Friday’s Campaign Filings: Rinke, Dixon Spend Most, Whitmer’s War Chest Massive
Ms. Whitmer raised $9.4 million between January 1 and July 17, bringing her total fundraising since winning the 2018 election to a staggering $29.3 million. Both are records – by far – for a gubernatorial candidate at this point in the cycle. As of July 17, Ms. Whitmer had $14.7 million cash on hand for the fall campaign, also a record for a gubernatorial candidate at this point in the cycle.
The situation among the five Republicans was somewhat bleak when looking ahead to August 3 and whoever is the newly minted nominee. Nearly all are extremely low on cash and likely will face a torrent of immediate advertising from Ms. Whitmer, outside groups, or both in a bid to define them before they can raise enough money to define themselves for a general election audience.
"Governor Whitmer is fighting to cut costs for hardworking Michigan families, strengthen public education, repair roads and bridges, and create good-paying jobs," Maeve Coyle, Gretchen Whitmer for Governor communications director, said in a statement. "Our campaign is proud to have the support of Michiganders in every single county as Governor Whitmer keeps working with anyone to deliver on kitchen table issues that matter most."
But before the general election, there is the still wide open Republican primary.
Mr. Rinke has spent more than twice this year on his campaign than the other four GOP candidates combined, campaign finance reports filed prior to Friday’s 5 p.m. deadline showed.
Mr. Rinke made good on his promise to commit $10 million of his own money to his campaign account and raised another $420,000 from others. He spent $5.65 million between January 1 and July 17 on a relatively modest television advertising campaign. While he has put $10 million of his own money into his campaign account, he was still sitting on $4.2 million as of July 17.
The other four Republicans in the race were far behind.
However, Tudor Dixon did enjoy a nice surge of fundraising for the January 1 through July 17 period, taking in $1.17 million, having raised just $500,000 before this year. She spent $731,306 this year and reported $537,890 cash on hand as of July 17.
Next in spending for the year was Garrett Soldano at $719,306. He has $332,096 cash on hand but that did not include the more than $200,000 in public matching funds for which he received approval, and Mr. Soldano just applied for a second batch of matching funds. He raised $736,401 in private funds since January 1.
Fourth in spending was Ryan Kelley at $202,879. He had just $37,801 cash on hand remaining after raising $208,417 this year.
In fifth was Ralph Rebandt with $164,326 spent.
None of the Republican candidates issued a statement regarding their fundraising.
One Democratic source said Ms. Whitmer’s haul was "insane" and expressed optimism her lopsided funding advantage would spill over down the ticket. The biggest donors to the governor were a variety of PACs, including Centene ($55,500 to max out for the cycle at $71,500), United Wholesale Mortgage ($42,850 to bring its total for the cycle to $50,000), the Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association ($34,000 to bring its total for the cycle to the $71,500 maximum). The Michigan Association for Justice contributed another $21,500 to max out for the cycle as well. Also reaching the maximum for the cycle during the most recent period were DTE Energy, Rock Holdings and Blue Cross Blue Shield. Almost at the maximum is Meijer.
John Sellek, of Harbor Strategic Public Affairs, said Ms. Whitmer is in a different playing field than the Republican candidates for governor because she is a national figure who could be running for president in a year. He also said national Democrats are likely motivated to protect her given her previous tangles with the former president.
"We’ve never seen a non-self funding machine like this and may not again," he said.
As per the Republican candidates, Mr. Sellek said they did probably did as expected. Maybe the only surprise, he said, was Mr. Soldano topping the $2 million mark.
"The GOP faces a serious and perhaps deadly period in August as Whitmer can spend a half-million per week, at least, all the way to Election Day, while it’s almost assured the Democratic Governors Association and related entities will firebomb the airwaves with negatives on the unknown GOP nominee as they struggle to raise funds," he said.
A key metric will be if the Republican Governors Association begins attack ads on Ms. Whitmer any time soon.
During the period, Ms. Whitmer received individual donations from 145 people with the maximum of $7,150.
Beyond the numbers among the candidates on the ballot, there were the reports from those who were disqualified for lack of sufficient valid signatures. Several candidates fell short because of circulators hired either by the campaigns or by campaign contractors who forged signatures.
James Craig, who is running as a write-in, submitted a report that appeared rife with errors. He reported raising $1.26 million between January 1 and July 17 but reported cumulative fundraising of -$1.06 million from previous statements, which is not possible. In his last report, Mr. Craig reported having raised $1.4 million.
Mr. Craig reported spending $2 million between January 1 and July 17. As of July 17, he reported $88,166 on hand.
Mr. Craig’s spending will likely come under some scrutiny. He continued to spend heavily on security – $186,000 on security services this year alone, including payments after he was disqualified from the ballot.
The other highly anticipated report from a candidate disqualified from the ballot, for Perry Johnson, was not yet available.
Among the other three disqualified candidates, Donna Brandenburg raised $439,406 (all but $2,000 from herself) and spent $395,692 of it; Mike Brown raised $181,849 (all but $120,000 from himself) and spent $140,453; and Mike Markey raised $175,918 (all but $150,010 from himself) and spent $172,673 of it.
Senate Dems Dominate Fundraising in Competitive Races
The candidate-to-candidate edges, however, come with a big caveat. As of April, the Senate Republican Campaign Committee had a $6 million to $2 million advantage over the Senate Democratic Fund in cash on hand. Those PACs will report their latest figures Monday. That means that even if individual Senate Democratic candidates continued to outraise Senate Republican candidates, the caucus PAC can easily make up the difference and then some.
Still, Democrats understandably were pleased with the reports candidates filed prior to the 5 p.m. deadline showing fundraising activity between January 1 and July 17. At a time nationally where Republicans appear energized, there’s no sign of the fundraising malaise that has crushed Democratic candidates in the past when their party controls the White House.
Looking at districts that will be competitive or have at least a chance of being competitive, in all 12, the Democrat with the most cash on hand in their party topped the Republican with the most cash on hand for their party. Further, in all but one of those 12, the leading Democratic candidate raised more than the leading Republican candidate.
Of the massive edge the Senate Republicans have with their PAC, Sen. Curtis Hertel (D-East Lansing) said he anticipates Democrats will narrow the overall spending disadvantage compared to 2018.
Michigan’s Fitch Credit Rating Increases for First Time in Ten Years
In a statement, Ms. Whitmer hailed the recent accomplishments of the state, including the low unemployment rate and the increase in job openings.
"Our unemployment rate remains at 4.3 percent, last month we added 10,000 jobs, and last week I signed my fourth balanced, bipartisan budget, which did not raise taxes by a dime, delivered on the kitchen-table issues, and brought our rainy-day fund to an all-time high of $1.6 billion," Ms. Whitmer said. "Our economy is headed in the right direction, and we still have billions left on the table that I proposed using to offer families real relief right now, including $500 inflation rebate checks, a rollback of the retirement tax, and a suspension of the state sales tax on gas."
She added the state will continue to "focus on growing its economy, create good-paying jobs and invest in every region of the state."
Fitch said the credit rating reflects the state’s "higher level of fiscal resilience and diversified economy compared to the previous, fiscally responsible budgeting and effort to address debt." It also anticipates the state will capitalize on the continued economic growth.
"Michigan’s decisions to invest in our students, our workforce, and the environment are balanced alongside purposeful actions to address long-term debt and responsibly invest our one-time funds and these financially prudent decision are paying off," State Budget Director Chris Harkins said in a statement. "This fantastic news means we are well-positioned to continue investing four our state’s current needs with an eye toward our future."
Fitch also rated the Michigan State Building Authority’s bonds, upgrading them from AA- to AA.
Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist II told Gongwer News Service at an event Friday the rating upgrade was "really good news," especially because the credit rating had not been updated to this status for 10 years.
"Our team, Governor Whitmer and I have worked to be responsible with how we’re managing finances of the state of Michigan and the depth of the investments we are proposing and are making and delivering, including the budget that we just signed," Mr. Gilchrist said. "In addition to the investments in education and infrastructure and childcare and responding to the climate crisis, it also includes the deposit to the Rainy Day Fund."
He said the state’s budgeting choices have given the rating agencies more confidence.
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