Do you have to be wealthy to run for governor?
You might come to that conclusion after paging through the financial disclosure statements that candidates were required to file with the state ethics commission last week.
On the Republican side, three of the five major candidates profess to be millionaires: their total financial assets exceed their total liabilities by at least $1 million.
State Sen. Michael Williams (R-Cumming) has been doing poorly in the polls but quite well on the balance sheet.
Williams sold a chain of Sport Clips barber shops in 2013 and walked away with a lot of money in the process. He now has a net worth of $9.1 million, the highest of any of the Republicans running.
Secretary of State Brian Kemp wasn’t far behind Williams with a net worth of $5.2 million, the money primarily coming from agriculture-related businesses in which Kemp invested.
Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle is the leading money-raiser among Republican candidates with nearly $7 million reported so far, but he’s only in the middle of the pack when it comes to personal wealth. Cagle’s reported net worth is $1.58 million.
Clay Tippins, a former Navy SEAL who’s now a business consultant, disclosed a net worth of $745,000, while former Army officer Hunter Hill is at $448,000.
There are two fringe Republican candidates for governor who most likely will finish with only a handful of votes on election day. But both of them appear to be in decent financial shape on the personal level.
Eddie Hayes, an Athens restaurant owner, reported a net worth of $1.26 million. Marc Alan Urbach, a former teacher who lists his current occupation as “author,” claims to have a net worth of $953,000 (he also says he would be Georgia’s first Jewish governor if elected).
Hayes and Urbach are the longest of long shots in this race, but neither of them will have to take a pauper’s oath to run.
Over on the Democratic side, the two candidates in the race are attorneys and former legislators named “Stacey.”
Stacey Evans of Smyrna is a trial attorney who was awarded a sizeable legal fee when she successfully represented a client in a whistleblower lawsuit involving Medicaid fraud. She has put $1.2 million of her own money into her campaign, but still reported a net worth of $5.2 million.
Evans still owes $45,449 on student loans she took out while attending the University of Georgia and has an outstanding bank loan of $24,800, but it looks like she will have the fiscal resources to pay them off as they come due.
The one exception to all of these solvent candidates for governor is Stacey Abrams, who was the House minority leader before stepping down last year to devote full time to running for governor.
Abrams’ personal finances, to put it politely, are a mess.
She reported a net worth of only $108,885. She owes the IRS $54,052 in back taxes, although she said there is a plan in place to pay them back (ironically, as an attorney she has specialized in tax law).
Abrams still owes $96,512 on student loans she took out to pay the costs of attending Spelman College, the University of Texas and Yale Law School. She has had some problems with credit card debt as well and still owes about $75,000 in that category.
None of this is criminal or unethical, of course.
Abrams’ opponent in the Democratic primary, as we have already noted, also has some hefty student loan balances to pay off. Abrams has talked often about the financial sacrifices she has made to care for her parents.
She also is not the first person ever to fall behind on their credit card payments. Just ask millions of cash-strapped Americans.
There has been no indication yet that Evans will make an issue of personal finances in the Democratic primary race, but if Abrams should get the Democratic nomination, then all bets are off.
In that instance, you can look for the Republican nominee to run TV commercials claiming that Abrams’ financial difficulties are proof she’s a “free-spending liberal” who wants to squander the taxes paid by “hard-working Georgians.”
When you’re a non-millionaire running for statewide office, that’s going to happen to you.
Tom Crawford is editor of The Georgia Report, an internet news service at gareport.com that reports on state government and politics. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.