The permanent campaign that pervades so much of American politics continues to whir. With the latest campaign finance disclosure reports, voters are getting a chance to see not only what’s going on in the 2020 presidential campaign but also in races with slower momentum down-ballot.
Indeed, 2018 1st Congressional District Democratic nominee Lisa Ring already announced she would seek the nomination again to challenge incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter. She lost in November by 15.4 points — a difference of 38,799 votes out of 250,683 cast — but in doing so notched a generationally high performance for a Democrat in that district. By taking 42.3 percent of the vote, Ring topped the percentage by every Democratic nominee going back to 1992.
The last time a Democrat posted more than 42.3 percent of the vote was 1990, when Lindsay Thomas won re-election with 71.22 percent of votes cast. Thomas chose not to run in 1992 and became a part of the Atlanta Olympics efforts.
However, as with 2018, Carter comes into this election cycle with a decided edge. The Cook Political Report shows the 1st District with a nine-point GOP advantage. That’s not a closed door — a Democrat represents the 6th District, which has a eight-point GOP lean, and Dems have their eyes on the 7th District, which has a nine-point lean.
The campaign lost money according to its end-of-year disclosure and first quarter 2019 disclosure, ending March with more than $1.123 million on hand. That’s mostly because of refunds and a significant amount of continued spending in relation to money raised. Ultimately, from the post-election report through the first quarter of this year, are $251,241 in contributions, taking into account $9,950 in refunds in the year-end report.
Carter received 56 contributions from individual out-of-state donors, totaling $35,975, though $300 from a Utah donor was returned.
Among the notable political action committee donations during this time period are $2,500 from the Marathon Petroleum Corporation Employees PAC; $2,500 from FishPAC, which supports the seafood industry; $1,000 from former Democratic U.S. Rep. Bud Cramer of Alabama; $1,000 from Texas Republican U.S. Rep. Jodey Arrington; $1,000 from Gridiron PAC, which is an arm of the National Football League; and $500 from American Principals PAC, which generally supports pro-Israel Republicans. There was also $250 from state Sen. Ben Watson of Savannah.
On the consulting front, Carter spent $129,668 with Kansas City, Mo., firm Axiom Strategies, $50,059.38 with D.C. firm High Cotton Consulting, $18,739.51 with The Lukens Company of Virginia, $16,878.48 with Monroe Marketing of Savannah, and $13,500 with McLaughlin & Associates of New York.
Incumbent congressmen also tend to spend a lot of campaign dollars on travel, lodging and meals. Through these three report periods, Carter spent $3,855 on commercial airlines — Delta, JetBlue and United — and $500 to Vidalia Aviation Services of Cobbtown. There was $2,611.87 paid to Empire Class Worldwide Chauffeured Services attributed to fundraising, along with lodging at Hilton ($2,988.29), Marriott ($1,252.36) and the Maxwell Hotel of New York City ($1,464.48). There were another $2,000 paid to the Perry Lane Hotel of Savannah for facilities rental.
As for the food, the campaign listed those expenses variously as catering or as meeting expenses. Among those are $6,830.05 to Susan Mason Catering (Savannah), $4,744.18 to Aretsky’s Patroon (New York City), $3,162.40 to Taco Del Mar (Savannah), $3,015.83 to the Capitol Hill Club (D.C.), $2,142.98 to Hal’s Steakhouse (Atlanta), $2,020.75 to Dub’s (Savannah), $1,847.95 to Husk (Savannah), and $1,356.14 to Perry’s Embarcadero (San Francisco).
Seven other restaurants and vendors received payments of several hundred dollars each. The year-end report showed an unusual cluster of fast-food options — as compared to Carter’s other reports — with trips to Chick-fil-A, Firehouse Subs, Jersey Mike’s, Starbucks, Subway and Zaxby’s totaling $175.89.
The campaign also picked up event tickets from CBS on Oct. 22, 2018, for $1,270, and the Louisiana State University athletics ticket office on Nov. 6, 2018, for $262.40. The campaign sent $1,386 to Campaign Financial Services regarding an event, but those tickets were refunded.
In getting things started for her 2020 run, Ring gave $5,500 to her campaign in the last two reporting periods, and ended March with $24,558.59 on hand. Her post-election report showed one contribution for $25 from Glynn County, four for $379 from Camden, and three for $118 from out-of-state. However, it also didn’t list a location for 19 contributions.
Over the three reporting periods, Ring disclosed $23,705 in individual contributions and $2,739.77 from PACs. A large amount of the individual contributions were not itemized, so it’s impossible to tell through these disclosure reports who the money came from and where. From Oct. 18, 2018, though March 31, 2019, Ring disclosed receiving $13,097.43 in unitemized individual contributions, which is around 55.2 percent of her individual contributions overall.
During that same period, Carter reported $9,831 unitemized individual contributions, which is around 6.9 percent of his overall individual contributions.