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Thanedar’s TV ad first of 2018 governor’s race

Jonathan Oosting
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Lansing — Democrat Shri Thanedar is launching the first television ads of the 2018 race for Michigan governor, going on the air months earlier than past candidates as he seeks to boost his profile among potential voters.

The little-known Ann Arbor entrepreneur, who last year sold a majority stake in the Avomeen product testing and development lab he founded, has committed nearly $6 million of his personal fortune to his campaign.

A new ad, set to begin running Tuesday, “is one of the ways we intend to use our significant cash on hand advantage to tell as wide an audience as possible about Shri’s inspiring life story and his progressive ideas to make education and health care accessible to all,” campaign manager Brian Spangle said in a release.

Spangle did not immediately respond to questions from The Detroit News over the size of the advertising buy and in which markets the commercial will run. Public inspection records for multiple broadcast channels in Metro Detroit do not yet show any Thanedar ads on the docket.

As published online ahead of Tuesday’s launch, the ad highlights Thanedar’s background as a scientist and chemist while jabbing both Republican President Donald Trump and GOP Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder.

“With a climate change denier president and an accountant governor who brought us the Flint drinking water crisis, our next governor should get science,” a narrator says.

Thanedar sold his company last year in a deal that netted him roughly $20 million, according to a federal lawsuit filed by the buyers, who allege Thanedar made “fraudulent and misleading” claims to inflate the value.

The 62-year-old Indian-born American has denied the accusations and touted his success at Avomeen, which he helped found after returning to Ann Arbor from Missouri in 2010.

Despite his wealth, Thanedar is considered a long shot to win the Democratic gubernatorial primary in August 2018. The field includes former state Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer, the early front runner for the nomination, and former Detroit health department director Abdul El-Sayed.

Thanedar’s early commercial is a reminder of how long campaign cycles now last, said Craig Mauger of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, whose non-profit does not typically start tracking ad buys until the first month of an election year.

Snyder, who is term limited and cannot see re-election, was not well known when he launched his first gubernatorial ad in February 2010 – a Super Bowl spot that introduced him to voters as “one tough nerd.”

Republican businessman Dick DeVos also ran his first ads in February 2006 in his losing bid to unseat incumbent Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

“Those are two candidates that had a lot of money, and they launched their ads in February of the election year,” Mauger said.

“Obviously the Democratic primary has multiple candidates, so it looks like (Thanedar) wants to get the race started earlier. It’s a combination of trends: Elections are becoming more expensive, and they’re also starting earlier.”

Thanedar had loaned his campaign $5.96 million through Oct. 20, according to the most recent disclosure report he was required to file with the state. His campaign had spent $281,835, leaving him with nearly $5.7 million in cash on hand.