By SIMON D. SCHUSTER
Michigan Campaign Finance Network
LANSING (Dec. 28, 2020) — It’s a $28 million Michigan House of Representatives election. At least.
While waiting for final campaign finance numbers to be disclosed, this election is already the most expensive on record. Nine districts attracted a total of more than $1 million in contributions — the most ever — when counting help from Democratic and Republican caucus PACs, which can spend unlimited amounts supporting their candidates.
Those districts were:
39th: $2.3 million
104th: $1.8 million
61st: $1.8 million
38th: $1.5 million
45th: $1.4 million
19th: $1.4 million
98th: $1.2 million
96th: $1 million
71st: $1 million
In all but seven of the 110 districts the candidate with the most money won, according to campaign finance data from the Michigan Department of State. Despite the extraordinary circumstances of the 2020 election and almost certain record spending, these results fall in line with what the Michigan Campaign Finance Network tracked in 2016 and 2014.
All of the candidates who won with less funding were incumbents, and most were not running in competitive districts.
– 39th District: Rep. Ryan Berman (R-Commerce Twp.) bested Julia Pulver despite receiving about $165,000 less in contributions than his Democratic opponent. He did, however, spend about $250,000 more. That’s in large part because of the $764,000 in help from the House Republican Campaign Committee.
– 44th District: Rep. Matt Maddock (R-Milford) won with close to $30,000 less contributions than his opponent. His northeast Oakland county district hasn’t elected a Democrat since the mid-1960s.
– 46th District: Rep. John Reilly (R-Oakland Twp.) was the only candidate in the state house election to win with fewer overall contributions and less PAC support than his opponent, Democrat Jody LaMacchia. He raised about $84,000 less and had no help from his caucus’ committee. His office did not respond to a request for comment.
– 76th District: Rep. Rachel Hood (D-Grand Rapids) won reelection in her Kent county district with a little more than $7,000 less in contributions than her opponent, Douglas Zandstra.
– 78th District: Rep. Brad Paquette (R-Niles) won after raising $12,000 less than his opponent, Democrat Dan VandenHeede, and won by a comfortable margin.
– 108th District: Rep. Pauline Wendzel (R-Watervliet) beat Democrat Chokwe Pitchford with nearly 57% of the vote in her Republican-leaning district despite about $73,000 less in funding. An advertising blitz from the House Republican Campaign Committee put her spending well ahead of Pitchford’s.
– 110th District: Rep. Greg Markkanen (R-Hancock) beat out Democrat Janet Metsa by earning nearly 58% of the vote in a district that had been blue before Markkanen won election in 2018 with a margin of less than 600 votes. Raising $22,000 less than Metsa, Markkanen won this election by more than 7,000 votes.
Only four candidates with less PAC support than their opponent won, though three of them had an overall financial edge.
The House Republican Campaign Committee and The House Democratic Fund together spent nearly $9 million supporting their candidates, according to campaign disclosures, easily making them the largest donors in House races this cycle. Because of the committees’ ability to spend unlimited amounts and a $41,975 contribution limit, they’re funded largely by wealthy donors who already contribute broadly to candidates.