Whitmer, Schuette raise more donations over rivals

Jonathan Oosting
The Detroit News

Lansing — Democrat Gretchen Whitmer and Republican Bill Schuette continued increasing their campaign cash advantages in the final months of 2017, outpacing their top rivals in fundraising for the Michigan governor’s race.

Democrat Gretchen Whitmer and Republican Bill Schuette

Whitmer led all gubernatorial candidates in funds raised between Oct. 21 and Dec. 31, according to year-end disclosure reports filed Wednesday with the Michigan Secretary of State’s Office.

The East Lansing Democrat and former state Senate minority leader raised $747,284 during the reporting period and raised nearly $3.05 million for the year after launching her campaign in January 2017. Schuette, a Midland Republican and term-limited state attorney general, raised $735,003 for the period and $3.05 million for the year.

Whitmer’s totals at this point are larger than any non-incumbent Democrat for governor in modern Michigan history, her campaign said.

“The people of Michigan have made it clear that they’re ready for a change, and they know that Whitmer is a proven fighter who will work with anyone to solve problems and take on anyone who stands in the way,” campaign spokesman Annie Ellison said in a statement announcing her totals.

But Schuette ended the year with a cash advantage, reporting $2.4 million in unspent campaign cash, while Whitmer had $1.87 million in cash reserves.

A super political action committee supporting Schuette also raised $536,459, reporting $250,000 contributions each from the Kojian Properties real estate company and the Oakland Financial Corp.

The Miller Canfield law firm pumped $15,000 into Schuette’s campaign. A Dow Chemical Employee PAC and the Auto Dealer Association of Michigan each gave him $10,000. Joan Secchia, the wife of GOP donor Peter Secchia, gave Schuette a max donation of $6,800.

“Our PAC is independent, but … everything is going for Bill Schuette right now in the Republican primary,” Stu Sandler, who leads the pro-Schuette Better Jobs, Stronger Families super PAC.

Democrat Shri Thanedar, an Ann Arbor Democrat, raised $1,012 for the period but has $5.2 million in his campaign coffers after previously committing more than $5.9 million of his own money to the race.

Thanedar’s self-funding will lift a primary spending cap on candidates who file for public financing, and outside money is sure to drive up the price of the gubernatorial election, said Craig Mauger of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network.

“Each race is different, but in general, the cost of races is getting more expensive, so candidates feel pressure to raise more earlier, and I think we’re seeing that,” Mauger said.

Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, a Portland Republican competing with Schuette, raised $302,061 across two funds during the latest reporting period, including $152,456 he raised for the gubernatorial campaign he officially launched Nov. 28.

Calley raised $1.8 million in 2017, according to numbers provided by his campaign. His full report was not yet posted on the state website as of the soft 5 p.m. deadline. Calley ended the year with $1.37 million in cash on hand after a transfer from his old lieutenant governor’s account.

State Sen. Patrick Colbeck, R-Canton Township, reported raising $85,714 in the final months of 2017 and $424,784 overall. He ended the period with cash reserves of $62,855.

Saginaw obstetrician Jim Hines reported receipts $163,650 for the period, mostly a result of continued self-funding. Hines has committed more than $673,000 of his own money to his campaign. He has raised $729,027 for the cycle and ended the period with a cash balance of $167,355.

Democrat Abdul El-Sayed raised $281,009 during the latest period but spent more than he pulled in, according to his filing. He spent $344,926 and ended the period with $837,518 in cash reserves.

Whitmer’s top donors included the Michigan Council of Carpenters PAC, the Michigan Association of Justice PAC and the Communication Workers of America PAC, which each gave her $10,000. Larry Bell, founder of Bell’s Brewery, was among her top individual donors with a $5,800 contribution.

Thanedar spent $472,296 during the period while raising just $1,012, but the self-funding millionaire noted his $5.2 million in cash on hand is more than the reserves of Whitmer, Schuette and El-Sayed combined.

Thanedar told The Detroit News is prepared to “spend all of that.” And while he is ramping up external fundraising efforts, he made clear he is also willing to put more of his personal money into the race if needed.

Thanedar is expected to run a Super Bowl ad this weekend.

Democrat Bill Cobbs, a former Detroit police officer and Xerox executive, reported raising $3,758 for the period. He had $3,275 in cash reserves after putting nearly $70,000 of his own money into the race.

Michigan House Speaker Tom Leonard, R-Dewitt, was the top fundraiser among all declared candidates for state attorney general, reporting $371,200 in contributions for the period and $607,259 overall.

Leonard transferred nearly $64,000 from his state House campaign committee and got $30,000 from a leadership account tied to Rep. Lee Chatfield, R-Levering.

He spent $33,499, leaving him with $566,430 in cash reserves, nearly doubling his competition for the GOP nomination, state Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker of Lawton.

Schuitmaker raised $63,700 for the period, bringing her overall total to $352,300. She ended the period with $281,707 in cash on hand.

Pat Miles, a former U.S. attorney from Grand Rapids, led all Democratic candidates for attorney general. He reported raising $175,251 and $365,045 for the year.

Miles ended 2017 with $227,063 in cash reserves. His top donors included Meijer executive Doug Meijer of Grand Rapids and PowerDigm founder Jonathan Wege of Bloomfield Hills.

Dana Nessel, a Plymouth Township attorney competing with Miles, reported raising $67,204 for the period and $215,535 for the full year. She had $145,983 left in her campaign coffers.

Democrat Jocelyn Benson reported another strong fundraising period in her second bid for Michigan secretary of state. Running without opposition in the Democratic primary that she won in 2010, Benson raised more than $202,000 for the period and roughly $389,000 in cash reserves.

The former Wayne State Law School dean’s donor list includes big names from Michigan and beyond, including feminist icon Gloria Steinem of New York, who have each given her $1,000.

Other individual donors include Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, Dennis Archer Jr. and former U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade. The Michigan Carpenters Association gave Benson $20,000 and the Bernstein attorney family’s political action committee gave her $10,000.

Mary Treder Lang was the top fundraiser in the three-way race for Republican nomination for secretary of state and appears to be the favored candidate by the powerful DeVos family of west Michigan.

Treder Lang raised $102,875 for the period, including maximum $6,800 contributions from six different DeVoses. She raised a total of $131,657 in 2017 and ended the year with $69,390 in cash reserves.

Shelby Township Clerk Stan Grot reported contributions of $7,285 for the period and has raised $109,808 overall. He spent $17,019, including $6,000 to repay a personal loan, and ended the year with $41,145.