Abrams one of minority candidates making strides in midterm races
As Stacey Abrams and Andrew Gillum seek to become the first black governors in Georgia and Florida, a McClatchy analysis of state campaign filings shows that more than 2,000 donors across the country have given to both of their campaigns.
Collectively, these donors have combined to give roughly $1.5 million to Abrams’ campaign and roughly $3 million to Gillum’s campaign and an affiliated political committee that can accept unlimited contributions.
The donors come from 49 states and include both some of the party’s heaviest hitters — including billionaire investors George Soros and Tom Steyer — as well as hundreds of modest givers who have written checks for less than $200 combined to both candidates.
“I think it’s a growing dynamic of empowered donors,” said Colm O’Comartun, the former executive director of the Democratic Governors Association. “It was exemplified during the presidential election by the huge network of people on the Bernie [Sanders] side and the [President Donald] Trump side.”
But while Abrams and Gillum appear to have tapped into a national network of Democratic donors, their Republican opponents, Brian Kemp in Georgia and Ron DeSantis in Florida, don’t appear to have experienced the same benefit, despite both having been endorsed by President Trump. The two Republicans share fewer than 20 common donors, according to McClatchy’s analysis.
Ryan Mahoney, a spokesman for Kemp, said that the national support for Abrams and Gillum is a sign that they are out of touch with voters in their home states.
“San Francisco socialists and left-wing billionaires from New York fund Stacey Abrams and Andrew Gillum because they want to advance their extreme agenda in Georgia and Florida,” Mahoney said. “Like Gillum, Stacey Abrams backs a radical, government takeover of healthcare and radical policies that will triple taxes and bankrupt the state.”
The small share of common donors doesn’t seem to have hurt the fundraising efforts of Kemp and DeSantis, who have each slightly outraised their Democratic opponents. DeSantis and his connected PAC have raised nearly $52 million to Gillum’s $50 million, while Kemp has raised roughly $17 million to Abrams’ $16.4 million.
Representatives for Abrams, Gillum and DeSantis did not respond to requests for comment.
The biggest donors to both Gillum and Abrams have been Soros and his family. Soros donated $1.2 million to Gillum’s Forward Florida PAC and $21,000 to Abrams’ campaign, the maximum allowable. Soros has also donated $1 million to the Georgia Democratic Party, which is heavily backing Abrams. His daughter, Andrea , and sons, Alex and Jonathan, have also given to both candidates.
“In both cases, Mr. Soros has a long-standing relationship with the candidate,” said Michael Vachon, a spokesman for Soros. “They all share the same set of values. It was a natural that he would support them in their campaigns for higher office.”
Steyer, meanwhile, has given nearly $13,000 to Abrams and $6,000 to Gillum. His affiliated political non-profit, NextGen Climate America, has written much bigger checks, donating $2.8 million overall to Gillum’s Forward Florida.
“Stacey Abrams and Andrew Gillum represent the future of the Democratic Party,” said Aleigha Cavalier, a spokeswoman for Steyer. “They tell the truth about issues facing Americans today and are bringing people into our political system who have either felt shut out or have not been given a reason to participate — and other Democrats would be well served to follow in their footsteps.”
Steyer and Soros have been joined by a host of other major donors in backing both candidates, including:
▪ Oakland real estate developer Wayne Jordan, who has given $21,000 to Abrams and $50,000 to Gillum.
▪ Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes, who gave $21,000 to Abrams and $6,000 to Gillum’s committees.
▪ Silicon Valley couple Liz Simons, daughter of Robert Mercer’s former hedge fund partner James Simons, and husband Mark Heising, who gave more than $365,000 to the Gillum-connected groups and $23,000 combined to Abrams’ campaign.
▪ Comedian and entertainment executive Byron Allen, who gave $6,600 to Abrams and $25,000 to Gillum.
▪ Children’s book author Judy Blume, who has given $2,000 to Abrams and $3,000 to Gillum
Former U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek, a Florida Democrat traced the origins of this network to the individual donors who backed former President Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. Meek said he was able to turn to these donors for support during his ultimately unsuccessful 2010 bid for U.S. Senate.
“I kind of caught the second generation of that,” he said. “Now we’re in the 5.0 generation of that.”
The coast-to-coast support for Abrams and Gillum represents a break from the past, says James Rucker, who co-founded the group Color of Change, which advocates to improve the lives of black Americans and has a related political committee.
“Your typical donor base on the Democratic side hasn’t really embraced qualified black candidates, especially in the South,” said Rucker, who has himself given $1,000 to Abrams and $2,000 to Gillum.
And Rucker says that support has been all the more striking because Abrams and Gillum haven’t shied away from confronting issues of racism during the campaign.
“You’ve got candidates who are embracing the conversation around race and around serious progressive issues,” he said.
Kathy Mangum, a Pasadena-based executive at the Walt Disney Co., says she was inspired to support Abrams because of what she perceived as Trump’s racially sulfurous rhetoric, particularly his statements blaming “both sides” for violence during a 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
“There’s nothing more powerful than the symbolism of a black woman running in the deep South,” Mangum said. “I like her politics, too.”
She’s given $500 to Abrams campaign and a total of $6,000 to support Gillum. She said she met Gillum at a fundraising dinner in California, long before he won the party’s nomination.
“I was over the moon when he pulled that off,” she said of his surprise victory in the primary.
If Gillum or Abrams is able to continue their success next week on Election Day, Rucker said it could make the path easier for African American candidates in the future.
“If we have even one of them win, I think it will change the conventional wisdom,” he said. “It becomes a template for what could happen elsewhere.”