Schuette builds $2.3M war chest in run for governor

Jonathan Oosting
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Lansing — Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette raised $1.2 million in the latest reporting period and has more than $2.3 million on hand as he seeks the Republican nomination for governor in 2018, according to his campaign.

Finance reports filed with the state Wednesday show Schuette with an early cash advantage over other gubernatorial candidates, including Democratic front-runner Gretchen Whitmer, who raised $768,459 for the quarter and finished with $1.5 million in the bank.

The Midland Republican reported $510,676 in contributions to a gubernatorial committee he set up as he launched his campaign in early September. Schuette also raised $705,182 through an older attorney general committee he had been using even though term limits prevent him from seeking re-election to that post.

He transferred $1.8 million from the old committee to the new one and reported a balance of $2.318 million across both funds.

The early favorite for the GOP nomination, Schuette has raised $3.19 million this cycle, according to his campaign. That’s the second largest total among declared candidates, trailing only Democrat Shri Thanedar, an Ann Arbor entrepreneur who has pumped nearly $6 million of his own money into his campaign, as The Detroit News reported Tuesday.

Whitmer has raised $2.3 million since launching her campaign in January, maintaining an edge over former Detroit health department director Abdul El-Sayed, who is courting liberal voters and has turned heads with his fund-raising ability.

El-Sayed reported $612,472 in contributions for the quarter and $1.6 million overall. He spent $348,119 and ended the period with $903,565 cash on hand.

Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, who is expected to seek the GOP nomination but has not yet announced a campaign, reported raising $333,313 in the quarter and $1.5 million this cycle.

Calley reported $163,659 in incidental spending and ended the period with $1.17 million in available cash that he could transfer to a gubernatorial committee, should he form one.

While fundraising numbers will not define the gubernatorial race, they can serve as an indicator of institutional and grassroots support for candidates set to compete in party primaries on Aug. 7, 2018.

Big money

Schuette received large contributions from political action committees, including $20,000 from the Warner Norcross and Judd law firm, $17,500 from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and $16,000 from DTE Energy.

Top individual donors included Penske Corp. Chairman Roger Penske, Dow Chemical President and CEO Andrew Liveris and Van Conway of Birmingham, who each gave Schuette $6,800, the maximum amount allowed.

At least one PAC, run by the Miller Canfield law firm, donated to leading candidates of both parties, including $19,500 to Schuette and $10,000 to Whitmer.

Whitmer’s top backers for the quarter were primarily labor groups. She reported receiving $20,000 from the Michigan Council of Carpenters, $15,000 from the UFCW International Union and $10,000 from Plumbers Local 190.

Maximum individual donors to the Whitmer campaign included Jon Cotton, Meridian Health president and chief operating officer; and Ann Arbor attorney Mark Bernstein, who had considered running for governor but instead backed Whitmer.

El-Sayed, a doctor who could be the nation’s first Muslim governor, continued to pull in contributions from around the country, including max donations from psychiatrist Fatten Elkomy of Missouri, physician Asim Khan of Arizona and attorney Ian Bushner of Massachusetts.

All candidates vying to replace term-limited Republican Gov. Rick Snyder and other statewide office-holders were required to file campaign finance statements by 5 p.m. Wednesday.

Fund-raising totals for state Sen. Patrick Colbeck, a Canton Republican and tea party favorite, were not yet posted on the Secretary of State’s website as of 5:40 p.m.

Saginaw obstetrician Jim Hines reported raising $84,549 for his gubernatorial campaign, bringing his total to $564,802 for the cycle. Most of that is from Hines himself. The self-funding Republican pumped $75,000 into the race on Oct. 3 and has kicked in more than $511,000 overall.

The Hines campaign spent $41,272 during the period and reported a cash balance of $100,156.

Among Democrats, former Xerox executive Bill Cobbs of Detroit reported raising $32,781, including nearly $25,000 from himself and his wife, and ended the period with $7,363 cash on hand. Kentiel White of Southgate reported raising $300 and had a cash balance of $2,684.

Pistons Van Gundy backs Benson

In the race for secretary of state, Democrat Jocelyn Benson reported a strong fund-raising start.

The party’s 2010 nominee raised $252,838.95 during the period, according to a filing showing she started fund-raising more than two months before officially announcing her campaign this month. Her campaign said she raised $110,000 in the three days following her launch.

Benson’s top donors included Detroit Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy, Palace Sports & Entertainment vice chairman Arn Tellem and Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, who each gave her a maximum $6,800 contribution.

Benson, former Dean of the Wayne State University Law School, is CEO of the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality, a non-profit founded by Ross that works with athletes and organizations to improve race relations and drive social progress.

In that capacity, Benson has worked with Van Gundy and other Detroit sports figures, including current and former Pistons players Tobias Harris and Marcus Morris, she previously told The News.

Benson reported spending less than $8,000 and finished the period with more than $251,000 in cash reserves. She is the only declared candidate seeking the Democratic nomination for secretary of state, which party delegates will decide at a convention next year. Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum may also run.

Shelby Township Clerk Stan Grot, seeking the GOP nomination, reported raising $29,973 for the period and $102,523 overall. He has spent more than $51,000 and has $50,880 in the bank.

Grot was his own top donor, loaning his campaign $6,000 on Oct. 20. Other top donors include Godfather Bistro owner Marty Dadou and Srodek Deli owner Jozef Srodek, who gave $1,000 each.

Eastern Michigan University Regent Mary Treder Lang reported raising $28,000 since launching her campaign in September. She spent $4,275 and has $24,525 in cash on hand. Treder Lang’s top donors included Marlene and John Boll of St. Clair Shores, who contributed $6,800 each.

Michigan State University Professor Joseph Guzman, also seeking the GOP nomination for Secretary of State, reported raising $4,125 and spending just $4.90 during the period.

AG race heats up

State House Speaker Tom Leonard, who launched his campaign for attorney general on Oct. 5, starts with an early cash advantage as he seeks the GOP nomination at a party convention next year.

Leonard raised $181,929 for the period through his new attorney general candidate committee and House campaign account. The DeWitt Republican transferred $140,204 from the old committee to the new one and has a cash balance of $379,615 across both funds.

Leonard’s top donors include the Growing Michigan PAC, a leadership linked to state House Majority Floor Leader Dan Lauwer, which gave $10,000, and PVS Chemicals executive James Nicholson, who gave $6,800.

State Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, a Lawton Republican who announced her attorney general campaign last month, raised $82,551 through three different funds during the latest quarter.

She transferred $200,000 from her state Senate account and $25,000 from a leadership PAC into her attorney general committee and ended the period with a cash balance of $256,215 across all three funds.

Her top donors included her father, former Sixth Congressional District GOP Chairman Harold Schuitmaker, who contributed $5,000. State Sen. Margaret O’Brien’s leadership PAC also kicked in $5,000.

Democrats Pat Miles and Dana Nessel posted competitive fund-raising numbers as they compete for their party’s nomination for attorney general.

Miles, a former U.S. attorney who launched his campaign in late September, had started raising money more than two weeks earlier and reported $189,778 in contributions since Sept. 8, according to his filing.

His top donors included Steelcase heir Kate Pew Wolters and United Airlines attorney Brett Hart, who each gave $6,800. Miles spent $43,517 and ended the quarter with $146,261 in cash reserves.

Democrat Dana Nessel, an attorney best known for representing a same-sex couple in a case that struck down Michigan’s same-sex marriage ban, reported raising $148,331 since launching her campaign for attorney general on Aug. 15.

Nessel spent $16,449, leaving her with $131,882 in cash on hand. She got a fund-raising boost from other Nessels, apparent family members who contributed a combined $22,100 to her campaign.