Tudor Dixon fails to boost finances off GOP primary win in governor's race

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (left) and Republican challenger Tudor Dixon
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LANSING − Tudor Dixon continues to badly trail Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in campaign fundraising after winning a five-candidate GOP primary Aug. 2, showing that major Republican donors have not quickly united behind her.

The campaign finance reports Dixon and Whitmer filed Thursday cover only about a one-month time period, from July 18 through Aug. 22. But the 20 days immediately after the primary were potentially crucial in showing whether GOP financial power brokers were eager to rally around Dixon, a Norton Shores businesswoman and former conservative TV commentator.

Dixon didn't even get a check from the Michigan Republican Party, records show.

Whitmer raised nearly $2.4 million during the latest period, bringing her total fundraising for the election cycle to $31.6 million. She spent just under $3.1 million, most of it on TV ads, bringing her total spending to $15.8 million. She has $14 million still in the bank, records show.

Dixon raised only $686,000, bringing her total fundraising to close to $2.4 million. She spent about $700,000, leaving her with about $524,000 in the bank. Whitmer has nearly 27 times as much.

"It's become clear that the GOP, which went from establishment heavy at the top of the ticket in 2018 to outsider, activist heavy this year, will depend on third party spending or a red wave," said John Sellek, a Lansing-based political and communications consultant.

The amount Dixon has raised from political action committees is far short of what the 2018 Republican nominee, former Attorney General Bill Schuette, had taken in at the same point during that campaign, after his primary win over former Lt. Gov. Brian Calley and two other candidates.

By this stage of the 2018 campaign, Schuette had already received 168 donations of $250 or more, totaling nearly $786,000, from political action committees, candidate committees, and state and county political parties, records show.

Dixon, by contrast, has received only 11 such donations of $250 or greater, totaling $31,300. Her extreme stance on abortion, favoring no exceptions for rape or incest, is seen as hurting her in the general election. But the PAC connected with Right to Life of Michigan, which endorsed her exclusively in the primary, has only given her $100 records show.

More:Whitmer's high national profile continues as out-of-state donations see sharp increase

More:Dixon, Whitmer working out of different playbooks as gubernatorial race gets under way

At this point in the campaign, Schuette had received donations of $10,000 or more from PACs representing the Michigan Realtors Association, the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, the Auto Dealers of Michigan, the Michigan Restaurant Association, the Michigan Beer and Wine Wholesalers Association, the Miller Canfield law firm, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, DTE Energy, the Michigan Bankers Association, the Health Care Association of Michigan and the Michigan Petroleum Association, among others, records show.

By comparison, Dixon has received only one PAC check of $10,000, from the Capitol Affairs PAC. Of the PACs listed above that had given to Schuette at this point in the campaign, only the Michigan Petroleum Association has so far donated to Dixon, and that was a $1,000 check. Dixon has also received a $7,150 PAC check from Associated Builders and Contractors, a $7,150 check from The Presidential Coalition and a $2,000 check from the Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association's PAC

Schuette had also received just over $354,000 in state matching public funds at this stage in the campaign.

In addition to the public financing he received in 2018, Schuette had raised close to $6 million in private funds at this point in the campaign. But his campaign fund had a balance similar to Dixon's -- about $546,000.

Dixon never applied for public matching funds for the primary, even though she could have been eligible, because she did not exceed the $2 million spending cap.

"We didn't need matching funds from the taxpayers," and "our fund-raising strategy isn't at all reliant on developing PAC support," said James Blair, Dixon's chief strategist.

"We are exactly where we need to be."

Blair said the Michigan Republican Party is sending Dixon a check and is "a great partner and very supportive."

Party spokesman Gus Portela confirmed a check to Dixon's campaign is pending. "It won't be any different from last time," he said. "They will get the funds needed from the state party."

Schuette's gubernatorial campaign received a $100,000 check from the Michigan Republican Party soon after the 2018 primary, on Aug. 13, records show.

Whitmer's campaign spending could potentially exceed the $35 million that west Michigan billionaire Dick DeVos spent on his unsuccessful 2006 Republican campaign against then-Gov. Jennifer Granholm. A major difference, aside from the effects of inflation over the last 16 years, is that the money DeVos spent came from his own personal fortune.

Though most of Whitmer's donations continue to come from inside Michigan, and most of those from small donors, her high national profile and fundraising in other states continue to generate donations from the rich and famous, or near-famous, around the U.S.

Whitmer's latest report included a $7,150 donation from Steve Ballmer, the former CEO of Microsoft; and two $7,150 donations from filmmaker Lawrence Kasdan, co-writer of the Star Wars films, and his wife, Meg. The report was later amended to show that the Ballmer donation came from Steve Ballmer's wife Connie, not from him.

Earlier donors to Whitmer's campaign include Hollywood filmmaker Steven Spielberg, Walmart heir James Walton in Arkansas, and former congresswoman and former U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala in Florida.

A July Free Press analysis found that during the first half of 2022, just over $4 of every $10 Whitmer collected in donations of $100 or more came from outside Michigan. That was up from about $2.40 out of every $10 she collected, in donations of that size, during her first three years in office.

Contact Paul Egan: 517-372-8660 or pegan@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @paulegan4.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: New filings show financial mismatch continues in Whitmer-Dixon race