Can Durant tap West Michigan donors?

LANSING – Fund-raising for Michigan’s Republican senatorial primary campaign is competitive, as of year-end reports that cover the period through December 31, 2011. Pete Hoekstra had raised $2,001,832 and had $1,524,458 in cash on hand, while Clark Durant had raised $1,376,744 and had $1,183,885 on hand.

While both candidates have tapped out-of-state donors, there are striking geographic limitations, so far, on Mr. Durant’s in-state fund-raising. His donor list posted by the Federal Election Commission shows just six contributors from Kent and Ottawa Counties.

On the other hand, Mr. Hoekstra’s campaign has tapped the West Michigan Republican heartland extensively.

Notable among Mr. Durant’s West Michigan supporters are “education choice” proponents Betsy DeVos and J.C. Huizenga. Five of Durant’s six West Michigan supporters have given the maximum contribution of $2,500 for the primary campaign, and three of them, Grant Ellis, Jerry Jonker and Nick Terpstra, already have made the maximum contribution for the general election, as well. However, as an indication of the limits of the core supporters’ pull, Ms. DeVos’s husband and mother have contributed to Mr. Hoekstra’s campaign.

Mr. Durant has demonstrated a strong ability to raise funds from Southeast Michigan, particularly from the Grosse Pointes, Bloomfield Hills and Ann Arbor.

But Mr. Hoekstra’s donor list shows that he has been able to raise funds more widely within Michigan than Mr. Durant, tapping Southeast and West Michigan, as well as points between, and beyond.

Precise analysis of the distribution of the candidates’ support is difficult because campaign finance reports from members of the “world’s most exclusive club” are not posted in searchable format. The towering arrogance that keeps senators’ reports in a format from the last century covers reports of challengers who seek to join the club too.

Stabenow’s fund tops $5.8M

Whoever survives the Republican primary will face a well-funded incumbent in Sen. Debbie Stabenow. Sen. Stabenow has raised more than $5.1 million this cycle and she has more than $5.8 million in cash on hand.

However, in the era of the SuperPACs, the candidates’ campaign accounts are only a part of the campaign finance story – perhaps the smaller part. If the race is truly competitive, voters should expect to see an avalanche of spending by outside groups in the fall. As an indicator of what is possible, the 2010 Colorado senate campaign saw nearly $37 million in spending by non-candidate committees.

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