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WSW: Where Will The Expensive Campaigns Be In 2018?

Andy Robins

The most expensive state Senate primary in Michigan this year was in the district that includes Allegan and Van Buren County. The district that includes parts of Kalamazoo and Calhoun County was the most expensive state House primary. But other Southwest state House and Senate districts could be expensive battle grounds in November.

Michigan Campaign Finance Network Director Craig Mauger says Former state Representative Aric Nesbitt’s victory over another former Representative, Allegan County Clerk Bob Genetski, and businessman Don Wickstra was the most expensive state Senate primary. Mauger says it cost about $750,000. He says all three candidates raised a lot of money. And outside group also helped pay for advertising supporting Nesbitt. Mauger says $414,000 was raised in the 63rd State House District. Incumbent Representative David Maturen lost his bid for the Republican nomination in that district to Matt Hall.

But other districts in Southwest Michigan are likely to attract the most campaign contributions for the general election. The 20th state Senate district race in 2014 was the most expensive state Senate race on record. Mauger says the battle for the district that includes all of Kalamazoo County is likely to draw heavy interest again. The race includes all three candidates who ran four years ago, Democrat Sean McCann is challenging Republican Senator Margaret O’Brien, who is now the incumbent. Libertarian Lorence Wenke is also running again for the state Senate seat.

Mauger says it’s harder to predict what state House races will be the most expensive. He says the 61st state House District is already getting some attention. Republican Representative Brandt Iden is running for re-election against Democrat Albert Griffin in the district that includes the city of Portage. The 62nd state House District, which includes Battle Creek was in the top 10 in 2016 for money raised. Mauger says it’s likely to get a lot of attention again this year. Republican Dave Morgan and Democrat Jim Haadsma are running for the seat. It has been held by Republican John Bizon for the last four years, he is running for state Senate.

Governor’s Race

Mauger says the contests for the Republican and Democratic nominations this year made up the most expensive primary for governor ever in Michigan. He says the latest reports show $50-million has been raised so far in the governor’s race. Mauger says if outside groups think the race will be competitive it will attract millions more dollars, and could set the record for the most expensive race ever for governor in Michigan. In 2006, $79-million was spent as Democrat Jennifer Granholm won re-election by defeating Republican Dick DeVos.


The Michigan Campaign Finance Network recently delved into the financial records surrounding lobbying. Mauger says their examination of contracts found they are usually for more money than the firms disclose spending on lobbying. He says that’s because many of the firms offer services that don’t meet the state’s definition of lobbying. That can include consulting, monitoring legislation and advice to clients. Mauger says “It’s a very murky world.”

Family Contributions

The Michigan Campaign Finance Network’s analysis finds that a small number of families are spending a large amount on campaign contributions. That list includes Kalamazoo native Jon Stryker and Southwest Michigan businessman Bill Parfet and his family. Mauger says some candidates such as Democrat Shri Thanedar and Republican Jim Hines who both ran for governor as well as Republican Senate candidate Sandy Penslar made the list. He says that’s because of the money they spent on their own campaigns. Mauger says they could be surpassed by other contributors during the general election campaign.

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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