Stabenow builds $7M war chest in Senate re-election bid

Melissa Nann Burke
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow has amassed a $6.9 million war chest in her re-election bid after raising more than $1.7 million in the third quarter, according to her campaign.

The Lansing Democrat is building up a considerable amount of money as she seeks a fourth term.

Republican candidates Bob Young Jr. and John James did not release figures to The Detroit News for the last fundraising period. Their reports were due Sunday, but are not yet publicly available.

In a Detroit News interview at the Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference last month, Young said fundraising could stand to improve.

“It’s pretty good. I could be better,” he said Sept. 22. “The hard thing is this (election) is a year away, and the field is unsettled still.”

U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, who is weighing a run against Stabenow, reported $1.1 million in the bank as of Sept. 30 after raising $526,600 last quarter, according to a report filed with the Federal Election Commission.

TJ Bucholz, a Democratic consultant and Stabenow supporter, said she is unlikely to take the 2018 race for granted, despite relatively comfortable wins in her recent elections.

“I think she’s in excellent position,” Bucholz said. “The rules are a little bit different now with Trump and the Breitbart-ers of the world, but one of the things you look at as a consultant is strength of money. It can’t be dismissed and it can’t be taken away, and I think almost $7 million at this point is a key indicator she’s going to be loaded for bear next year.”

Upton, a solid fundraiser, “could present somewhat of a challenge” for Stabenow if he gets in the race, Bucholz said. But “for some of these (GOP) candidates, taking on Debbie is a suicide mission,” he added.

Others talking about entering the Republican primary are Clarkston’s Kid Rock and Sandy Pensler, a Grosse Pointe businessman who runs a private equity firm and has said he is prepared to spend millions of his own if he enters the race.

Rock, real name Robert Ritchie, has been quiet lately about a Senate bid after publicly playing up his stances on cultural and policy issues during a series of September concerts to help open Little Caesars Arena in Detroit.

Former Michigan Republican Party Chairman Saul Anuzis told The News last month that the GOP has fielded “very strong” Senate candidates but said Upton would enter the race as the favorite, should he jump in.

“It takes two things to win an election: money and everything else,” Anuzis said. “If you’re in a race against someone like Debbie Stabenow, you have to have something different, and you have to be in position to win.”

In other campaigns, GOP businesswoman Lena Epstein of Bloomfield Township won the money race for the open seat in the 11th District, where Rep. Dave Trott, R-Birmingham, is retiring. Her campaign says she brought in $495,000 in gross receipts during the third quarter and had $782,000 on hand as of Sept. 30.

Democrat Fayrouz Saad of Northville raised more than $250,575 in the first 10 weeks of her campaign in the 11th, where her haul came from more than 1,000 donors, mostly in small-dollar amounts, a representative said. Saad, Detroit’s former director of immigration affairs, has $184,100 in the bank. Democrat Haley Stevens of Rochester Hills raised more than $201,226 in the last quarter and has banked nearly $416,000 . Stevens is the former chief of staff to President Barack Obama’s Auto Task Force.

Nearby in the 8th District, Democrat Elissa Slotkin of Holly brought in more than $460,939 for the quarter, outraising incumbent GOP Rep. Mike Bishop of Rochester, who reported $366,306 in receipts.

Last week, the Cook Political Report upgraded Slotkin’s chances of winning the seat, revising the district’s rating from “likely” Republican to “leans” Republican. The Cook report cited Slotkin’s national security resume and early fundraising success.

Bishop retains an advantage in terms of cash, reporting $709,500 in the bank to Slotkin’s $376,850.

GOP Rep. Tim Walberg generated more money than his Democratic challenger, former state Rep. Gretchen Driskell of Saline, in the 7th District, with a total $252,000 to Driskell’s $226,112. Walberg has $574,328 in the bank, compared with Driskell’s $226,142.

Driskell’s campaign stressed that her contributions came from nearly 1,300 donors, and that 84 percent were Michigan residents. Her campaign says 55 percent of Walberg’s itemized donations came from Michiganians and 43 percent of his haul was from special interests.

“When Walberg sits down to take a vote, you know he’s not thinking about all of us here at home,” Driskell said in a statement. “He’s thinking about the big money insurance firms, energy companies, and corporate bigwigs who line his pockets.”

Joe Wicks, a Walberg campaign spokesman, said Driskell is trying to distract from her campaign debt and “failed record in the state Legislature of never passing a bill.”

“Our opponent can keep her focus on fund-raising reports, while Congressman Walberg keeps his focus on strengthening the economy and reducing the tax burden for middle-class families,” Wicks said in a statement.

In northern Michigan, freshman Rep. Jack Bergman, R-Watersmeet, brought in $145,505 for the period and had $171,021 on hand.

Democratic challengers Matt Morgan of raised $69,324 and had $90,244 on hand, and Dwight Brady raised $21,785 and has $22,655.

In Upton’s southwest Michigan district, the top hauls for Democrats came from physician Matt Longjohn, who raised nearly $212,866 for the quarter, and Paul Clements, at $91,720.

In the last two cycles, Upton defeated Democratic nominee Clements, besting him by 22 percentage points last fall.

Staff Writer Jonathan Oosting contributed.