Congressional fundraising reflects redistricting

LANSING -- Fund-raising figures reported by Michigan’s active congressional candidates carry a strong suggestion of the effect of the 2011 redistricting process. There will be competitive Democratic primaries this year, as there were after the 2001 redistricting process, and less competition in November than there was in 2010.

Incumbent Democrats Gary Peters and Hansen Clarke are set to square off in the new 14th District. So far, Peters has raised more than twice as much as Clarke, and Peters has more than three times as much cash on hand as Clarke. Other candidates, including Southfield Mayor Brenda Lawrence, have announced their intention to enter the contest but they haven’t reported any fundraising so far.

In the new 13th District, State Sens. Glenn Anderson and Bert Johnson are challenging long-term incumbent John Conyers. Conyers has raised seven-times as much as Anderson but his cash balance is less than three-times as great as Anderson’s. So far Johnson’s fundraising has been nominal.

Once November rolls around, it appears that representation in Southeast Michigan is predetermined. Incumbents Sander Levin, Candice Miller, Thaddeus McCotter and John Dingell appear to have safe seats, and only McCotter has an opponent who has raised a significant amount of campaign cash. The winners of the primaries in the 13th and 14th Districts will run in districts that are the most dominantly Democratic in the state.

In outstate districts, only freshman 1st District Rep. Dan Benishek appears to be facing serious competition in November. Benishek’s opponent from 2010, Gary McDowell, has raised half as much money as the incumbent but has more cash on hand. McDowell faces a competitive primary against Derek Bailey for the right to challenge Benishek.

The 1st District was one of three competitive general elections in Michigan in 2010. In the 2010 contest the candidates raised $2.15 million (Benishek: $1,313,784; McDowell: $836,638) but independent spenders weighed in with $4.8 million. It should be expected that independent spenders will dominate spending again in 2012 if the race is truly competitive.

Among the other districts, only the 6th District Republican primary appears to have any chance of competitiveness, and that is probably a long shot. Former State Rep. Jacob Hoogendyk is challenging incumbent Fred Upton with the assistance of the anti-tax Club for Growth.

Upton, the chairman of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee, has a cash balance of $1.7 million compared to Hoogendyk’s balance of $15. However, Club for Growth has demonstrated its capacity to single-handedly make a candidate viable in Michigan previously. It provided 90 percent of the funds backing Tim Walberg in the 2006 7th District primary against then-freshman Rep. Joe Schwartz and drove Walberg’s first successful campaign for Congress. The Club’s support came in the form of independent expenditures and bundled contributions from its mail-list members.

Michigan’s congressional map for the next decade, including the spiraling gerrymander in Southeast Michigan, is displayed at Michigan Radio.

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