Politics

Georgia Senate runoff election is shaping up to cost tens of millions of dollars

Key Points
  • The coming Georgia Senate runoff between GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler and Democratic challenger Raphael Warnock is shaping up to cost tens of millions of dollars.
  • Republicans are expected to shell out at least $100 million, according to a GOP strategist familiar with the plans. Democrats are projected to spend a similar amount.
  • The parties are expected to spend even more if the other Georgia Senate election, between GOP Sen. David Perdue and Democrat Jon Ossoff, also heads to a January runoff.
Democratic Georgia Senate candidate Rev. Raphael Warnock and Republican Georgia Senate Senate candidate Kelly Loeffler.
Reuters

The coming Georgia Senate runoff between GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler and Democratic challenger Raphael Warnock is shaping up to cost tens of millions of dollars.

Republicans are expected to shell out at least $100 million, according to a GOP strategist familiar with the plans. This person also noted that Democrats are expected to spend a similar amount. NBC News projected that Loeffler and Warnock are headed to a runoff after they placed in the top two of several candidates running for the seat in a special election.

The parties are expected to spend even more if the other Georgia Senate election, between GOP Sen. David Perdue and Democrat Jon Ossoff, also heads to a January runoff. NBC has not made a call in this race.

Each contest has been expensive so far. The Warnock and Loeffler campaigns have combined to spend nearly $40 million, according to data from the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. Perdue and Ossoff have spent nearly $45 million. Combined, House and Senate races across the country are expected to finish spending a total of $7 billion by the end of the 2020 election cycle.

The Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC run by allies of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., will be leading the way in outside spending for the GOP in those races, according to the Republican strategist.

A Democratic fundraiser agreed that both sides are gearing up to drop loads of cash on Georgia over the next couple months.

"Both Georgia races are going to runoffs. There will be more money spent on both sides than in any Senate races in history," according to Charles Myers, former vice chairman of Evercore and a Democratic bundler. Myers said that, if he was asked, he would start raising money for Warnock and possibly Ossoff if it's needed.

Other Democratic donors, including longtime party financier Bernard Schwartz, told CNBC that they are preparing to, or already are, raising money for Warnock and are just waiting for Ossoff to initiate their networks.

Control of the Senate could be at stake if both races go to a runoff.

Still, some party bundlers told CNBC they're already preparing to tell Democratic leaders they don't believe the races in Georgia are a worthwhile investment as they aren't convinced the candidates will win.

Georgia historically has been held by Republicans. Yet there have been signs in recent years that the state has shifted somewhat toward Democrats. As of Thursday afternoon, the race for the state's 16 Electoral College votes in the presidential race was too close to call, according to NBC.

Warnock, according to people briefed on the matter, has started reaching out to some of his top donors to start raising for what's likely going to be a grueling fight.

People who declined to be named in this story did so in order to speak freely.

Warnock himself warned his supporters in an ad on Twitter that "the negative ads are coming." The ad features a link to his ActBlue page, where he encourages small-dollar contributions.

The Senate Leadership Fund has already spent $43 million taking on Ossoff and just more than $770,000 targeting Rep. Doug Collins, a Republican who was running against Loeffler, Warnock and others in the special election, according to data from CRP.

Its Democratic rivals in the Senate Majority PAC are gearing to engage in both races. They spent more than $30 million against Perdue, CRP says.

"We are committed to helping both Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff win these seats in January," Rachel Irwin, a spokeswoman for the super PAC, told CNBC. "The Georgia Republican ticket is made up of a pair of corrupt, out-of-touch politicians who profited off of the pandemic and will stop at nothing to take away Georgians' health care."

The Lincoln Project, according to people familiar with the matter, will target Loeffler and could get involved in the other Georgia Senate race if that goes to a runoff.

Way to Lead PAC, a hybrid PAC helping candidates up and down ballot, plans to give $100,000 to the New South super PAC. That committee is also supporting Warnock with digital ads and other forms of voter outreach. The committee has also been involved with the other Georgia Senate race and the presidential election there between Joe Biden and President Donald Trump.

New South's budget for its 2020 program was more than $2 million.

Democratic super PAC American Bridge already put out an ad against Perdue in the expectation his race will go to a runoff. The spot claims Perdue profited after gaining insight from his Senate briefings on the coronavirus pandemic. Loeffler and her husband, Intercontinental Exchange CEO Jeff Sprecher, liquidated their individual stock positions and related options after being criticized for selling millions of dollars in stock amid the pandemic.

Loeffler and Perdue have denied wrongdoing.

A spokesman for the PAC told CNBC it too is going to be pushing ahead into these races. The committee specializes in opposition research.

"Over the next two months, American Bridge 21st Century will continue to do what we do best: digging into Loeffler and Perdue's shady records and holding them accountable to Georgia voters, just as we have for the last year. They should buckle up," Zach Hudson, the group's spokesman, said.

Both Democratic and Republican campaign committees appear to be bracing for both races to head to January runoffs.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee has prepared a variety of voter contact tools for each race, including TV and digital ads, along with having surrogates ready for media appearances.

"David Perdue won this race in regular time and will do the same in overtime," NRSC Executive Director Kevin McLaughlin said in a statement.

"Georgia is clearly now a purple battleground state, and Senator Perdue is a weak, scandal-plagued incumbent who can't defend his record of outsourcing and corruption," said Scott Fairchild, executive director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. "We're ready to help Jon flip this Senate seat."

VIDEO2:0502:05
The central question is Senator Perdue's position in Georgia: Strategas Research's Clifton