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Why did a Republican candidate for governor take $250K in matching funds?

Small-government conservative Garrett Soldano made an odd choice in taking public funds for his campaign

Garrett Soldano, a Republican candidate for governor last seen trying to "Unlock Michigan," will take nearly $250,000 of matching funds, courtesy of taxpayer donations, Gongwer reports. Soldano is the only Republican who has applied for the matching funds. He received $246,529.82.

The irony of a self-described small-government conservative taking public funds was not lost on Soldano, who told Gongwer he was "just utilizing every opportunity that we can to win" the Aug. 2 primary.

Soldano faces Tudor Dixon, Ryan Kelley, Kevin Rinke and Rev. Ralph Rebrandt for the right to face Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in November. Gongwer reports that because Rinke and Rebandt had donated more than $50,000 of their own money to their campaigns, they're ineligible for the matching funds.

Matching funds come from an opt-in form on state income taxes. Candidates for governor can receive up to $990,000 in the primary cycle.

"People say it's taxpayer dollars but it's a donation," Soldano told Gongwer. "And so we're just utilizing every opportunity that we can to win this thing. And hopefully we qualify for as much as that as possible. If you look at the last race, three candidates, Governor Whitmer, Schuette – and I'm still wondering how – and then the other guy who was on the Democratic ticket, I forgot what his name was, that was running against Governor Whitmer. Those three qualified for it and they got a lot of money."

But the matching funds also come with a $2 million spending limit for the campaign cycle. It gives the candidate more money today, but puts a limit on upside, with only a few exceptions. Up to $1,125,000 is available for candidates who make it to the general election.

As an outsider candidate running against an overly large government, Soldano should be wary of a tactic employed by longtime politicians like Whitmer and Schuette. That seasoned politicians used matching funds is all the more reason not to.  

Michigan Capitol Confidential has reached out to the Soldano campaign for an interview ahead of the primary. 


Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.