Out-of-state donors largely funding ex-Trump aide in Georgia congressional race

Phoebe Quinton, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on

Published in Political News

ATLANTA — Five Republican candidates and two Democrats are fighting to win their party’s nomination in Georgia’s 3rd Congressional District in one of the state’s most competitive U.S. House primaries.

Yet, some of these candidates’ biggest financial supporters cannot cast a vote for them because they don’t live in the state.

Brian Jack, who served as an aide to then-President Donald Trump, has raised the most money in the race. But about 75% of his itemized donations — contributions of $200 or more — came from individuals outside of Georgia.

By comparison, out-of-state donations accounted for less than one-third of the donations received by the other candidates in the race, according to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution analysis of the latest fundraising data by the Federal Election Commission.

The donations indicate that Jack has connections and support from outside the district but not much else, said Charles Bullock, a political scientist at the University of Georgia.

“He has no base to build upon,” Bullock said, “where those who have held office at some point in the past at least would be known by those voters in areas which they represented.”

The 3rd District spans all or part of 15 west and west-central Georgia counties ranging from Haralson County in the north to parts of Columbus at its southern end. The district favors Republican candidates. U.S. Rep. Drew Ferguson, a Pike County Republican, represents the district, but he announced in December that he would not seek reelection.

Jack grew up in the district, but he has not held elected office in the state like three of the other Republican candidates who served in the Georgia Senate or House — Mike Crane, Mike Dugan and Philip Singleton. Jack worked as a political director in Trump’s administration. The fifth Republican candidate, Jim Bennett, is a former police officer and retired IT professional.

On the Democratic side, Val Almonord and Maura Keller are both U.S. Army veterans. After leaving active duty, Almonord spent most of his career as a doctor with the Military Health System. Keller works as a nuclear medicine technologist for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in Atlanta.

Jack’s out-of-state contributions push him to the top of the leader board in total donations, with more than $500,000 sent from individuals who live outside of Georgia and more than $900,000 total, a figure that includes small, unitemized donations and transfers from other committees.

Many of these small, unitemized donations come from WinRed, a digital fundraising platform endorsed by the Republican National Committee that accepts donations to Republican campaigns across the country. WinRed accumulates small donations for candidates and sends aggregates to campaigns.

In a statement, Jack emphasized the support he has received from local donors, rather than his out-of-state money.

“I’m grateful for all of the support we’ve received across the district, from former colleagues to school classmates,” he said.

Paige Kellogg grew up in Georgia but currently lives in Virginia. She sent $1,000 to Jack’s campaign because Jack was a colleague of her husband, Keith Kellogg, who served as a national security adviser to then-Vice President Mike Pence.


“I support his candidacy,” she said. “I don’t know what all of the details are, quite honestly. But I think that I can say, generally speaking, I support what he stands for.”

Kellogg said that she has donated to candidates in other states as well, including Tiffany Smiley, who is running for Congress in Washington state. “I think both sides of the aisle do that,” she said.

Other candidates in the race took aim at Jack’s out-of-state support.

In a statement, Singleton said he is backed by “freedom-loving patriots who are sick and tired of D.C. insiders hand-picking members of Congress.” Keller said she is backed by “real Georgians” rather than “distant wealthy donors who only care about winning favors from aloof politicians.”

But Jack’s fundraising dwarfs many of his competitors in the race. Crane, a former state senator, has raised about $400,000 less than Jack, placing him second for overall donations.

Crane and Dugan lead in contributions from Georgia donors.

Bullock said candidates need to spend money to introduce themselves to voters. With so many candidates running and no incumbent in the race, contenders will have to build name recognition.

The top states with donors who sent money to Jack are Florida, Virginia and North Carolina, in that order. Other candidates also received money from some of the same states. Florida was also the top state, other than Georgia, to send money to Bennett’s campaign with over $3,000. Bennett also received contributions from Arizona and Washington. Connecticut, Virginia, and Florida sent the most money to Singleton’s campaign, at more than $5,000 each.

Inside the district, Dugan and Crane are roughly tied in local donations, collecting about $200,000 each. However, Dugan, a former Senate majority leader, has collected money from the most donors in the district, with donations from more than 180 people.

“That’s a good thing then, isn’t it?” said Dennis Robinson, a high school friend of Dugan’s who sent over $3,000 to his campaign. “He’s got the most donations from inside, so that seems like that would be the most representative of the district, right?”

In a statement, Dugan’s campaign said that he is honored by the support he has received from the 3rd District and has “worked hard to earn his hometown voters’ confidence by prioritizing their needs and listening to their voices.” Crane and Almonord did not respond to requests for comment.


©2024 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Visit at ajc.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.



blog comments powered by Disqus