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Candidates seeking donations before midnight deadline

POSTED: December 31, 2009 12:12 a.m.

With midnight the deadline for donations before the beginning of the election year, candidates for all of Georgia’s offices have been beating the bushes, and their supporters’ e-mail inboxes, for last-minute contributions that will make their campaigns at least look successful.

At midnight, candidates for all state offices and federal legislative offices will have to close the books on 2009 contributions to their campaigns. The Dec. 31 deadline is the last before their campaigns heat up for the 2010 elections.

And Mike Freeman, who just got started on his campaign for Georgia’s 9th Congressional District seat this month, said it may be the worst time of year to start raising money.

"I’ve actually only started raising money in December, which is the worst time of the year, not to mention the economy," said Freeman, the only Democrat to enter the race for the seat held for the last 16 years by U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal.

Still, Freeman, along with other candidates for Georgia’s political offices, said he is "pleasantly surprised with the level of support so far." The Democrat said he has spent at least four hours a day making phone calls to possible contributors this month.

Freeman sent an e-mail to his supporters Wednesday morning, stating that he was "within striking distance" of his contribution goal for December. Other candidates, like Lee Hawkins, one of the many Republicans vying for the 9th District Congressional seat, also said they were near to or had surpassed their own fundraising goals.

"I am excited to announce that we are less than $3,000 away from reaching our goal to raise $10,000 online by midnight on Dec. 31," Hawkins wrote in an e-mail to his supporters. "...I need your help to finish 2009 strong and to raise the funds needed to spread my common sense conservative message across the 9th Congressional District."

Dan McLagan, a spokesman for Republican Karen Handel’s campaign for Georgia governor, said Handel’s campaign office has also been busy raking in last-minute contributions.

"We’ve got a lot of commitments out there that we’re trying to get in the door before the cutoff," McLagan said.

Handel’s husband sent a letter to her supporters Wednesday, asking for contributions to give the campaign the "strongest start possible in 2010."

The Handel campaign is on track to meet its fundraising goals for the end of 2009, McLagan said. But McLagan, who worked for Gov. Sonny Perdue’s campaign when he ousted Roy Barnes, said money isn’t everything.

"Having the best candidate and the best message are the most important in a campaign, but that being said you have to have the resources to get your message out, and we’re going to," McLagan said.

Campaign offices, like that of Democratic gubernatorial candidate David Poythress, say they have primarily needed the money to familiarize voters with their candidate.

"Ours has pretty much just been direct contact, just getting out, people getting to know the general and getting to meet him," said Trevor Southerland, a spokesman for Poythress’ campaign.

Southerland attributes the fact that Poythress has garnered contributions from all Georgia’s 159 counties to the former adjutant general’s busy schedule "criss-crossing" the state.

"He’s traveled all across the state," Southerland said.

And while they all would say nothing less than that their fundraising efforts have been successful, all the candidates’ efforts have been overshadowed by the economy.

Butch Miller, a Gainesville Republican who is seeking Hawkins’ soon-to-be-vacant seat in the state Senate, said that the response has been positive to his fundraising effort, but the final reporting period of the year could place a good bit of pressure on the average person, who may be getting hit from all sides for campaign contributions.

"When you’ve got three major races with major candidates from our county ... raising money, plus you’ve got folks from other areas of the 9th District raising money, plus other areas of the state running for state offices raising money, there’s quite a bit of pressure on the average person in terms of the economy and what’s going on in the political atmosphere," Miller said.

But the pressure trickles down to campaign offices looking for contributions at a deadline.

In the past, campaigns relied on banks and developers to help carry their campaigns — both of which have suffered greatly in the current economic recession, said Harris Blackwood, spokesman for U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal’s gubernatorial campaign.

"I think every campaign out there has had to work for every dollar they’ve raised," Blackwood said. "There’s no doubt that these are times with challenges for a lot of people."



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