Democrats raise more in Mich. congressional races

Melissa Nann Burke, Detroit News Washington Bureau

Correction: This story has been updated to correct Suzanna Shkreli's fundraising totals for the third quarter.

Washington — Democrats raised more money than Republicans in competitive Michigan congressional races in the third quarter, although Republican incumbents had significantly more cash on hand as of Sept. 30, according to federal campaign finance reports.

“With uncertainty facing the GOP at the top of the ballot, the Democratic candidates are showing some fundraising strength and momentum,” said Craig Mauger of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, referring to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s slide in the polls.

“But in many of the races, they have yet to match the stockpiles of cash that the GOP incumbents have collected while serving in Congress.”

In south-central Michigan, state Rep. Gretchen Driskell of Saline, who is challenging Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Tipton, raised $564,529 to Walberg’s $512,414. But Walberg still has a large war chest, with $1.1 million cash on hand to Driskell’s $462,633 as of Sept. 30.

Democrat Suzanna Shkreli of Clarkston raised $411,421 for the quarter, the bulk from individual contributions, compared with a $165,695 haul for U.S. Rep. Mike Bishop, R-Rochester.

A political newcomer, Shkreli joined the 8th District race in July after Melissa Gilbert left the ticket for health reasons.

“I am honored by the broad grassroots support that our campaign has received, which has given us the resources we need to communicate our message of taking on the tough fights in Washington on behalf of Michigan’s middle-class families,” Shkreli said in a statement.

Bishop’s campaign on Sunday stressed that he has nearly six times as much cash on hand as Shkreli going into the final stretch of the campaign, more than $899,520 to Shkreli’s $150,072. Shkreli spent heavily in recent weeks on television advertising.

“Notwithstanding what Shkreli has raised over the past week, Shkreli appears to be out of money,” Bishop spokesman Stu Sandler said in a statement.

The state’s most expensive race so far this election is in northern Michigan, where Democrat Lon Johnson of Kalkaska has been outraising Republican Jack Bergman of Watersmeet in the 1st District, and outside groups are spending big on TV ads.

In the third quarter, Johnson pulled in $455,118 to Bergman’s $383,924, which included $83,000 that Bergman loaned his campaign. That total doesn’t count what Bergman brought in at a fundraiser attended by House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, who visited Traverse City in early October. 

Johnson and Bergman are running for an open seat now held by Republican Rep. Dan Benishek, who is retiring after three terms. Johnson ended the quarter with $134,965 cash on hand, and Bergman with $104,580.

“As the candidates argue about who’s actually from the 1st District, their fundraising is being eclipsed by outside groups who’ve already dropped $2 million into the district,” Mauger said. “And there’s likely much more to come.”

Those outside groups have reported spending more than $2.1 million on independent expenditures in the district, mainly for broadcast advertising and polls. Independent expenditures are not supposed to be coordinated with the campaigns.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and House Majority PAC have spent more than $927,0000 in opposition to Bergman. The National Republican Congressional Committee has spent $1.19 million in opposition to Johnson, according to FEC filings.

Rep. Dave Trott, R-Birmingham, raised $148,277 in the quarter, less than half of his Democratic opponent, Dr. Anil Kumar of Bloomfield Hills, who reported $369,515 for the quarter. However, Kumar’s total included $200,000 he loaned to his campaign. Trott had $734,127 cash on hand as of Sept. 30, and Kumar had $537,117.

Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, raised $377,042, while his challenger, Paul Clements of Kalamazoo, brought in $244,087 for his 6th District campaign. Upton had nearly $1.3 million cash on hand to Clements’ $259,800.

Democrats need to gain 30 seats to win control of the House for the first time since 2011. Analysts say their chances are better in the Senate, where Republicans now hold 54 of the 100 seats.