An Establishment Republican Candidate Seeks Lobbyists' Love
The special election underway in Michigan’s 80th House District is a consequence of forbidden love. Now one candidate in this special election is running for the entirely legal love of Michigan’s political money class.
Michigan’s campaign finance laws do not require financial reporting by candidate committees in the November 3rd special primary until October 23rd, but three of the filed candidates have active campaign committees whose past financial statements are open for public review.
Mary P. Whiteford came in second to Cindy A. Gamrat in the 2014 regular primary election, a hotly contested four-way race. Ms. Gamrat went on to win the general election in the 80th and then got expelled from Michigan’s State House a year later – in no small part because she antagonized the Lansing political establishment.
Ms. Whiteford was clearly the establishment Republican candidate in the 2014 race. Vice Chairman of the Allegan County Republican Committee and a significant contributor to other county Republican committees and all the correct Republican establishment candidates. Ms. Gamrat, on the other hand, has a far more modest contribution record focused on Tea Party candidates.
Ms. Whiteford spent $ 87,400 in her 2014 primary effort, an unremarkable sum by Michigan State House race standards. Ms. Gamrat spent $ 54,150 in her primary victory, so there is no story here.
Both candidates’ committees were in debt at the end of the hotly contested August 2014 primary. Ms. Gamrat’s committee owed $ 7,933.47 – all to herself and members of her immediate family. Ms. Whiteford’s committee, on the other hand, owed $ 67,701.57 – all to herself.
A Year Later…..
Step forward a year and we find in the July 2015 Secretary of State filings that Ms. Whiteford’s campaign committee now owes her $ 69,942.87:
Ms. Gamrat’s committee, on the other hand, now has no outstanding debts. She and her family members forgave the $ 7,933.47 between the 2014 general election report and the July 2015 quarterly report by converting their loans into contributions.
So why didn’t Ms. Whiteford clear the decks and extinguish the loans she made to her candidate committee in 2014? The very same reason she kept her candidate committee alive: she planned a one-on-one grudge match with Ms. Gamrat in 2016. Success in the rematch would allow her to recover her loans from the Lansing political money class, one legislative vote at a time.
A harsh judgment? No, just the realities of today’s Michigan politics. Nothing illegal here, and certainly not grounds for expulsion. But the exact reason why Lansing is less than responsive to Michigan voters’ wishes. This game is played by state-level politicians across Michigan. A smart financial move for determined candidates with thin support on the ground, but not exactly the high school civics version of American government.