AG, Secretary of State candidates raise big money ahead of conventions

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News
Secretary of State candidate Jocelyn Benson, left, speaks at the Michigan Democratic convention at Cobo Center in Detroit on April 15, 2018. Behind her is former U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, right.

Candidates for Michigan attorney general and secretary of state are reporting relatively high contribution totals in their latest campaign finance reports.

At the front of the trio running to replace term-limited Attorney General Bill Schuette is Republican House Speaker Tom Leonard, who has raised nearly $1.2 million this election cycle and has about $910,000 on hand. Leonard’s Republican opponent state Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker has raised about $603,000 with $328,000 on hand.

The presumptive Democratic nominee for attorney general, Dana Nessel, has raised about $743,000 this cycle and has $311,000 on hand.

Leonard’s biggest donors were various Republican leadership political action committees, including his own committee, the Michigan Values Leadership Fund; while Nessel’s were public employee unions and the Bernstein family.  

The candidates for attorney general and secretary of state were required to file ahead of their parties’ respective conventions Aug. 25 and 26, where each party will choose their nominees.

Nessel, who was endorsed by the Michigan Democratic Party over her United Auto Workers-backed opponent Pat Miles in April, has raised three times more money than any other Democratic attorney general candidate heading into the convention, according to her campaign.

The Plymouth Township attorney, who helped topple Michigan’s same-sex marriage ban, said she is “funded by the people” instead of special interests, and plans to continue that trend as attorney general.

“It’s time Michiganders have someone in the Attorney General’s office who is beholden to the people,” Nessel said in a statement. “In my 25 years practicing law, I never represented corporations, I always represented people — and that is how I am committed to fueling this campaign.”

Leonard’s nearly $1.2 million raised and $910,000 on hand exceeds the roughly $857,000 Schuette had raised and the $294,000 he had on hand at this point in 2010. The DeWitt Republican is a former assistant prosecutor in Genesee County and a former assistant attorney general.

"Our campaign has seen an incredible outpouring of support," Leonard said in a statement Thursday. "I have been sharing my detailed plan to be a rule-of-law attorney general and make Michigan safer and stronger, and I am glad to see it has struck a chord with the people of this state."    

Schuitmaker loaned herself $200,000 in the last reporting period and raised about $50,000.The Lawton Republican said she is confident of her chances to become the Republican nominee next week.

"As Democrats pour in millions of dollars in an attempt to take over the state House, House Republicans will wish they had the million dollars House Speaker Tom Leonard has raised for himself rather than his caucus," she said.

Leonard has given roughly $200,000 from his campaign funds to the House Republican Campaign Committee this cycle, his spokesman Gideon D'Assandro said. 

Among the candidates running for Secretary of State, presumptive Democratic nominee Jocelyn Benson had raised the most through August.

Endorsed by the Michigan Democratic Party in April, Benson has raised about $1 million and has roughly $836,000 on hand. Groups contributing to Benson include various public and private employee unions, the Progressive Women’s Alliance and Emily’s List, a group supporting female candidates who back abortion rights.

 "The outpouring of support we've received since we launched this campaign leaves no doubt that we are in this to win," Benson said in a statement. 

Benson, a Harvard Law School graduate and Wayne State University law school dean from 2012 to 2016, also gained her party’s nomination for Secretary of State in 2010 but lost to the current Secretary of State, Republican Ruth Johnson.

Combined contributions to Republican candidates for secretary of state don’t amount to half of what Benson’s received.

Grosse Pointe Farms businesswoman Mary Treder Lang has raised $266,000 and has roughly $30,000 on hand; Shelby Township Clerk Stan Grot has raised $144,000 with $10,000 on hand; and Michigan State University professor Joseph Guzman has raised $16,000 with nearly $3,000 on hand.

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