Whitmer raises $3.1 million more in campaign funds, leaning on recall exemption

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer raised $3.1 million over three months for her reelection campaign and had $12.6 million on hand a year before the 2022 election, while former Detroit police chief James Craig outraised a field of Republicans vying to challenge her.

The numbers were reported Monday, the quarterly deadline.

The Democratic governor continued to use an exemption to collect more than the individual $7,150 limit because of longshot efforts to recall her from office. The GOP is challenging the strategy in court. The excess funds, including more than $400,000 from the three-month period, seem destined to be returned or transferred to another account like the state Democratic Party’s because no recall bid is likely to become "active."

Eleven Republicans have formed candidate committees to run against or explore a challenge to Whitmer, whose campaign manager Preston Elliott emphasized her work to boost K-12 funding without a tax hike, to fix the roads and to create auto jobs.

Craig, who entered the race in the summer, raised $1.4 million since mid-July. He had nearly $1 million after spending. His campaign called it a "strong" haul considering he is new to politics. Donors giving the maximum amount included ex-Govs. Rick Snyder and John Engler.

"Whitmer and the Democrats will be well financed by the permanent Washington political class and coastal elites, but our message of personal liberty and leading from the front is resonating with Michiganders," Craig said in a statement.

Chiropractor Garrett Soldano, who helped lead a ballot drive to repeal a law the governor used to issue COVID-19 restrictions, collected an additional $496,000 — $1.1 million total this year — and had $473,000 on hand. Conservative former online news host Tudor Dixon raised $215,000 — totaling $347,000 — and, in an unusual move, also said a committee independently supporting her had provided $200,000 in "seed funding."

RELATED: Michigan Republicans sue over excess campaign donations to Gov. Whitmer

"I am thrilled with the progress we have made since the summer," said Dixon, whose campaign had a balance of $165,000.

The lone donor to the Dixon-allied Michigan Strong political action committee was Kim Van Kampen, who owns equestrian farms in Fruitport and Florida. While Michigan law lets candidates solicit unlimited contributions for super PACs backing their candidacies, it is rare — perhaps unprecedented — for one to publicize such activity in a campaign news release.

Oakland County pastor Ralph Rebandt II raised $47,000 and had $7,000 on hand. Ryan Kelley, an Ottawa County real estate broker who organized armed protests against Whitmer’s coronavirus orders, collected $45,000 and had a balance of $28,000. Businesswoman Donna Brandenburg launched her campaign last month by giving it $40,000 of her own money.

Other GOP candidates raised nominal amounts.