By THE MICHIGAN CAMPAIGN FINANCE NETWORK
LANSING (July 27, 2018) — At minimum, Michigan’s 2018 race for governor is shaping up to be among the most expensive the state has seen. And it’s still very possible it could be a record-setter
The race for governor has already attracted about $42 million, according to new fundraising reports from the candidates, disclosures from outside spenders hoping to influence the race and an analysis of TV ad-tracking from Kantar Media/CMAG.
The $42-million mark has been reached with about two weeks remaining before the Aug. 7 primary election and before the general election campaign, which usually attracts more campaign spending than the primary.
Michigan’s most expensive race for governor occurred in 2006 between Republican Dick DeVos and incumbent Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm. It drew about $79 million total, according to MCFN’s past tracking. DeVos and his wife, Betsy, contributed $35 million to his campaign.
The 2014 race for governor between incumbent Republican Gov. Rick Snyder and Democrat Mark Schauer attracted about $63 million. For both of those elections, there weren’t competitive primary races before the general election campaigns. This year, the primary races are competitive and high-dollar on both sides of the aisle.
The last time Michigan saw competitive primary races for both Democrats and Republicans was 2010. For those primaries, the candidates combined to raise $19.4 million. The outside spending amounted to about $4.6 million. That’s a total of about $24 million.
In 2002, there were also primary races on both sides of the aisle. That year, the cost of the primary races amounted to about $17.1 million (NOTE: This story originally said $18.5 million).
For 2018, outside groups, including PACs, super PACs and nonprofit organizations, have already spent about $8.9 million on independent expenditures, TV ads and other expenses involving the race for governor. MCFN analyzed those efforts on Thursday. That's more outside spending than Michigan races for governor usually see by this point before November.
Another reason the overall cost of the race is so high is because Democratic businessman Shri Thanedar, of Ann Arbor, had provided about $10.1 million for his own campaign by July 22.
It’s unclear how much the Thanedar campaign will end up spending. For its initial filing, the campaign reported spending only $2.8 million by July 22, including paying himself back $1.3 million that he had previously loaned his campaign. After releasing his disclosure, Thaneder tweeted that the campaign had actually spent about $9 million. He said there was “an error” with the campaign finance report.
MCFN has tracked about $1.8 million in broadcast TV advertising from the Thanedar campaign during just the month of July alone and about $4.0 million since the start of 2018, according to an analysis of ad-tracking data from Kantar Media/CMAG.
Thanedar’s Democratic primary opponents, former Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer, of East Lansing, and former Detroit Health director Abdul El-Sayed, of Shelby Twp., have been raising millions of dollars for their own campaigns.
Whitmer’s campaign has raised $3.1 million in 2018 for a total of $6.2 million since it launched in 2017. She’s also received $690,814 in public funding through the state’s public-financing program for gubernatorial races.
Whitmer’s top private donors include the Michigan Laborers Political League, the Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association PAC and the Bernstein PAC, which is connected to the Bernstein law practice. Each PAC has given $68,000, the maximum amount a PAC can give a gubernatorial candidate in Michigan.
As for El-Sayed’s campaign, it’s now raised $3.9 million and received an additional $321,379 in public funding. The campaign has disclosed 23,729 individual contributions since the start of 2018. Its top donors include the Arab American Pharmacist Association PAC, which gave $20,000, and Brigitte and Bashar Kalai, of Texas, who gave $13,600.
The four Republican candidates running for governor have already combined to raise about $11.6 million. None of them had reported receiving any public funding as of July 22.
The top fundraiser has been Attorney General Bill Schuette, of Midland, whose campaign has raised $5.0 million. His top donors include the Realtors PAC, which has given $68,000, the Michigan Chamber PAC, which has given $61,850, and the Auto Dealers of Michigan, which has given $41,500. Schuette’s campaign has also received $34,000 in support from members of West Michigan’s DeVos family, the Michigan family that shelled out the most political money before the 2016 election.
The campaign of Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, of Portland, has raised $3.1 million. It’s received $40,350 from the Michigan Beer & Wine Wholesalers Association, $13,600 from the Nicholson family of PVS Chemicals and $20,400 from members of the DeVos family.
Just behind Calley in fundraising is Dr. Jim Hines, of Saginaw. The Hines campaign has raised $2.8 million since his campaign launched and it's spent $2.7 million. About $2.4 million of the money came from Hines’ himself.
The other Republican candidate for governor, state Sen. Patrick Colbeck, a Republican from Canton, has reported raising $500,653 since his campaign launched and spending $466,797.