Incumbents outspent their opponents by more than 5-to-1 in Michigan’s nine House GOP primary elections involving potentially serious challengers. Overall, the nine incumbents outspent their rivals $662,107 to $121,978 during the election cycle and $359,534 to $120,754 in the final reporting period leading up to the Aug. 5 vote.
All nine of the incumbents in these featured races voted for the Medicaid expansion and in two of the nine races the incumbent spent more than $100,000 trying to ward off defeat. One of those two incumbents was Rep. Frank Foster, R-Pellston, who lost his bid to hang on to his seat in the 107th District despite spending nearly $165,000. Meanwhile, Rep. Klint Kesto, R-Walled Lake, spent even more — $175,804 — to pull out a win in the 39th District.
In the 107th District, which straddles portions of the Upper and Lower peninsulas, challenger Lee Chatfield, of Levering, defeated Rep. Foster 6,561 votes to 5,570. Rep. Foster outspent Chatfield $164,482 to $58,079 in the race. That means Rep. Foster spent $29.53 per vote compared to the $8.85 per vote for Chatfield.
Inside Michigan Politics founder Bill Ballenger told Capitol Confidential that the $58,079 Chatfield spent could be the most remarkable aspect of his win.
“I don’t find the more than 5-to-1 spending advantage of the incumbents overall to be surprising,” Ballenger said. “That’s in the ballpark of what I might have expected. But when you look at what Chatfield spent, it was nearly as much as the amount the challengers in the other eight races spent combined. In other words, in the 107th the spending difference was much less than the overall 5-to-1 margin. One could argue that Foster just didn’t spend enough.”
Ballenger’s point might explain how Rep. Kesto managed to cling to his seat in Oakland County’s 39th District. As the Aug. 5 primary approached, it was rumored in Lansing that Rep. Kesto was in danger of losing. Ultimately he defeated challenger Deb O’Hagan of West Bloomfield 4,500 votes to 3,223, but only after outspending O’Hagan $175,804 to $14,914 for the election cycle. Rep. Kesto spent $39.07 per vote, compared to the roughly $4.63 per vote O’Hagan spent.
Next door in the 46th District, also in Oakland County, incumbent Rep. Bradford Jacobsen, R-Oxford, was reportedly on the ropes in late July. He ended up winning by a 5,552-to-4,367 margin over challenger John Reilly of Oakland Township. Rep. Jacobsen outspent Reilly $92,839 to $13,131 for the election cycle, which means he spent roughly $16.72 per vote, while Reilly spent roughly $3.01 per vote.
On the west side of the state, in the 79th District, incumbent Rep. Al Pscholka, R-Stevensville, defeated challenger Cindy Duran, of St. Joseph, 5,754 votes to 3,022. He outspent Duran $64,380 to $10,663 during the election cycle. Rep. Pscholka spent roughly $11.19 per vote compared to the $3.53 per vote Duran spent.
Near Grand Rapids, in the 72nd District, incumbent Rep. Ken Yonker, R-Caledonia, defeated challenger Gabe Hudson of Gaines Township 6,772 votes to 2,719. Rep. Yonker outspent Hudson roughly $69,295 to $13,583. Rep. Yonker spent approximately $10.23 per vote compared to the $5.00 per vote Hudson spent.
Incumbent Rep. Amanda Price, R-Park Township, defeated challenger Matthew Wiedenhoeft in Ottawa County’s 89th District 6,371 votes to 2,113. Rep. Price expended $38,201 in the election cycle, compared to the $4,036 spent by Wiedenhoeft. That means Rep. Price spent roughly $6.00 per vote, compared to the $1.91 per vote spent by Wiedenhoeft.
In the 86th District, which includes parts of Kent and Ionia counties, incumbent Rep. Lisa Posthumus Lyons, R-Alto, defeated challenger Angela Rigas, also of Alto, 7,492 votes to 3,069. Rep. Lyons outspent Rigas $29,485 to $3,537 in the election cycle. She spent approximately $3.94 per vote, while Rigas spent roughly $1.15 per vote.
One of the more frugal House primary contests took place in the 78th District, where incumbent Rep. Dave Pagel, R-Berrien Springs, defeated challenger James Walker of Benton Harbor 4,347 votes to 1,407. Rep. Pagel outspent Walker $8,501 to $4,035 for the election cycle. Rep. Pagel actually spent less per vote, at $1.96, compared to the $2.87 per vote that Walker spent.
Incumbent Rep. Ben Glardon, R-Owosso, successfully defended his seat in the 85th District, defeating challenger George Sode, who didn’t report spending any money on the race. Rep. Glardon won 6,542 votes to Sode’s 1,350. He spent roughly $44,019 in the election cycle, which comes to approximately $6.73 per vote.
Expenditure totals are based on the pre-primary campaign finance disclosures reported to the Secretary of State and rounded up to the nearest dollar.