Disclosures show funding gap

ATLANTA -- It takes money to win political races, but financial disclosure statements filed by those seeking statewide political office show a growing gulf between the high-profile governor's race and the rest of the pack in terms of fundraising.

According to disclosure reports available through the state ethics commission, more than $12.7 million has been raised in campaign contributions heading into 2010. That number is by far the largest amount of money raised for any statewide political race.

In that race, current Georgia Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner John Oxendine leads with $2.9 million raised. That number includes $250,000 worth of loans available to the campaign.

Former Gov. Roy Barnes is next with $2.7 million.

Documents show that the next race with the most money in play is for lieutenant governor with more than $6.7 million. That number can be misleading, however, given that incumbent Casey Cagle has raised more than $6.6 million -- which includes $6 million in previous contributions and $536,000 in contributions this period. His nearest challenger, David Schafer, has $169,016 in contributions, but none were raised during the last disclosure period.

The secretary of state's race comes in third in fundraising, with $1.4 million. Doug MacGinnitie currently leads that race with $808,724 in contributions, thanks to more than $551,596 -- the most raised by any candidate -- during the last disclosure period which ended Dec. 31. That amount also includes $430,000 in loans used as campaign finances.

Brian Kemp, Gov. Sonny Perdue's hand-picked successor who is serving as interim secretary of state since Karen Handel resigned to challenge for governor, is next with $374,009.

But it's the races that follow below the headliners that are shaping up in a most interesting way. The attorney geneal's race has generated the next most interest on the list, earning $1.1 million in contributions.

That race pits former Dougherty Country District Attorney Ken Hodges against state Rep. Rob Teilhet in the Democratic primary and Cobb County Commissioner Sam Olens against former U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia Maxwell Wood in the Republican primary.

According to disclosure documents, Hodges managed to raise more money than Teilhet during the last disclosure period by $82,947, but Teilhet still has more total contributions by almost $300. That edge will likely disappear as state representatives are barred from fundraising while the General Assembly is in session.

Olens remains the dominant fundraiser for all of the attorney general candidates after posting a total of $447,566 at the end of the year. Wood brings up the rear with $65,285 in total contributions.

Next on the list is the state insurance commissioner's race, which has posted $961,108 in total contributions.

There are currently 10 vying for that position, with Ralph Hudgens posting the most total contributions in 2009. He has $360,360 with Thomas Knox next at $109,925, followed by Frances Sheffield at $105,460.

Georgia Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond shows a total of $721,122 in contributions on the state ethics Website, but more than $612,000 of that is money he raised during his previous campaign and has already been spent. Thurmond's balance of cash on hand, just over $45,000 just edges out challenger Melvin Everson's $41,254.

Former Agriculture Commissioner challenger Gary Black has gained momentum in his bid to replace retiring commissioner Tommy Irvin. Black has raised $213,595 to John Wilkinson's $38,183. A third candidate, James Darwin Carter, has not filed any disclosure reports with the ethics commission.

In an odd occurrence, the state school superintendent's race has garnered the least political attention, prompting only $160,038 of total contributions so far.

Incumbent Kathy Cox is currently sitting atop the funding heap at $75,069, followed by Beth Farokhi at $36,887, Roger Hines at $20,935, Jeffrey Scott at $10,500, Brian Westlake at $11,157 and Richard Woods at $5,490.