Female candidates lead money race for U.S. House

Melissa Nann Burke
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — Female candidates running for Congress in Michigan started the year with a strong fundraising quarter, with Democrats Rashida Tlaib and Ellen Lipton with an early edge in the money race in their bids to succeed Reps. John Conyers Jr. and Sandy Levin, respectively.

Democrat Elissa Slotkin generated more money than Republican Rep. Mike Bishop of Rochester for the third quarter in a row, and Gretchen Driskell, another Democratic challenger, outraised GOP Rep. Tim Walberg of Tipton.

Republican businesswoman Lena Epstein — who has contributed more than $990,000 to her bid to succeed retiring Rep. Dave Trott — maintained her overwhelming edge in the 11th District GOP primary, closing out the quarter with more than $1 million in the bank.

Reminiscent of the 1992 cycle, 2018 is shaping up to be the next “Year of the Woman,” said David Dulio, who chairs the political science department at Oakland University.

Rashida Tlaib.

In 1992, voters elected more new women to Congress than in the past, driven in part by their fundraising strength, he said. Twenty-four women were elected to the U.S. House and three to the Senate, tripling the number of women in that chamber.

“On the Democratic side, the strong fundraising figures from the female candidates is, in part, a sign of the enthusiasm for their candidacies in a political context that includes, especially here in Michigan, a focus on the issue of sexual assault and the #MeToo movement,” Dulio said.

“Their fundraising success is yet another indicator that it’s ‘game on’ in races where female Democratic candidates are challenging GOP incumbents.”

Tlaib, a community organizer and the first Muslim woman elected to the Michigan Legislature, brought in more than $588,900 in contributions in the first quarter and had $457,000 in cash as of March 31, according to disclosure reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.

Her campaign for the 13th Congressional District said 46 percent of the donations were for $50 or smaller, and that the majority of her contributions came from Michigan residents.

“We are so inspired by the more than 1,700 donors and over 300 volunteers who are fueling our campaign with the hard work and commitment to a new approach to public service that fights for every family in the district,” Tlaib said.

Westland Mayor Bill Wild raised $139,630 in the last quarter and had nearly $124,000 in cash reserves.

State Sen. Ian Conyers of Detroit brought in $88,360 and had about $57,000 on hand. Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones raised about $39,400 and had $37,700 in the bank.

State Sen. Coleman Young II reported $15,350 in receipts, including $15,000 that he loaned his campaign, but hadn’t spent any of it. Democratic activist Michael Gilmore raised nearly $10,000 and reported a negative cash balance of $3,551.

Reports were unavailable for other candidates in the crowded 13th District race, including that of Conyers’ son, John Conyers III — whom his father has endorsed to succeed him.

Conyers Jr., who resigned in December amid allegations of sexual misconduct, attended the Michigan Democrats’ convention over the weekend in Detroit, where he was seen seated with his son on the convention floor.

District 9

Lipton, a former state lawmaker from Huntington Woods, took in more than $501,000 in the first quarter, outraising Levin’s son, Andy, for the three-month period.

Levin raised $386,000 for the quarter for a total $510,000 since he launched his campaign in December.

“The extraordinary level of support we’ve received shows that voters in the 9th District are seeking solutions to the issues I am ready to take on,” said Lipton, who has been endorsed by the group Emily’s List that backs candidates who support abortion rights.

“I’m honored and humbled to have the support of so many Michiganders, and I’m fired up for the rest of the campaign.”

In cash reserves, Lipton and Levin were nearly tied — Lipton had $407,000 as of March 31, and Levin had about $403,500.

“I decided to run for Congress to help build a movement focused on creating good jobs, ensuring access to quality health care for every American, education and training, protecting our air and water, and restoring faith in our government,” Levin said. “It’s encouraging to see that message resonate with 9th District voters.”

Sandy Levin, who is retiring after 36 years in Congress, hasn’t explicitly endorsed in the race but has praised son Andy’s qualifications and experience.

“He’s running a tough campaign,” Sandy Levin told The Detroit News on Friday. “I don’t have to endorse. He’s on his own, but with my full support.”

Others seeking the Democratic nomination include state Sen. Steve Bieda of Warren, who raised $128,800 last quarter, and attorney Martin Brook of Bloomfield Township, who raised nearly $16,000.

Republican candidate Candius Stearns of Sterling Heights brought in about $20,000 and had $92,500 cash on hand.

Districts 7, 8 and 11

In the closely watched 8th District, Slotkin brought in about $801,000 during the quarter to Bishop’s $456,777. Slotkin’s total was more than any other Democratic U.S. House candidate in Michigan raised during the reporting period.

Slotkin, a former Defense Department official, reported slightly more in cash reserves ($1.34 million) than the two-term incumbent Bishop ($1.3 million) as of March 31.

Also seeking the Democratic nomination is Chris Smith of East Lansing, who raised $19,600 and reported $48,645 in the bank.

Vice President Mike Pence traveled to Detroit in March to promote the federal tax cuts and bolster Bishop and more than 20 other GOP U.S. House members at a fundraiser.

In the 7th District, former Saline Mayor Driskell received nearly $325,600 to Walberg’s $282,000. But Walberg maintains an edge in cash reserves, reporting nearly $971,500 in the bank to Driskell’s $619,930.

Steve Friday, who is also seeking the Democratic nomination, raised $21,655 and reported $32,400 cash on hand.

In the 11th District, Epstein of Bloomfield Township reported receipts of roughly $145,000 for the quarter, including another $60,000 that she loaned her campaign.

“I’ll have our president’s back, and the determination and experience to create jobs and grow the economy in southeast Michigan,” Epstein said. “I have the resources necessary to run a successful general election campaign and will work hard to ensure the 11th Congressional District stays in Republican hands.”

State Sen. Mike Kowall, R-White Lake Township, reported about $157,600 in receipts, including $82,000 he lent his campaign. Kowall, the Senate majority floor leader, had $131,345 in the bank at the end of his first fundraising quarter.

State Rep. Klint Kesto, R-Commerce Township, raised $110,781 in contributions and had $103,741 in cash.

Former state House Majority Leader Rocky Raczkowski of Troy reported $47,740 in receipts including $25,000 he loaned his campaign. Raczkowski has $176,371 in the bank.

Former U.S. Rep. Kerry Bentivolio, R-Milford, and Kristine Bonds of West Bloomfield Township had not filed reports as of Monday.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has targeted five Republican-held seats in Michigan but views the open seat in the 11th as the most likely to flip to the Democrats, Chairman Ben Ray Luján said Friday.

“That’s not only the best pickup opportunity but an example of a seat where the retirement of the incumbent created problems for the Republicans trying to hold onto the majority,” Luján said during a roundtable with reporters.

The DCCC hasn’t weighed in on the primary contest, but “we have several good candidates there,” he added.

Suneel Gupta of Birmingham raised about $430,700 last quarter and had more than $638,280 cash on hand.

State Rep. Tim Greimel, D-Auburn Hills, took in $225,856 in receipts for the quarter, closing with more than $394,000 on hand.

Haley Stevens of Rochester Hills brought in about $187,000, ending with over $562,672 in the bank. Fayrouz Saad of Northville reported raising $138,400 and had about $288,250 on hand, and Dan Haberman of Birmingham raised nearly $109,000 and had about $81,370 in cash reserves.

Districts 1 and 6

In northern Michigan’s 1st District, Rep. Jack Bergman, R-Watersmeet, was again outraised by his Democratic challenger, Matthew Morgan.

Morgan received more than $202,700 and surpassed Bergman with $316,656 in cash reserves. Bergman, who is seeking a second term, raised over $145,500 and had $307,200 in the bank.

Longtime Republican Rep. Fred Upton of St. Joseph was surpassed by Democratic hopeful George Franklin. The former Kellogg lobbyist brought in about $207,900 to Upton’s $172,300.

But Upton has a larger war chest with more than $1.1 million in the bank, compared with Franklin’s $382,885.

Physician Matt Longjohn, who is also seeking the Democratic nomination, raised $146,342 and had $285,632 cash on hand. Paul Clements, who unsuccessfully ran against Upton in 2014 and 2016, brought in $75,500 and had $167,100 in cash.


Jonathan Oosting contributed.