had friends and family here in Athens-Clarke County, you are going to see a lot more coming out of Athens-Clarke County for that campaign than the $17,000 you’ve seen coming out for all of the candidates combined,” Glas said.
Here is how Athenians have donated their money so far:
California Sen. Kamala Harris has earned the most money from Athens residents with $4,360 in total. Harris also has the largest single contribution in the field, a $2,800 contribution, which is the maximum allowed for primary donations from individual donors per FEC contribution limits.
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren came next. Sanders’ total amounts to $3,996 and Warren’s amounts to $3,604.
South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg has earned the fourth-largest total with $3,384.
Glas said he is still waiting for candidates to reach out to state and local parties to organize fundraisers and find personal connections to draw in more money.
“It will eventually make its way to Athens one way or another, it is just a matter of how long,” Glas said. “The most successful fundraising campaigns are going to have a broad base of support.”
While Warren has not earned the most money from Athenians, she has built the largest coalition of donors. Warren received the highest number of individual contributions at 39, and also has the most individual donors at 15.
Harris has earned the most money, while having fewer individual donors and contributions than Warren, Sanders and Buttigieg, an indication she is getting larger individual contributions.
Two individual donors donated almost all of Harris's current amounts raised from the county — $3,800.
“The most successful fundraising campaigns are going to have a broad base of support.”
-UGA political science lecturer Jeffery Glas
Most of the donations from Athens so far are from “activists” contributing with smaller donations, Glas said. However, there are still “a lot of names that don’t pop up” in the disclosures because they don’t reach the $200 disclosure requirement. According to FEC regulations, individual and aggregate contributions over $200 require full disclosure of information such as amount, name, address, date, occupation and employer.
“When we get close to the primary here in Georgia we will see more money come out of this," Glas said.
Georgia’s primary is set for March 24, 2020.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, who remains at the top of most national polls, has raised $750 from Athens residents, well behind other top candidates like Warren and Sanders. Biden outraised all candidates nationally except Buttigieg in the second fundraising quarter.
Buttigieg, Harris and Sanders are the only candidates that received contributions of $1,000 or more. New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker earned 26 individual contributions from just two donors.
Former Texas Congressman O’Rourke received only one $500 donation from an Athens resident that was reported. Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro, Minnesota Sen. Klobuchar and entrepreneur Andrew Yang have not yet received reported donations from Athens residents.
Donors employment included UGA professors, UGA lecturers and a UGA application analyst. Others included a 40 Watt Club bartender and one local minister.
Employer information is highly misreported by donors, though, according to Glas. Often, activists will not know the rules and put the wrong information.
The 10 other candidates who have qualified for the Oct. 15 debate are: Biden, Booker, Buttigieg, Castro, Harris, Klobuchar, O’Rourke, Sanders, Warren and Yang.
The Sept. 12 debate marked the third Democratic presidential debate of the 2020 election. Two more candidates, Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, and Tom Steyer, a billionaire and former hedge fund investor, qualified for the Oct. 12 debate.