Whitmer posts cash edge over Schuette heading into final days of campaign

Jonathan Oosting
The Detroit News
Gubernatorial opponents Gretchen Whitmer and Bill Schuette discussed their stark differences on how to govern the state in separate interviews Friday

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gretchen Whitmer outraised and outspent Republican Bill Schuette in October and has a cash advantage heading into the final days of the campaign, according to disclosure reports filed with the state on Friday.

Whitmer raised more than $4 million between Aug. 28 and Oct. 21 and has reported roughly $11.1 million in private contributions since launching her campaign in early 2017.

The former state Senate minority leader spent more than $4.5 million in the post-primary period and roughly $10.2 million overall, which left her with cash reserves of $959,242 roughly two weeks out from the Nov. 6 election, according to her filing.

Schuette personally loaned his campaign $325,000 on the reporting deadline and ended the period with $564,856 in his campaign coffers. He reported $2.4 million in new contributions and has raised more than $9 million in private money for the cycle. The attorney general from Midland spent $2.8 million through late October and $8.45 million overall.

The fundraising numbers reflect direct contributions to campaigns. Outside groups are also spending heavily in the race. The Michigan Republican Party and Republican Governor’s Association on Thursday announced a $1.2 million ad buy to help Schuette close a television spending gap.

While Whitmer’s campaign touted grassroots support — noting that 85 percent of the contributions she’s received in 2018 were for $100 or less — she also benefited from an influx of spending by political action committees.

The East Lansing Democrat received $68,000 contributions, the largest amount allowed under state law, from PACs linked to Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, the League of Conservation Voters, the Operating Engineers union and the Democratic Governors Association Victory Fund.

Schuette’s largest donors for the period included the Michigan Farm Bureau political action committee, which contributed $68,000, and the Michigan Compete PAC that is associated with Republican state Sen. Mike Shirkey, which kicked in $50,000.

Michigan law allows PACs to give 10 times as much as individuals, who can give up to $6,800 to a candidate each cycle. Maximum donors to Whitmer included several Michigan residents, along with billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, both of California.

Schuette received maximum $6,800 contributions from dozens of individuals, including Ambassador Bridge owner Manual Moroun of Grosse Pointe Shores, Matthew Moroun of Grosse Pointe Farms, former MPI Research CEO William Parfet of Hickory Corners and businessman Edward Levy Jr. of Birmingham.

“Gretchen Whitmer has all of the momentum in this race,” Whitmer for Governor Press Secretary Nicole Simmons said in a statement. “She has raised a record-breaking amount in her run for governor because she’s gotten into all 83 counties and talked to real Michiganders about what they want her next governor to focus on.”

Schuette’s campaign did not immediately respond to a comment about his fundraising numbers but blasted Whitmer earlier Friday for her funding from the Blue Cross Blue Shield PAC, echoing Democratic primary opponents who suggested she was “in the pocket of big insurance.”

The Blue Cross PAC also donated $25,000 to Schuette’s campaign in May and June, in addition to $27,000 it contributed to his attorney general campaign after his re-election in 2014.

A Schuette super PAC that spent heavily on his campaign in the primary but has not been as active in the general election filed a disclosure report Thursday indicating it had raised $740,037 between July 21 and Oct. 20. Post-primary contributions included $150,000 from the Penske Corp. of Bloomfield Hills.

A federal fund that spent heavily on Whitmer in the primary election reported raising $793,200 between from August through Sept. 30. Top donors included the AFL-CIO and the Michigan Service Employees International Union.