City DopeNews

Athens’ Republican Legislators Raise Big Bucks for Re-election

State Rep. Houston Gaines. Credit: House Media Service

Any Democrats who run against Athens’ incumbent Republican state legislators will be at a massive fundraising disadvantage, with all four of them sitting at six-figure campaign war chests as of the end of January, in addition to occupying tweaked new districts that the GOP-legislature shored up last fall to prevent more Democratic gains.

State Rep. Houston Gaines (R-Athens) had $258,848 on hand when he filed his most recent campaign finance report with the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission last month. He raised $162,900 during the most recent six-month reporting period. Donors included former UGA President Michael Adams, Watkinsville Mayor Brian Brodrick, Piedmont Athens Regional CEO Michael Burnett, Vince and Barbara Dooley, former ACC Commissioner Kathy Hoard, former Board of Regents member Don Leeburn and former UGA gymnastics coach Suzanne Yoculan-Leeburn, former mayoral candidate Charlie Maddox and numerous political action committees for the construction, energy, health care, communications and other industries. His largest expense was $3,957 to the Athens Country Club for a fundraiser.

Rep. Marcus Wiedower (R-Watkinsville) raised $96,077 and had $135,907 on hand. The Leeburns and Charlie Upchurch’s real estate business gave $2,800 each. As journalism professor Lee Becker pointed out on his Oconee County Observations blog, Wiedower, who sits on the House Natural Resources and Environment Committee, also received contributions from mining PACs and a Birmingham, AL company that’s seeking to open a mine near the protected Okefenokee Swamp. 

Sen. Bill Cowsert (R-Athens) had $310,108 on hand, including $81,535 raised from August through January. All of Cowsert’s itemized contributions—those over $100—came from outside of Athens. At $6,000, his top donor was a Maryland-based wine distributor.

Sen. Frank Ginn (R-Danielsville) raised $75,700 and had $102,940 on hand. Almost all of the Senate Transportation Committee chairman’s contributions came from business PACs, most notably road contractors and related industries like concrete manufacturers. 

Rep. Spencer Frye (D-Athens) raised just $21,150 and had $19,986 on hand. Major donors included real estate, homebuilding and trial lawyers’ groups. Members of the minority party generally have a harder time raising money than the party in power, and Frye’s district tilts so Democratic that he’s unlikely to face a challenger. But with the legislative session—when incumbents are prohibited from fundraising—more than half over, at this point any potential challengers have squandered an opportunity to catch up.