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Bernie Sanders favored by donors in Michigan

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News

Vermont U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders is the top recipient of campaign cash from donors in Michigan, raising nearly three times as much as rival Joe Biden.

Sanders, the democratic socialist and independent who upset former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Michigan's 2016 primary, raised $2.33 million in the state last year, buoyed by at least $1.5 million in small-dollar donations. 

Democratic presidential candidate and senator, Bernie Sanders speaks.

More than one in four of the dollars raised for the Democratic presidential field in Michigan in 2019 went to Sanders, who also led the pack with over 138,750 donors.

Sanders' top haul in Michigan was followed by former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg with over $1.5 million raised from about 53,680Michigan donors; Massachusetts U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren with nearly $1.26 million from more than 59,000 donors; and Biden with nearly $895,500 from about 33,100 donors.

More: Mich. primary race revs up as Sanders goes on attack in Detroit

Sanders' campaign also itemized over $277,000 in contributions from Michigan donors during January, compared with about $72,000 for Biden in January, according to Federal Election Commission disclosures.

Sanders has raised the most campaign cash nationally, $134 million through the end of January, with nearly three-quarters coming from people who gave $200 or less. 

Voter Bob Peyser, 70, of Ann Arbor donated the maximum to Sanders' campaign. He favors a nationalized health care system like Sanders' Medicare for All plan. 

Peyser's daughter, who lives in England, became seriously ill a few years ago, and her condition would have "bankrupted" the family were she living in the states because of how often she's had to go to the hospital, he said.

"What I see in Bernie is a person who’s pretty much been supporting causes for the under represented, the poor and people who are not in power — for decades. Ever since he was a young man," said Peyser, an artist. "I think of him as an FDR-like Democrat."

Despite Sanders' fundraising and organizational advantages in Michigan, Biden led him 29% to 22.5% in a new Detroit News-WDIV poll of 600 likely Democratic voters in Michigan. 

The poll, with a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points, was conducted prior to Biden's romp on Super Tuesday that led to a boost of momentum for his campaign. 

Biden supporter Michael McGue and his wife live in both Stevensville, Berrien County, and Illinois, where McGue is the president of a teachers union.

They had supported Buttigieg's campaign until he quit the race earlier this week. 

"I felt that Biden had a better chance at bringing along independents and some people usually vote Republican who would not support Trump," McGue said.  

He's also wary of losing his employer-provided health insurance under Sanders' Medicare for All proposal. 

"Have a health and welfare plan through the union and, frankly, don’t need it replaced," McGue said. 

"We sacrificed a lot at bargaining table to get that health care coverage, and it’s not clear how we’d recover that money and other intangible things we gave up over the years if we just do away with our employer-sponsored health care."

The Democratic presidential candidates raised more than $8.42 million total from Michigan donors in 2019, according to data compiled by the Center for Public Integrity. 

The Center for Public Integrity's database provides the most comprehensive picture of 2019 giving by capturing the many small-dollar donations of $200 or less — contributions that are not required to be itemized by the presidential campaigns.

The center combined the small-dollar giving with other Federal Election Commission data, making it possible to track an estimated 93% of individual donations overall. 

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., watches as South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg shakes hands with Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., before the first of two Democratic presidential primary debates hosted by CNN Tuesday, July 30, 2019, in the Fox Theatre in Detroit.

Not captured by the data set are contributions under $200 given by mail or in person outside of ActBlue — the online fundraising platform that processes payments for the major Democratic candidates.

Other candidates who raised over $300,000 in Michigan have quit the race, including entrepreneur Andrew Yang ($484,334), California U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris ($456,782) and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar ($321,680). 

President Donald Trump has raised at least $932,000 from Michigan donors, not including contributions of $200 or less, which have not been itemized by the campaign. 

Like Sanders, Trump has also harnessed grassroots donors, raising 31% of his 2016 campaign haul from small-dollar donors, according to his FEC disclosures.

Trump's campaign brought in $150 million in 2019 and through January, including nearly $47 million from small-dollar donors.