James raises more cash than Peters in Michigan Senate race for 4th straight time

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Republican challenger John James has raised more money than Democratic U.S. Sen. Gary Peters for the fourth straight fundraising quarter, according to information released Friday by the two campaigns.

Peters of Bloomfield Township, running for his second six-year term in the Senate, raised $5.2 million over April, May and June and had $12 million available at the end of reporting period, according to his announcement.

James, a businessman from Farmington Hills, raised $6.4 million over the three-month period, according to his announcement. The James campaign didn't release a cash-on-hand figure.

Republican U.S. candidate John James and incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Gary Peters will face off in November 2020.

Both campaigns have been running television ads in one of the key Senate battlegrounds in the country.

President Donald Trump's falling popularity polling numbers have encouraged Democrats that they can win control of the Republican-led Senate in the fall and holding on to Peters' seat is part of the national party's strategy. But since James lost to U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, by a lower-than-expected 6.5 percentage points in 2018, Republicans argue he has a good chance to beat the less well-known Peters. 

"Michigan cannot wait any longer for battle-tested leadership and that is exactly what this grassroots momentum shows," James campaign spokeswoman Abby Walls said. 

The campaigns' full fundraising disclosures won't be available until July 15. Peters is one of two Democratic senators running for re-election this year in states Trump won in 2016. The race has already drawn outside spending by groups acting independently of the two candidates.

An incumbent getting outraised by a challenger usually is a bad sign for the incumbent, said Kyle Kondik, managing editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball, the University of Virginia Center for Politics’ newsletter on American campaigns and elections. But James isn't blowing Peters out of the water on money, and both candidates will have the resources to run the kind of campaigns they want in the fall, Kondik said.

"Ultimately, the political environment is clearly in the Democrats’ favor, at least for now," Kondik added. "That makes it hard for James no matter how much money he has. However, if the environment changes, James is in a position where he can capitalize, whereas an underfunded challenger might not be."

More than 60,000 donors gave to the James campaign during the second quarter of 2020, and 95% of the contributions were less than $100, the campaign said.

The Peters campaign also touted its grassroots fundraising, saying 96% of its contributions were $100 or less. The $5.2 million total was "the largest quarter of the campaign and biggest quarterly haul for any Democratic U.S. Senate candidate in Michigan history," the campaign said.

“The groundswell of grassroots support is a testament to Gary's effective leadership and makes clear that Michiganders want to keep him in the Senate,” campaign manager Dan Farough said.

The Peters campaign said it's raised more than $18.6 million since the beginning of 2019. The James campaign said it's raised $19 million for the election cycle.