Meijer, Slotkin post large cash amounts in Michigan's U.S. House races

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Peter Meijer of the namesake family retailer has an early money lead in the race for independent Rep. Justin Amash’s Grand Rapids area seat, while Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin is the national fundraising leader among incumbents in battleground districts.

Slotkin, D-Holly, who represents the 8th District, was the top fundraiser among 19 incumbents running in U.S. House districts identified as "toss-ups" by the Cook Political Report, according to Issue One, a cross partisan political reform group based in Washington, D.C.

Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin speaks at a town hall event at Oakland University, in Rochester, MI on March 21, 2019.

Slotkin, who defeated Republican Rep. Mike Bishop in 2018, raised $815,922 from July through September, according to her disclosure, which was due Tuesday.

Two Republicans, State Board of Education member Nikki Snyder and Mike Detmer of Howell, are competing to challenge Slotkin but didn’t have to file finance disclosures because their campaigns launched after the fundraising period ended.

In the West Michigan's 3rd District, Meijer’s campaign raised $410,149 over the last three months, including a $100,000 loan from Meijer to his campaign. He is the grandson of the late retailer Fred Meijer,

But he’s also received contributions from major West Michigan GOP donors, including two members of the DeVos family; Bill Parfet, who co-chaired former Gov. Rick Snyder’s 2010 campaign, and former U.S. ambassador Peter Secchia.

Peter Meijer

Amash, who has clashed with President Donald Trump and left the Republican Party in July, reported raising $150,268. His campaign has raised $445,204 since the 2018 election.

The libertarian-leaning lawmaker raised the least money over the last three months of 19 incumbent U.S. House members running in districts rated as "toss-ups" by the Cook Political Report, according to data from Issue One.

In a social media post at the end of September, Amash said his support in the district “has never been higher, but running as an independent presents new challenges.”

Meijer said he was honored by the financial support. Asked if he’s concerned about being labeled the establishment candidate in the race, Meijer responded, “I am sure that others will find fault with something no matter what. A lot of the folks I met with met with others, and I was proud to earn their support.”

Michael Beckel, manager of research at Issue One, noted the pressure on U.S. House members to raise money for their 2020 elections.

"Spending the most money doesn't guarantee electoral success," Beckel said. "But it's a lot easier to be the candidate with the most money."

In 2018, the Slotkin-Bishop race became the most expensive congressional contest in Michigan history in combined campaign and outside group spending at about $28 million. Slotkin won by less than 4 percentage points.

The Republican National Committee has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Slotkins' eventual GOP challenger by highlighting her support of the impeachment inquiry of Trump. It also has run critical television ads against Slotkin. 

Five Republicans have already formed committees to run for Amash’s seat.

U.S. Rep. Justin Amash, R-Cascade Township, holds a town hall meeting at Grand Rapids Christian High School's DeVos Center for Arts and Worship on Tuesday, May 28, 2019.

In addition to Meijer of Grand Rapids Township, businessman Joel Langlois generated $246,669 during the three-month period, state Rep. Lynn Afendoulis of Grand Rapids Township raised $159,371, state Rep. Jim Lower of Greenville received $51,203 and former Sand Lake village trustee Tom Norton reported raising $7,456.

Lower and Norton launched their campaigns before the latest fundraising period began. Lower has raised $251,799 since his campaign began, while Norton has brought in $22,849, according to disclosures.

Two Democratic candidates in the district have also been raising money.

Immigration attorney Hillary Scholten of Grand Rapids generated $233,708 since the start of July. Attorney Nick Colvin of Saranac brought in $124,932 over the three-month period and has raised $246,193 since his campaign launched.

Meijer's fundraising prowess should make other candidates nervous, said John Sellek, a longtime GOP consultant and CEO of Harbor Strategic Public Affairs. While many people assumed Meijer could self-finance his campaign by tapping his wealth, he is also locking up support from community leaders, Sellek said.

In the 8th District, which includes portions of Ingham, Livingston and Oakland counties, Slotkin has raised $2.1 million since she won in November 2018.

Not far behind Slotkin in fundraising is Rep. Haley Stevens, D-Rochester Hills, who flipped control of a Republican seat in 2018. Stevens, who represents the 11th District that includes parts of Wayne and Oakland counties, raised $667,110 over the last three months and $2 million since the last election.

Republican Whittney Williams of Canton Township announced her campaign in August and reported raising $44,454.

In Southwest Michigan's 6th District, U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, raised  $284,734 over the last three months and $980,817 since the last election.

Upton, who won by his smallest margin ever of 4.5 percentage points in 2018, has almost twice as much cash in hand as State Rep. Jon Hoadley of Kalamazoo, the only prominent Democrat running so far. Hoadley brought in $209,848 over the last three months and has raised $525,695 since the campaign launched in April.