Congressman Hank Johnson and challenger Tom Brown have raised a combined total of more than $283,315 in the race to represent Congressional District 4. The district covers parts of DeKalb and Newton counties, stretches across a big chunk of Gwinnett County and swallows all of Rockdale County.
Johnson raised $156,523 to Brown’s $126,792, according to quarterly campaign disclosure forms posted by the Federal Election Commission in April. Although there are no independent polls of the race yet, some political observers say Brown has raised more money on average reaching individuals and small businesses when compared to Johnson, who has the support of large Political Action Committees (PACs) and fellow members of Congress.
“I think Hank is taking Tom seriously because other competitors in the past didn’t raise money that fast,” said Georgia Democratic consultant Cabral Franklin. “Based on fundraising, Tom definitely looks like he’s doing more.”
But Franklin, who co-managed the day-to-day operations of the Democratic Party of Georgia’s Coordinated Campaign in 2010, said winning is not based on who raises the most money.
“The most attractive campaign to voters will win. A PAC can contribute hundreds of millions of dollars and voters won’t care,” said Franklin. “Most voters don’t know these kinds of things or won’t look into contributions in detail. Whether you get it from PACs or individuals, a candidate just needs enough funds to effectively get their point across and both of these candidates have enough money to do that. Incumbents will always have PAC support because of pre-campaigning relationships.”
Political analyst Bill Crane agrees that Brown, who served as sheriff of DeKalb County for nearly 14 years, is a formidable challenger.
“This will be a very competitive election. Fortunately, Tom has name recognition as sheriff and according to reports, he has the money as well,” said Crane, who has served for years as a commentator for talk radio, television and other media outlets. “On the other hand, the incumbent has the benefit of already having more funds on hand. Where Tom must continue to get out there and shake hands and kiss babies to raise money dollar by dollar for ads, signs, phone banking and staff, Hank Johnson can focus his energy in other areas of campaigning.”
Meanwhile, Brown says he is getting out shaking hands and visiting small businesses to reach as many people as possible before May 20, Election Day. A seasoned politician, Brown served as DeKalb County Sheriff for 13 years.
“I’m not a Washington insider, so I don’t cater to those groups. I cater to the people—the teacher who gave me $25, the barber who gave $150 or the business owner who dug deep and gave me $500,” Brown said.
Brown says he believes voters want change in representation.
“We have done well so far because the people want a strong, fresh voice in Washington, D.C.,” said Brown.
Johnson says his contributions list doesn’t just include PACs, but also represents a wide range of people and groups.
“I am proud my campaign includes more than 150 individual donations, some as small as $5 and $10. Those are not required to be itemized individually in the report, but they are as important to me as the larger donations. I also enjoy strong support from labor unions, who support me, because I always fight for regular working Americans and the middle class,” said Johnson. “I am proud to have PAC support from many local companies such as Home Depot, United Parcel Service and Coca Cola.”
The SEC’s quarterly report shows that Johnson’s largest contributors came from six PACs, which gave his campaign $5,000 each. One of those PACs was the Congressional Black Caucus. Others who contributed to Johnson’s campaign include businessman Gregory Baranco, who gave $1,000; and Pastor Jasper Williams, Jr., who gave $2,000.
Johnson also has received support from several members of Congress. The committee for G.K. Butterfield of N.C. gave $500; Alcee Hastings of Fort Lauderdale gave $1,000; Steny Hoyer of Maryland contributed $2,000; Sander Levin of Michigan gave $1,000; $1,000 came from Lloyd Doggett of Austin, Texas; and $2,000 from Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco.
In a news release, Pelosi said she is supporting Johnson because he is a strong Democrat.
“Congressman Johnson has stood shoulder-to-shoulder with all House Democrats in fighting for equal opportunity, for good jobs and better pay, for a strong, thriving middle class,” said Pelosi. “Hank Johnson is a champion for working families, in Georgia and across the country. He is a bold leader and an unflinching voice in our ongoing effort to secure affordable health care for our families, jobs and fairness for our workers, consumer protections for Main Street and effective rules of the road for Wall Street.”
Brown’s largest contribution was $2,600 from Samuel Barber of Lithonia, the FEC report shows. Other contributors were DeKalb School Board’s Chair Melvin Johnson, who gave $500; Bishop Eddie L. Long, who contributed $2,000; and former DeKalb Chief Operating Officer Richard Stogner, who contributed $500.
The most money one person can give to an election campaign in one donation is $2,600. According to the national political website, www.politico.com, PACs that are less than 6 months old are permitted to give up to $5,200 to a candidate in an election cycle, while PACs more than 6 months old can give $10,000 per election cycle.