Real Estate Funneling Funds To Kemp Campaign As Hollywood Pushes For Abrams
Georgia’s upcoming elections, both for governor and the U.S. Senate, are two of the most closely watched races in the country.
Big names in the commercial real estate industry are largely lining up behind the Republican ticket, but Gov. Brian Kemp's re-election campaign has generated more enthusiasm than — and raised nearly twice as much money as — Herschel Walker's controversy-laden bid to unseat Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams and Warnock have been beneficiaries of a wave of out-of-state donations, including from the entertainment industry, as well as from real estate executives from California, New York, Pennsylvania and Washington. Abrams’ war chest is roughly $85M and Kemp’s nearly $60M, the Associated Press reports, while Warnock has raised more than $111M and Walker’s campaign has taken in less than $32M.
But Kemp’s run of economic success and high-profile economic victories — like new plants from carmakers Hyundai and Rivian and new offices for Microsoft and Google — have the industry lining up behind him.
Richard Bowers, John Rooker, Mitchell Brannen and Brand Morgan are among the high-profile local industry names who have given thousands to re-elect Kemp, according to Georgia Government Transparency and Finance Commission records.
“I think four more years of the governing he’s done would be incredible,” said David Chatham, president of Alpharetta luxury homebuilder ChathamBilt Homes, who donated $2,500 to Kemp’s campaign and $1K to Walker.
Chatham is among a small contingent of real estate executives Bisnow found that donated to both Kemp and Walker’s campaigns. Morgan, who has given more than $17K to Kemp since last year; The Integral Group Chairman Egbert Perry, who donated $2K to Kemp’s campaign; and Rooker, chairman of Rooker Co., who donated $5K to Kemp, weren't listed among Walker’s donors, according to Federal Election Commission records.
Other notable contributions to Kemp’s campaign include:
$2,500 from the Associated Builders and Contractors of Georgia Political Action Committee.
$10K from the Associated General Contractors of Georgia PAC.
$14.6K from general contractors Brasfield & Gorrie in 2021.
$8,600 from prominent housing developer Steven Brock, the CEO of Brock Built Homes.
$2,500 each from JLL International Director David Demarest, Healey Weatherholtz Properties Managing Member Quill Healey II and RocaPoint Partners, developers of the Halcyon mixed-use project just outside of Alpharetta.
$5K from Scotland Wright Associates founder Scotland Wright.
$10K from Selig Enterprises.
$7K from T. Dallas Smith & Co.
The numerous controversies dogging Walker and his campaign — which included reportedly paying for a girlfriend's abortion despite advocating for a complete abortion ban and concealing how many children he has fathered — could be turning donors off from supporting his campaign, said Charles Bullock, a professor of political science at the School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Georgia.
Bullock said polls show up to 10% of registered Republican voters in Georgia could sit out on voting for the Senate contest, especially among women voters who could be repelled by allegations of domestic violence and his stance on abortion.
“This clientele of commercial realtors, they may be voting with their purses,” Bullock said. "They’re not signed up to support [Walker’s] ticket."
Walker’s campaign has still drawn its fair share of CRE donations, both from locals and out-of-towners.
Nashville, Tennessee-based Avison Young principal Warren Smith donated more than $8K to the former football star, while Dallas-based developers Mehrdad Moayedi and Richard Kelley donated $5,800 and $2,900, respectively. New York developer Edward J. Minskoff gave nearly $4K, and Beverly Hills developer Robert Zarnegin chipped in $5,800.
Locally, Bullock Mannelly Partners principal Alan Bullock gave Walker $250, multifamily developer Quintus Development President Kelly Keappler donated $5,800, Raulet Property Partners’ Paul Raulet gave $500 and Rich Arroll, a partner with the land development firm Major & Arroll, gave $2,800, according to FEC records. NAI Brannen Goddard also donated $1K to Walker’s campaign.
“I’ve been a Republican most of my adult life, and I believe in the principles of smaller government and lower interest rates and the ability to have less regulation on our businesses,” Chatham said. “I think the Republican platform and party, including Herschel Walker and Brian Kemp, believe that. I think [Walker] will support the initiatives and the voting of the Republican Party, which I support.”
The U.S. economy is heavily influencing the campaign, Charles Bullock said, and fears over a possible recession and the impact of runaway inflation figure to benefit Kemp and, to a lesser degree, Walker after a decade in which Georgia scored a number of economic development wins under Republican administrations.
“All evidence is the top concern for Georgians is the economy, and maybe more specifically inflation,” Bullock said. “I guess it depends on how hardcore of a Republican you are. It doesn’t matter what kind of baggage your Republican may be carrying.”
Warnock, who beat out Republican Kemp appointee Kelly Loeffler in a 2021 runoff election, has raked in donations from across the country, including $6K from SRS Real Estate Partners principal Ray Uttenhove, $2,900 from Stuart Meddin with the brokerage firm The Meddin Co., $850 from Branch Properties principal Richard Lee, $1K from OA Development founder Steve Berman and $1K from Avison Young principal Kirk Rich. Perry, who also gave to Kemp’s campaign, donated $1K to Warnock.
H.J. Russell & Co. President Jerome Russell donated $4,650 to Warnock’s campaign and told Bisnow he gave because he thinks Warnock has done “an excellent job.”
“He has clearly reached across the aisle on certain issues,” Russell said. “That’s what we need. We need collaboration. We don’t need divisiveness."
Warnock also has received a fair share of out-of-town donations from the real estate industry. A West Coast development executive who gave $1K to Warnock said nominating Walker was a “sick, cynical joke” by the Republican Party.
The executive, who asked to remain anonymous out of fear of offending conservative business partners, said he backed Warnock even though Democrats have pushed policies that target the real estate industry, like eliminating carried interest.
“It would cost me a lot of money, but I don’t care,” he said. “These issues are more important than how much money I or my company would make.”
Abrams, the political activist and former romance novelist, has raised the majority of her campaign funds from out-of-state donors, including from California, Washington, D.C., and New York, Axios reported.
Abrams also has attracted money from a who’s who of business leaders, such as $7,700 from former Atlanta City Council President Lisa Borders, $1K from CBRE Executive Vice President Jeffrey Ackemann, $2K from Metro Developers President Andrew Feiler and more than $12K from Jaclyn Safier, CEO of West Coast multifamily operator Prometheus Real Estate Group.
Abrams’ donor roll is dotted with names from the entertainment industry, including $10K from Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston, $500 from Pac-12 Networks Vice President of Content Production and Strategy David Koppett, $1K from television producer Max Mutchnick, $500 from Junkyard Dog Productions partner Randy Adams and $220 from Patma Productions President Joan Boarstein.
UGA’s Bullock said these contributions are evidence that Hollywood is attempting to influence Georgia’s politics as film production booms in the state. Kemp has championed right-wing policies — signing the Heartbeat Bill in 2019 and a controversial voting law that was criticized as suppressing minority participation in elections — that have drawn the ire of the majority-liberal entertainment industry.
“Each of these has generated at least threats that the movie industry, or at least parts of it, might move out of Georgia,” Bullock said. “Abrams has capitalized on that in the sense that she’s opposed these conservative moves. It’s not just that the Hollywood industry … has spoken out against these conservative stances [in] the legislature. They’re putting their money where their mouth is.”