WSW: Money Flows Early For 2018 Elections

May 4, 2017

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The Michigan Campaign Finance Network’s analysis shows that the money raised by legislative caucus committees is setting the pace for a very expensive 2018.

The network's director Craig Mauger says the money raised by four committees – state House and Senate Republicans, and state House and Senate Democrats – added up to just over $2-million in the first quarter of 2017. He says that’s the most raised in a non-election year since 2007, and he says it’s just below the amount raised that year.

The numbers show Republicans are out fundraising Democrats right now. Mauger says that’s not surprising since Republicans have control of the House and Senate which gives them a leg-up in fundraising. Mauger says those four committees usually are the biggest spenders in competitive legislative races. He says the trend is that more and more money is going into a smaller group of competitive races.

In 2016, there were seven state House races where over $1-million was raised and spent, and another was just short of seven figures. Mauger says

“that’s a lot of money to be spent on a race that will fill one out of 110 seats in the state Capitol.”

He says the parties will likely focus on a relatively small number of seats again in 2018. The state Senate is also up for election next year. Mauger says Senate committees will raise a lot more money over these two years, but he says the state Senate also has only a handful of competitive races. Mauger says the 20th state Senate district in Kalamazoo County, currently represented by Republican Margaret O’Brien, will likely see a lot of money. O’Brien won a close race in 2014 in what was the most expensive state Senate race in state history.

Mauger says the early numbers are ahead of where they were at this point in 2014. That was the last election with a race for governor, and the state Senate on the ballot. Mauger says there could be large amounts of independent money spent in the governor’s race and the race for U.S. Senate if those races are believed to be competitive. In the governor’s race, Mauger says the price tag may be higher than 2014 because of competitive primaries, which neither Republicans nor Democrats had in 2014.

In addition to elected office, there could be a number of questions on the statewide ballot. Mauger says it’s impossible to say what the final figure could be if there are competitive ballot issues. He says the cost of campaign for an issue like redistricting could be $20-$30 million.

In the extended version of the interview, Mauger explains where the money is coming from in the debate over mental health services