By CRAIG MAUGER
Michigan Campaign Finance Network
LANSING — The candidate who had access to the most money won 70 percent of the contested State House primary races last week according to campaign finance reports available as of Election Day, Aug. 2.
But when primary races in which the winning nominee has little or no chance in the general election are dropped from consideration, the impact of fundraising becomes even more profound. With those races out, the candidate who reported raising the most money won about 82 percent of the time.
To arrive at those figures, MCFN analyzed campaign finance filings for candidates in the 95 contested State House primary races that were decided in Michigan on Aug. 2. The fundraising totals for candidates were based on detailed reports that covered the period up until July 17 — 16 days before the primary election — and late contribution reports that covered donations of more than $500 up until three days before the election.
Detailed reports for the entire period before the primary won’t be available until Sept. 1. Reports on independent spending in State House races, which could have played a large role in some election results, won’t be available until October. And the details of specific spending totals by dark money groups are unclear.
Of the 95 races, the candidate who reported raising the most money won 67 of them, 70.5 percent (see spreadsheet below for full listing). For 14 of the other races, a candidate other than the top fundraiser won. And for the other 14, key candidates hadn’t filed all of their required reports — so it was impossible to make a judgment — or all of the candidates involved had reporting waivers, meaning they raised less than $1,000 and exact totals couldn’t be determined.
According to the data, top fundraisers did marginally better in Democratic primaries than Republican primaries.
Of the 45 Michigan House Democratic primaries, the top fundraiser won 35 of them, 77.7 percent. Of the 50 Michigan House GOP primaries, the top fundraiser won 32 of them, 64.0 percent.
The success rate was slightly better among the most active fundraisers statewide running in contested primaries. Of the 25 top fundraisers statewide, according to the reports, 20 won their primaries. Of the five who didn’t, one is currently facing criminal charges and two lost to other candidates who are on the top 25 fundraiser list.
Below are five examples of close races where the better-funded candidate ultimately won out and five examples of races where the better-funded candidate lost.
1st District, Dem Primary (Wayne County): Facing felony charges, second-term Rep. Brian Banks (D-Detroit) was in a tough six-way primary race this summer. With the help of other lawmakers and interest groups in Lansing, Banks brought in at least $140,545 for his campaign. He appears to be the second biggest fundraiser of all candidates in primary races (see graphic at left). He ended up winning his primary race by just 615 votes over the second-place finisher, attorney Pamela Sossi. Banks got 3,216 votes while Sossi got 2,601 votes. Banks out-raised Sossi by about $110,000.
104th District, GOP Primary (Grand Traverse County): A large fundraising edge also helped an incumbent in Northern Michigan. There, Rep. Larry Inman (R-Williamsburg) had access to about $93,000 more than his conservative primary challenger, Jason Gillman. In the end, Inman won with 59 percent of the vote.
30th District, GOP Primary (Macomb County): Diana Farrington, the wife of current Rep. Jeff Farrington (R-Utica), was the favorite of Republicans in Lansing to win the 30th District primary, and she had a $35,000 fundraising advantage over her primary opponents. Diana Farrington beat Republican Michael Shallal by just 54 votes.
108th District, Dem Primary (Upper Peninsula): Many groups in Lansing were hoping that Dickinson County Sheriff Scott Celello, a recruit for a battleground district, would be the Democratic nominee in the 108th. Celello raised about $56,938 for his campaign, much more than his primary opponent, Dana Dziedzic. Diziedzic, a teacher, raised about $7,948. Celello, who ended up with 58 percent of the vote, was able to beat Dziedzic by only 929 votes.
106th District, GOP Primary (Northern Michigan): Also in Northern Michigan, Cheboygan County Commissioner Sue Allor invested heavily in her own campaign. Her campaign had access to about $67,341, a $30,000 advantage over second-place finisher Jackie Krawczak. Allor ended up winning the GOP nomination by just 211 votes.
106th District, Dem Primary (Northern Michigan): On the Democratic side of the 106th District, Robert Kennedy, of Haynes Twp., staged an upset of Erin Kieliszewski. Kiesliszewski was the chosen candidate of House Democratic leaders, many of whom gave to her campaign. And while caucus committees can’t support candidates in primary races, Kieliszewski’s TV ad purchases were originally filed as placed by the House Democratic Fund (see image at left) — something a caucus spokesperson later said was a mistake by the ad buyer. Kieliszewski had a $45,000 fundraising edge over Kennedy. But Kennedy, who was the nominee in 2014, won the primary by 196 votes.
72nd District, GOP Primary (Kent and Allegan counties): Republican Steven Johnson raised the fourth largest amount in his five-way primary race, but he won with 29.8 percent of the vote. Johnson, who raised about $8,358 for his campaign, beat one candidate who is a restaurant owner and another who was the favorite of interest groups. Another aspect of Johnson’s victory against the financial odds: A mystery group mounted an advertising attack against him before Election Day.
64th District, GOP Primary (Jackson County): Jackson County Commissioner Julie Alexander was able to overcome a fundraising surge by one of her primary opponents to win the GOP nomination in the 64th. John Griffin, a former lobbyist for the American Petroleum Institute, raised about $103,963 before the primary and was running broadcast TV ads. But Alexander, who raised about $87,578, won with 42.2 percent of the vote. Griffin ended up in third place.
103rd District, GOP Primary (Northern Michigan): Dr. Vijay Kumar, who’s facing criminal charges, tried to self-fund his way to the State House; but he wasn’t successful. While Kumar’s campaign had about $139,224 in reported resources, he lost to Daire Rendon, wife of current Rep. Bruce Rendon (R-Lake City). Daire Rendon raised at least $78,106.
20th District, GOP Primary (Wayne County): While being out-fundraised by two primary opponents, a conservative from Plymouth was able to win the nomination in the 20th District. That conservative, Jeff Noble, a pastor, raised only about $16,385 for his campaign. He got his money’s worth apparently, receiving 39.7 percent of the vote. Jeffrey Neilson, an attorney, whose campaign brought in more than $80,000, received just 21.9 percent of the vote.