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Outside groups already spending big in Michigan's U.S. Senate and governor's races

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

Nearly $18 million has been spent so far this year on political TV ads in Michigan’s U. S. Senate and governor’s races. Most of the money has been coming from national Republican, Democratic, conservative and liberal groups.

Rich Robinson is the executive director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network. He analyzed TV ad buys by political groups in a half dozen television markets in Michigan. 

Robinson says Republican U.S. Senate candidate Terri Lynn Land and her supporters have spent about $7.9 million, nearly twice as much on TV ads as Democrat Gary Peters and his supporters, who spent $4.4 million. The ads have been a combination of straight political ads and murky issue ads, which don’t directly endorse a candidate. 

Robinson says most of the money being spent in Michigan’s governor’s race is coming from out of state. He says the Democratic Governors Association has spent about $3 million promoting candidate Mark Schauer.  Meanwhile, the Republican Governors Association has spent $1.5 million aiding incumbent Rick Snyder.  

“Right now it’s essentially a proxy war between the Republican Governors Association and the Democratic Governors Association,” says Robinson.

Gov. Snyder’s campaign has also spent $1 million  on TV ads this year. So far, the Schauer campaign has not spent any money on its own TV ads.

Even though outside groups are hoping to sway Michigan voters in November with their political ads, Robinson says the benefit of such early TV ad spending is questionable for candidates and their supporters.

“It is certainly valuable to the political consultants who are placing these ads … getting a commission for the ads that they place,” says Robinson.

In the case of the U.S. Senate race, the advantage in TV ad spending that Republican Terri Lynn Land is enjoying is not necessarily helping her in the race to replace retiring Sen. Carl Levin. Polls during the past few months have consistently shown Democrat Gary Peters with a lead in the race.  

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