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Expert expects Michigan will break campaign spending records on state races in 2022 election

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

2022 is shaping up to be a very expensive election year in Michigan.

Campaign spending goes in waves, with presidential election years usually being the highest crest. But there are indications that next year’s elections could be record breaking.

Simon Schuster is the executive director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, a watchdog that closely follows election spending.

In 2018, $93.4 million was spent on Michigan’s governor’s race. But Schuster says Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer has already built a substantial campaign warchest and a diverse array of Republican challenges could also raise a substantial sum.

And Schuster says Republicans and Democrats will be motivated spend even more.

“Because the common interest that they all share, above anything else, is winning elections,” said Schuster, “(With) what’s at stake, we always see a lot of money being poured in. Especially in a post-Citizens United era, where outside spending is so much more important.”

Schuster expects dark money groups will again spend heavily in Michigan’s election in 2022, and not just in the major statewide races.

He is particularly interested in seeing how redistricting state House seats to make them more competitive will effect campaign spending.

In 2020, money spent on Michigan's state House elections grew more than 40%. But the money was not evenly spread among the 110 seats.

Two years ago, the ten most competitive state house races in Michigan attracted more money than the other hundred seats up for election combined.

Schuster says redistricting may change that.

“Can we see...a greater dispersion of that money?....Is there going to be less concentration of that money around a just few small places?” Schuster wondered.

Schuster said the average expense of an individual state House election may go up.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Radio since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.