Elissa Slotkin should be feeling pretty darn good right about now.
Slotkin, a Democrat from Holly, is the first-term Congresswoman from Michigan’s 8th District, and the pundits all say that her seat is one of the most vulnerable in the country. It’s a base Republican district that Donald Trump carried in 2016. Slotkin flipped it in 2018, and she’s been working hard since then, but it’s still a GOP-leaning district.
But based on the events of the past few days, she looks like she’s going to coast to victory in November.
Why? Because she doesn’t have a viable Republican opponent. There are five Republicans in the race to oppose Slotkin, and from what we know now, none of them seem like a serious threat. Not even close.
And if the Republicans in the 8th District – and in Washington, D.C. – aren’t panicking now, they should be. They have a golden opportunity with Elissa Slotkin, and they don’t have a viable candidate to oppose her.
All of this has come to light in the past week, and it’s no doubt sending shock waves through Republican circles. They had no idea it was this bad.
But yes, it really is this bad. In fact, it’s even worse.
Here’s what happened:
The federal campaign filing deadline was Friday, as every Congressional candidate in the country had to report how much money they raised in 2019. These numbers were disastrously bad for four of the five Republican candidates. Horribly, disastrously bad in every way.
The four candidates – Mike Detmer, Alan Hoover, Kristina Lyke and Nikki Snyder – each raised less than $6,000. Some of them raised a whole lot less than that.
- Mike Detmer, a Howell resident, raised $3,685.
- Alan Hoover, a veteran who lives in Ortonville, raised $1,310.
- Kristina Lyke, an East Lansing attorney who lives in Fowlerville, raised $5,918.
- Nikki Snyder, a nurse and member of the State Board of Education who doesn’t live in the 8th District, raised $1,916.
Those are awful numbers. Those are the kinds of fundraising totals that you’d expect from a township board candidate – not from a Congressional candidate hoping to unseat a hardworking incumbent. For a Congressional candidate, those are terrible numbers.
Well, by contrast, Elissa Slotkin raised $2.8 million. No matter how brilliant they are, somebody who raises $6,000 isn’t going to beat someone who raises $2.8 million.
Please understand, this has nothing to do with their qualifications, their conservative credentials or their views on the issues. As a Republican, I probably agree with them on most everything. They might have brilliant ideas and stellar qualifications, but you can’t be taken seriously as a Congressional candidate if you only raise a couple thousand dollars.
Now, it would be nice if we lived in a world where money doesn’t matter in politics, but I’m sorry, we don’t live in that world. Maybe you could be competitive with Elissa Slotkin if you raised a few hundred thousand. But you aren’t to be competitive if you raised a few hundred.
So, while Mike Detmer, Alan Hoover, Kristina Lyke and Nikki Snyder might be wonderful candidates, what we discovered last week is that we can’t take them seriously in this race. You can’t take a Congressional candidate seriously if they show no ability or desire to raise money.
And it wasn’t just their fundraising totals that raised red flags. It was also the incredibly low number of total donors that each of these candidates had.
Detmer had three donors. Hoover had two. Lyke had eight. Snyder had three. That’s remarkably bad.
And then there’s this amazing fact: Out of all those donors, there was only ONE person from Livingston County! ONE! Do you know how many Republicans there are in Livingston County? And these four candidates could only find ONE person willing to give them money?
Which brings us to the only Republican in this race who actually DID raise some money – Paul Junge.
Junge raised $273,418, which includes about $125,000 that he put in himself. While that’s less than a tenth of Slotkin’s $2.8 million, those numbers aren’t awful. It’s a whole lot better than $3,000.
But behind Junge’s numbers are some very problematic stories.
To say that Junge came into this race as a bit of an unknown is an understatement. He was a TV anchor in Lansing about 15 years ago, but he’s still a relative unknown in these parts. He’s mainly been living in California, and hasn’t been living in Brighton very long. There’s rumbling that he was a California guy looking for a Michigan district to run in, and he settled on the 8th.
His fundraising report does little to dispel those rumors.
Of the non-relatives on his campaign finance report (everybody who doesn’t share his last name), there were five donors from Michigan and 23 from California. More tellingly, there are no donors from Livingston County or anywhere else in the 8th Congressional District. All of his money is either from relatives or from people outside the 8th. Most of them from outside of Michigan.
But what’s really troubling about Junge is what happened last Friday at the Brighton Sunrise Rotary Club meeting. What happened that morning damaged his candidacy in a serious way, and only time will tell just how damaging it was.
As detailed in this Livingston Post story, Junge was invited to the meeting by a member, and he was given the opportunity to speak to the club. The idea was that he would introduce himself, maybe talk a little bit about why he loves the community – pretty standard stuff when you speak to a service club.
What he was NOT supposed to do was talk about politics. Club officials said they briefed Junge extensively before the meeting and told him that Rotary rules and local club rules specifically prohibit anybody making a political speech.
For somebody like Paul Junge, this was a golden opportunity. The Brighton Sunrise Rotary Club is a MAJOR organization in this community. Some of the community’s heaviest hitters belong to the club – bigwigs in business, politics, community organizations. Junge is a relative unknown in the community, so this was going to be an incredible opportunity to get some face time with a bunch of community leaders.
Instead, he blew it. In a major way.
Junge reportedly gave a highly partisan, highly charged political speech. Club President Jim Gilmore said he tried to cut him off several times, but Junge just keep plowing through with his partisan message.
It was so bad that following the meeting, Gilmore felt it necessary to post a message on the Sunrise Rotary Club’s Facebook page, apologizing for Junge’s speech and explaining in detail that YES, he had been told ahead of time not to talk politics.
Junge later issued a statement to the Livingston Post saying he “misunderstood the rules prohibiting any political comments.”
“I am running for Congress,” Junge said. “… I apologize to the Club.”
From what I’ve heard, the club members who were there were furious – and this is a group that includes some of the biggest Republican heavy hitters in the county.
This was not the best move that Paul Junge could have made that day, and he just made his political life that much harder.
It’s hard to imagine what he was thinking. If you’ve spent any time around any service club (I was an Optimist), you know that politics and religion are a no-no. Why in the world he thought it would be OK to deliver a highly charged political speech to a Rotary Club – especially after he had just been told NOT to give a highly charged political speech – is a mystery.
So while he has raised some money, he’s also shot himself in the foot. And again, the big winner in all of this is Elissa Slotkin.
She has four opponents who can’t raise any money. And she has a fifth opponent who just made one of the biggest political blunders you can imagine.
Now, a word about Elissa Slotkin. I finally had a chance to meet her last summer – we met for coffee in Brighton – and true to her reputation, I found her to be smart, funny and personable.
She was also highly intrigued about Livingston County. She was asking me a ton of questions about Livingston County – my impressions and thoughts on anything and everything to do with our county.
I might not agree with her on every issue, but there’s no denying she’s smart and hard-working, and has made it a huge priority to spend time in Livingston County. If you’re a Republican and you’re taking her lightly, you’re making a big mistake.
I’ll go out on a limb here and say that Elissa Slotkin isn’t going to carry Livingston County – any one of those five Republicans would beat her – but she doesn’t have to carry Livingston County in order to win. She just has to keep the Republican from running up the score here, and that seems very doable now.
And where does this leave Republicans in the 8th Congressional District?
Panicked. Shocked. Frustrated. They have five candidates, but not a single one that appears to be viable.
So I’m thinking that one of four things is going to happen now:
1. The Republicans will recruit a white knight to come to the rescue here – somebody who is well-known, well-liked and can raise money. Maybe they’ll talk former U.S. Rep. Mike Bishop into running again. Convince State Sen. Lana Theis (the dream candidate) to give it a shot. Bring back Mike Rogers. Heck, bring back Dick Chrysler. Something. Anything.
2. This will be a cold slap in the face and one of these Republicans will start showing that he or she can raise money.
3. The Republican establishment will coalesce around one of the candidates and help them raise money.
4. The Republicans resign themselves to the fact that these five flawed candidates are all they’re getting, and they essentially concede the election to Slotkin. They let it play out, but they devote all their time, attention and money to getting John James and Donald Trump elected.
The filing deadline isn’t until May, so there’s still time here, but I suspect that we’ll learn soon which direction things will be heading.
Stay tuned. It appears that 2020 is not going to be a boring year.