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WSW: Where Is The Money Going For 2018 Campaigns?

File photo of Recount of Kalamazoo County State Senate Race in 2014

Two state Senate races in Southwest Michigan are among those attracting large amounts of campaign contributions. One for a Republican primary and one for a general election rematch of the closest and most expensive state Senate race four years ago.

Michigan Campaign Finance Network Director Craig Mauger joined WMUK’s Gordon Evans for analysis of the money raised and spent so far in campaigns for candidates and ballot proposals.

19th State Senate District

State Representative John Bizon of Battle Creek and former Representative Mike Callton of Nashville are running for the Republican nomination in the district that includes Calhoun, Barry and Ionia Counties. Mauger says both Bizon and Callton are known to be good fundraisers. He says Bizon has put some of his own money in the race, while Callton has transferred money from state House campaign account.

20th State Senate District

The state Senate district for Kalamazoo County was decided by 60 votes in 2014. Mauger says it was also the most expensive state Senate race that the Michigan Campaign Finance Network has tracked in the organization’s more than 20 year history. 2018 will be a rematch of the race four years ago, with Republican Senator Margaret o’Brien facing Democratic former Representative Sean McCann. O’Brien has an early advantage in fundraising, but Mauger says there will be plenty of money on both sides, and spending from outside groups.

Mauger says there will be more money available this year for legislative races. He says changes in campaign contribution limits will allow more money to be donated to caucus committees. Those are the committees formed by both parties to elect members to the state House and Senate. He says all four of those committees are far ahead of their fundraising totals from this point in 2014. 

"The Democratic candidates are having fundraising success, but also they're going to have use some of that money that they're bringing in to run against fellow Democrats."

6th Congressional District

The race for the Southwest Michigan seat, held by Republican Fred Upton, is currently the second most expensive Congressional race in Michigan. Four of the six Democrats seeking their party’s nomination have raised at least $100,000, two of them are over $300,000. Mauger says this seems to follow a national trend where there is enthusiasm leading to more donations to Democrats. But sometimes it ends up with candidates in crowded Democratic primaries.

“The Democratic candidates are having fundraising success, but also they’re going to have use some of that money that they’re bringing in to run against fellow Democrats.”


The race for governor in Michigan has attracted more than $16-million. Mauger says there are a small number of people who have invested heavily in the governor’s race. That includes some of the candidates spending their own money on the race, notably Democrat Shri Thanedar. Mauger says 318 donors who have given the maximum amount allowed to a candidate committee.

Ballot Campaigns

Campaigns for ballot initiatives in Michigan have attracted more than $7-million so far. Mauger says it’s not clear how many of those proposals will get on the ballot. But he says ballot campaigns can get expensive quickly, attracting money from supporters and opponents of those proposals. Mauger says the money for ballot campaigns is hard to track. While candidates can only take contributions from individuals and Political Action Committees, ballot campaigns can take money from corporate entities. Mauger says money can come from a non-profit organization whose donors are not known.

Gordon Evans became WMUK's Content Director in 2019 after more than 20 years as an anchor, host and reporter. A 1990 graduate of Michigan State, he began work at WMUK in 1996.
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