Epstein bolsters Senate campaign with big loan

Melissa Nann Burke, and Jonathan Oosting

Republican U.S. Senate hopeful Lena Epstein loaned her campaign more than half of the total she raised during the second quarter, according to a new filing with the Federal Election Commission.

Epstein released figures last week indicating she had brought in more than $460,000 since announcing her campaign on May 22, saying she was “thrilled with the success we had in only five weeks” as she credited “conservatives across Michigan.”

A campaign finance report submitted this past week indicates the Bloomfield Hills businesswoman loaned her campaign $250,100, most of which she kicked in three days before the filing deadline. She reported $211,238 in other contributions and had $456,246 cash on hand as of June 30.

“I have enough confidence in the strength of our campaign that I was willing to personally invest, so that people know I am committed to winning and taking the fight directly to Debbie Stabenow,” Epstein said through a spokesman.

Stabenow, the Democratic incumbent, took in more than $2.1 million in contributions for the three-month period ending June 30, bringing her war chest to $5.8 million in the bank.

Epstein says she’s “taking the fight” to Stabenow, but she’s also going after fellow Republicans in the race. This past week, she launched a website dubbing former Michigan Supreme Court Justice Bob Young Jr. as the political “insider’s choice.”

Young reported raising just over $10,000 since joining the race June 28, shortly before the reporting deadline. Among the contributors to Young’s campaign were former Gov. John Engler and his wife Michelle, who each contributed $2,700. Engler appointed Young to the state’s highest court in 1999.

“We just filed our campaign paperwork and only started fundraising recently,” campaign manager Kevin Gardner said in an email. “The campaign is proud to have the support of Governor Engler who is beloved by the GOP and has accomplished so much for the state.”

The Republican primary race heated up during the past week as Detroit businessman and military veteran John James launched an “exploratory committee,” and musician Kid Rock continued to flirt with a possible run.

Epstein dismissed Kid Rock’s potential candidacy in a Friday interview with Bold TV, saying the general public “is not taking this seriously” despite his new Senate website selling logoed merchandise, and neither is she.

“What we have is a brilliant entertainer, a brilliant marketer, who released two songs the same day he came out with this website, and we’ll wait and see what happens,” Epstein said, noting she is happy he’s brought attention to the race.

Asked about her spoof BobYoung.com website, Epstein called him “a very nice man” but said “the reality of the situation is he was recruited by a couple of party insiders that are essentially trying to gerrymander a primary.”

The Young campaign did not take kindly to the characterization.

“Bob Young has spent a career defending the Constitution from insiders and political hacks as a justice on the Michigan Supreme Court,” Gardner said. “He’s a work horse, not a show horse.”