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In Tight Governor's Race, Atlanta CRE Execs Pour Money Into Kemp Campaign

The race to replace outgoing Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, a Republican, is a toss-up that could lead to the first-ever December runoff in what has been a contentious election season.

But for many of the city's commercial real estate leaders, there's little question of whom they support: Republican candidate and current Secretary of State Brian Kemp

Governor Georgia Republican Democrat
Georgia gubernatorial candidates Stacey Abrams and Brian Kemp are in a tight race that could lead to the state's first runoff for governor.

Bisnow reviewed recent campaign contribution reports from Kemp and Democratic challenger Stacey Abrams and found, by and large, executives and developers in commercial real estate have poured thousands into Kemp's campaign coffers in a clear demonstration of political preference this election season.

The names donating to Kemp include former Major League Baseball first baseman-turned-developer Mark Teixeira ($1,000), Carter CEO Scott Taylor ($2,000) and residential skyscraper king Novare Group CEO Jim Borders ($6,600), who told Bisnow in an email that he is a lifelong Republican and a longtime friend of Kemp.

“I know that Stacey Abrams is a very intelligent woman, and I know she would have the best intentions to how she would run our state, but I don't know if she has the same pro-business, small-business mindset I'd like to see for the state of Georgia,” McWhirter Realty Partners' Dan Buyers said.

Buyers is the past chairman of the Atlanta Commercial Board of Realtors governmental affairs committee as well as a current alternate board member on the Georgia Association of Realtors political action committee, which spent $6,600 on Kemp's race this year — the maximum individual donation allowed to a state candidate by state law.

Georgia Gov Nathan Deal
Outgoing Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal with former Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed during an economic development announcement in 2016

Buyers' main concern this election is replacing the Deal administration with one he believes will keep Georgia's economic development success on a roll.

Deal — along with former Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed — both focused heavily on generating new jobs into the state and region with some very noteworthy successes, including Mercedes-Benz's U.S. headquarters, a new Anthem Healthcare IT campus coming to Midtown and most recently Thyssenkrupp's plans for a U.S. headquarters for its elevator division at The Battery at SunTrust Park, complete with a large elevator testing tower.

The Metro Atlanta region also is in the running for Amazon's vaunted HQ2 project, which will bring thousands of high-paying jobs to the winning city.

“Our industry depends on growth for our success,” Buyers said. "And I think that under Secretary Kemp as governor, I think there's a good chance that Georgia would maintain that lofty position."

Kemp has managed to raise nearly $21M in cash and another $218M in in-kind donations, according to the most recent financial disclosure report for the campaign. Below is a list of some of his many commercial real estate political donors.

OA Development
OA Development founder Steve Berman

Abrams — who has raised more than $16M in cash and more than $140M in in-kind donations, according to records — had only a smattering of professionals in commercial real estate as financial supporters. But she has lured the attention of some of Hollywood's elite, including Ben Affleck, Kevin Bacon and Oprah Winfrey, who visited Atlanta this week to campaign on her behalf.

According to documents, among Abrams commercial real estate supporters include:

  • CBRE Executive Vice President Jeffrey Ackemann ($500)
  • CoStar Group Senior Economist and Managing Director Galina Alexeenko ($250)
  • Central Atlanta Progress Vice President of Planning and Economic Development Jennifer Ball ($250)
  • An executive named James Bellew with Maryland-based Federal Realty Investment Trust ($200)
  • Jamestown Senior Associate Andrew Berger ($750)
  • Atlanta-based OA Development founder Steve Berman ($500)
  • Savills Studley Managing Director in Virginia Ken Biberaj ($200)
  • H.J. Russell & Co. Chief Financial Officer Eddie Bradford ($500)
  • Berkeley, California-based architect Peter Brock ($200)
  • Cooper Carry principal Pope Bullock ($500)
  • Georgia Power Vice President of Economic Development Pedro Cherry ($6,600)
  • Peebles Corp. CEO and Chairman Don Peebles ($6,600)

University of Georgia political science professor Charles Bullock said the race's tight polling, just days before the election, makes it too close to call.

That is in large part thanks to the Libertarian candidate for governor, Ted Metz, who is taking nearly 2% of the vote, and the 5% of voters who remain undecided.

In Georgia, the winning candidate must command 50% plus one vote. At this point, neither Abrams nor Kemp appear to be achieving that, which would force the duo into Georgia's first-ever gubernatorial runoff, which would be held Dec. 4.

CORRECTION, NOV. 5, 10:30 A.M. ET: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated Charlie Fiveash's current employer. Fiveash is senior director and managing broker with Lee & Associates. The story has been updated.

UPDATE, NOV. 5, 1 P.M. ET: This article has been updated with Peebles Corp. CEO Don Peebles' campaign contribution to Stacey Abrams.