Lansing — Democratic hopeful Shri Thanedar is buying Super Bowl advertisements in Michigan’s four major markets in an effort to boost his profile as he runs for governor.
Thanedar said he is spending about $200,000 to run a 30-second spot on television and radio in the Detroit, Lansing, Grand Rapids and Flint-Saginaw markets during the Super Bowl half-time in February. The Ann Arbor businessman and self-made millionaire said he’s pouring his wealth into the campaign because he’s “passionate about changing the culture in Lansing.”
In 2017, he donated $6 million to his own campaign through October and is now spending some of the money on increasing his name identification leading up to the August primary. Among his primary opponents are former Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer of East Lansing, former Detroit health director Abdul El-Sayed of Shelby Township and former Xerox executive Bill Cobbs.
The ads will run on NBC-affiliated broadcast stations in the four markets where he’ll reach about 2 million homes, Thanedar said.
“I’m passionate enough that I want to spend my own money to win this election,” he said. “We will do some fund-raising, we just started fund-raising. But last year that was not our priority.”
The move is reminscent of Gov. Rick Snyder’s running of a Super Bowl ad in 2010 when the Ann Arbor venture capitalist was a relative unknown in a Republican primary filled with higher-profile elected officials. The 60-second ad cost more than $1 million and helped brand Snyder as “One Tough Nerd” as he scored an upset primary victory.
Snyder is term-limited out of office at year’s end.
“We want to make a case to Michiganders — they have a choice between the current front runner who is a career politician, and someone like me who is an entrepreneur, financially savvy, someone not focused on speeches but actually making things happen,” Thanedar said.
Whitmer, the former Ingham County prosecutor, is considered the party’s front runner. Her campaign said Friday that she raised about $3 million in 2017, with roughly $700,000 of that coming in the final few months of the year.
On the Republican side, the candidates include Attorney General Bill Schuette of Midland, Lt. Gov. Brian Calley of Portland, state Sen. Patrick Colbeck of Canton Township and Saginaw obstetrician Jim Hines.