Michigan's 2014 legislator campaigns: $44.3M

LANSING - Michigan's 2014 campaigns to select legislators were a $44.3 million affair according to reports filed with the Michigan Department of State. Michigan Senate campaigns had almost $19 million, while Michigan House campaigns had $25.4 million.

Michigan Senate

Looking across the state, the 2014 Senate campaigns were extremely uneven in terms of competitiveness. In the 38 senate districts, 14 major party candidates raised less than $1,000, with 13 of those candidates having a filing waiver.

On the other hand, five of the 38 seats had 42% of statewide spending: $7.95 million of the $19 million total. Republicans had a significant financial advantage in each of those races and they won all five.

A synopsis follows for the five most contested Michigan Senate races. For the purposes of this summary, independent expenditures are considered a part of overall financial resources. Details are presented in the accompanying table.

The 20th District based in Kalamazoo had the most expensive Senate race by a wide margin: $2,646,000. Republican Rep. Margaret O'Brien had $1,600,000 in financial support, compared to $921,000 for Democratic Rep. Sean McCann and $126,000 for Libertarian former Rep. Lorence Wenke. O'Brien won the open seat by fewer than 60 votes over McCann.

The open 17th District based in Monroe and Lenawee Counties was the second most expensive contest: $1,711,000. Republican Rep. Dale Zorn had more than five times as much financial backing as former Democratic Rep. Doug Spade, $999,459 to $273,000. Zorn won the seat.

The 32nd District seat based in Saginaw County was the third most expensive seat: $1,654,000, including spending for the primaries. Republican Rep. Ken Horn had $956,000 in financial backing, compared to $600,000 for Democratic Rep. Stacy Erwin-Oakes in this open-seat contest. Horn won the vote.

The 7th District comprising Plymouth, Canton and Northville was fourth most expensive seat at $995,000. Incumbent Republican Sen. Patrick Colbeck had a 29% financial advantage over Democratic Rep. Dian Slavens, $558,000 to $433,000. Colbeck retained his seat.

The 34th District, West Michigan north of Muskegon, was the fifth most expensive at $946,000. Incumbent Republican Sen. Goeff Hansen had a financial advantage of nearly four-to-one over Democrat Cathy Forbes, $722,000 to $188,000. Hansen retained his seat.

No incumbents were defeated in the Senate elections. No candidate was able to defeat an opponent who had greater financial backing.

Michigan House

Like the Michigan Senate, Michigan House campaigns saw only patchy competitiveness. In 35 of the 110 districts, one major-party candidate had a reporting waiver, indicating that he or she would raise less than $1,000.

Also like the Senate, a handful of seats absorbed a very large share of overall spending. Ten seats consumed 36% of financial resources: $9,176,000 out of $25.4 million.

In the ten most expensive seats, Republicans won eight and Democrats won two. Three candidates were able to defeat an opponent with superior financial backing in the ten most expensive races. Just one other candidate defeated a better-financed opponent in the other 100 seats.

The 76th District in Grand Rapids was the most expensive seat: $1,229,000. Incumbent Democratic Rep. Winnie Brinks had $666,000 in financial backing, compared to $528,000 for Republican Donijo DeJonge. Brinks retained her seat.

The second most expensive seat was the 91st District in Muskegon County: $1,122,000. Former Republican Rep. Holly Hughes had superior financial backing in defeating incumbent Democratic Rep. Collene Lamonte. Hughes had $578,000 in financial backing. Lamonte had $528,000.

The 71st District in Eaton County was the third most expensive contest at $1,035,000. Republican challenger Tom Barrett overcame a better-funded opponent in defeating incumbent Democratic Rep. Theresa Abed. Barrett had $489,000 in financial backing; Abed had $547,000.

The 101st District in the northwest Lower Peninsula was fourth most expensive at $998,000. Incumbent Republican Rep. Ray Franz had $631,000 in financial backing; Democratic challenger Tom Stobie had $367,500. Franz retained his seat.

The 99th District in Isabella County was fifth most expensive: $971,000. Incumbent Republican Rep. Kevin Cotter had a financial advantage and he defeated Democratic challenger Bryan Mielke. Financial resources: Cotter: $567,000; Mielke: $404,000.

Kalamazoo County's open 61st District was the sixth most expensive seat at $881,000. Republican Brandt Iden overcame a narrow financial disadvantage and defeated Democrat John Fisher. Iden had $418,000 in financial backing; Fisher had $427,000.

The 85th District, centered in Shiawassee County, was the seventh most expensive campaign at $796,000. Incumbent Republican Rep. Ben Glardon had a financial advantage over Democratic challenger Annie Braidwood, $526,000 to $270,000. Glardon retained his seat.

Oakland County's 39th District was the eighth most expensive seat at $759,000. Incumbent Republican Rep. Klint Kesto had a two-to-one financial advantage and defeated Democrat Sandy Colvin. Financial resources: Kesto: $491,000; Colvin: $243,000.

Calhoun County's open 62nd District was the ninth most expensive seat at $727,000. Republican John Bizon had more than seven-times the financial backing of his Democratic opponent, Andy Helmboldt. Financial resources: Bizon: $590,000; Helmboldt: $81,000. Bizon won the vote.

In the tenth most expensive seat, at $656,000, incumbent Democratic Rep. Henry Yanez held his seat in Sterling Heights' 25th District against Republican challenger Nick Hawatmeh. Hawatmeh had a slight financial advantage, $333,000 to $323,000.

Only one other candidate defeated an opponent with greater financial backing. Republican Michael Webber defeated Democrat Joanna VanRaaphorst in northern Oakland County's 45th District. Financial backing: Webber, $53,700; VanRaaphorst, $56,600.

Lamonte and Abed were the only House incumbents to lose.

This report has been updated to include amended candidate campaign finance reports and independent expenditures that were first reported in February 2015.

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