Peter Meijer airs Super Bowl ad in west Michigan race as Amash draws campaign dollars

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

The race for west Michigan Rep. Justin Amash's seat in the U.S. House has already drawn more than $3 million, according to new fundraising disclosures; now, it also will feature a Super Bowl ad.

Peter Meijer, one of the Republican candidates, is airing an ad in the Grand Rapids TV market during the game on Sunday night. Meijer is a military veteran and the grandson of the late retailer Fred Meijer.

"He interrogated terrorists in Iraq, so he can handle Democrats in D.C.," the ad's narrator says after images of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, and U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Detroit.

Then, Meijer himself says, "I am a conservative veteran running for Congress because in uncertain times, west Michigan needs proven leadership."

Meijer said he wants to use the ad to share more with people of west Michigan about why he's running. The ad cost about $50,000, according to a disclosure filed with the Federal Communications Commission.

Meijer is running in the 3rd Congressional District, which is represented by Rep. Justin Amash, I-Cascade Township. Amash was reelected as a Republican in 2018 but he has publicly feuded with President Donald Trump and left the party in July. Amash is  expected to run for reelection as an independent, but he's also been floated as a potential third-party candidate for president.

Six candidates running in the 3rd District reported raising more than $100,000 each over the final three months of 2019. Amash was the biggest fundraiser. His campaign reported bringing in $595,187. It had $722,071 cash available at the end of the year.

Over the same three-month period ahead of the 2018 election, Amash's campaign raised just $68,107.

Among Amash's donors were two vocal Trump critics, George Conway, an attorney who's married to Trump counselor Kellyanne Conway, and Evan McMullin, who campaigned as an independent for president in 2016. Amash supported Trump's impeachment in December.

Meijer has led the Republican field in fundraising. His campaign raised $313,324, including $75,000 in self-funding, over the final three months of the year. Meijer's campaign had $557,279 available at the end of the year.

The second most active fundraiser on the GOP side was Joel Langlois, a Grand Rapids area businessman who owns the Deltaplex. He raised $212,412 over the final three months of 2019, including $200,000 in self funding. Langlois had $333,258 in campaign cash on hand at the end of 2019.

A third GOP candidate, state Rep. Lynn Afendoulis, R-Grand Rapids Township, raised $112,901 during the final quarter of 2019. But her campaign had only $199,411 available at the end of the year.

Democrats are also targeting the 3rd District. Immigration attorney Hillary Scholten of Grand Rapids raised $124,205 over final three months of 2019 and had $207,193 available to start 2020. Attorney Nick Colvin of Saranac, the other Democratic candidate, raised $100,941 and ended with $60,252 cash available.

Below are details from other Michigan U.S. House candidates' new campaign finance disclosures:

  • U.S. Rep Elissa Slotkin, D-Holly, holds a $2.5 million cash advantage over the Republican candidates in the 8th District, which includes Ingham County, Livingston County and part of Oakland County. Slotkin, who beat an incumbent Republican in 2018, had $2.8 million available at the end of 2019. The most active GOP candidate in fundraising, Paul Junge, a former TV anchor from Brighton, had just $234,713 available.
  • Similarly, in the 11th District, U.S. Rep. Haley Stevens, D-Rochester Hills, had $2 million at the end of 2019. The top fundraising GOP candidate in the 11th District was Eric Esshaki, a Birmingham attorney. He had $163,753 available at the end of the year. Esshaki gave $50,000 to his own campaign.
  • Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph hasn't officially declared he's running for reelection in southwest Michigan's 6th District but he continues to raise money like he's running again. Upton collected $335,154 over the final three months of the year. Over the same period before the 2018 election, Upton raised just $216,552. State Rep. Jon Hoadley, a Kalamazoo Democrat who hopes to challenge Upton in 2020, raised $208,494 over the final quarter of 2019.
  • Three Republican candidates are raising large sums in the 10th District race to replace retiring Rep. Paul Mitchell, R-Dryden. Lisa McClain, a businesswoman from Bruce Township, raised $489,085 during the final three months of the year, including $250,000 in self-funding. State Rep. Shane Hernandez of Port Huron raised $274,568. Hernandez received $28,000 in support from members of the DeVos family, a powerful force in  GOP politics. And Air Force Brig. Gen. Doug "Odie" Slocum of Macomb Township raised $150,767.