Peters leads GOP challenger James in early fundraising

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News
Gary Peters

Washington — U.S. Sen. Gary Peters raised more money than his Republican challenger by nearly $1 million last quarter, though his opponent got a late start and still generated a seven-digit amount.

Republican businessman John James brought in more than $1.5 million in just over three weeks after he declared his candidacy last month, according to his campaign, proving he continues to be a strong fundraiser. 

That's compared with Peters’ $2.4 million haul during the three months from April 1 through June 30. The Michigan Democrat’s campaign says that’s a record for an off-election year quarter for a U.S. Senate candidate in Michigan. 

Peters, who is seeking a second term, ended the quarter with $4.7 million cash on hand. His receipts included nearly 80% of contributions at $50 or less, his campaign said.

"The numbers bode well for both candidates: $1.5 million in three weeks is impressive for John James," said political scientist David Dulio, who directs the Center for Civic Engagement at Oakland University.

"At the same time, $4.7 million cash on hand is a significant figure, and it demonstrates how much ground John James is going to have to make up. He’s going to have to dedicate himself to raising as much money as he can because this demonstrates Peters’ fundraising prowess."

Republican U.S. Senate candidate John James speaks during a rally in Pontiac  on Oct. 17, 2018.

James' campaign said his haul was more than any non-incumbent Senate candidate in Michigan for the second quarter in an off-year.

The Farmington Hills Army veteran started the quarter with about $478,500 in the bank. His campaign did not immediately provide a figure for the amount of cash on hand he went into July with.

James had nearly 12,000 donors, with 71% of contributions at $50 or less and 88% of contributions at $100 or less, according to the campaign.

This campaign cycle, James has said he will contribute 5% of what he raises in his campaign to charitable causes. His campaign has not yet identified the charities. 

It's his second run for U.S. Senate after losing to Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Lansing last year by a better-than-expected 6.5 percentage points. 

The 2018 contest demonstrated James' fundraising ability when he brought in nearly $12.6 million to Stabenow's $17.9 million.

A former Army Apache helicopter pilot in the Iraq war, James was endorsed by President Donald Trump and Kid Rock during his 2018 campaign. He is president of the James Group International, a supply-chain management firm, his family's business, in southwest Detroit.

“In less than a month, our grassroots army showed its strength and our momentum,” James said. 

“Michiganders want change. We’re tired of career politicians failing us without consequence. We want leaders who do what’s best for us, not what’s best for themselves.”

Peters of Bloomfield Township is a former U.S. representative and investment adviser who served over a decade in the U.S. Navy Reserve. He sits on the Senate Armed Services, Homeland Security and Commerce committees.

“The strong support our campaign is receiving is proof that Michiganders want effective leaders who work hard and get the job done," Peters said. 

“That's why I'll never stop working to lower health care costs and prescription drug prices, protect our Great Lakes and expand training programs to make sure every Michigander can get the skills to find a good-paying job.“

He is one of two Democrats running for reelection next year in states that Trump won in 2016. 

Trump won Michigan by 10,704 votes, and polling over the last two years has since shown the president's approval ratings to be below 50% in Michigan.

Fewer than 36% of likely Michigan voters said in a recent statewide poll they would vote to reelect Trump, compared with more than 51% who said they plan to vote for someone new.