Wednesday, October 21, 2009

2nd District Financial Rundown: In the 3rd Quarter, Riemersma pulls ahead

With the 3rd quarter filing deadline having come and gone, a clearer picture has emerged of the Republican primary for the 2nd Congressional District. First, lets review the primary for some background.

The 2nd Congressional District covers the northern portion of Allegan County (32,412 residents) the northwest portino of Kent County (33,234), and contains the lakeshore counties of Benzie (17,396), Manistee (24,640), Wexford (31,673), Mason (28,782), Lake (11,014), Oceana (27,598), Newaygo (48,897), Muskegon (174,344), and Ottawa (260,364). The latter two counties are the heart of the 2nd District, with Ottawa providing 39% and Muskegon 26% of the total population. The 2nd is one of the most conservative congressional districts in the state of Michigan, and the only one that John McCain won last year, pulling 51% of the total vote. The link below provides a map of the 2nd Congressional District.

Republican Pete Hoekstra has represented the 2nd District since 1993, winning a primary against long-time GOP incumbent Guy Vander Jagt (1965-1993). Hoekstra has regularly been reelected by comfortable margins, although his vote percentage fell to 63% in 2008, the lowest in his nine elections since 1992.

With Hoekstra’s announcement in late 2008 that he was running for Governor of Michigan and would not seek reelection to his House seat, Republicans began considering their prospects. Former State Representative Bill Huizenga announced his candidacy in December 2008, and was followed into the primary by Muskegon businessman Bill Cooper and Focus on the Family regional director Jay Riemersma in the summer of 2009. Some still expect State Senator Wayne Kuipers to run for this seat as well, although as of January 2009 he only has $24,501 cash on hand as of February 2, 2009.

The three candidates currently in the race have all submitted their financial statements, which are summarized in the linked Google Document.

A couple trends appear in the data. First, While Riemersma and Huizinga are relatively close in total individual contributions (Riemersma with $125K and Huizinga with $96K), Huizinga had a deflating 3rd quarter in terms of fundraising. He also blew threw his dollars, with a burn rate of 110% (meaning he spent more than he raised), and is left with less cash than either Cooper or Riemersma. Secondly, Cooper and Riemersma have each chosen to spend substantial personal funds for this race, with both giving around $100,000 thus far. Cooper’s personal funds have alone kept him in the money race.

Looking closer at the individual contributions to each candidate provides to the FEC gives as much information about their supporters as the candidates themselves. Cooper’s contributors overwhelmingly hail from Muskegon County, while Riemersma and Huizinga draw a great amount of financial support from Ottawa County. Huizinga has draw a good amount of financial support from outside the 2nd District, with large contributions from the DeVos and Van Andel families, as well as the financial support of Calvin College President Galen Byker, who contributed to Huizinga during his State House days as well. Huizinga has also garnered financial support from fellow State House members, including Kevin Green, and from a number of Hoekstra’s staffers in Washington DC. In contrast, Riemersma has drawn funds from his former football colleagues from his college and professional days that are largely from outside the 2nd district. The Yob family has provided substantial fiscal support as well. Riemersma has spent a large amount of money for media and campaign consultants based in Washington DC, which explains his 90% burn rate in the past quarter.

Heading into the final quarter of 2009, I’m sensing that there is a real opportunity for Cooper to play kingmaker in this seat should Kuipers enter the race. As we’ve discussed earlier at WMR, a in a four-way primary, if three candidates are from Ottawa/Allegan County area, the outside candidate has a good chance to sweep up the remainder of the district. That said, I’m thinking that Riemersma is looking strong with his latest fundraising numbers, while Huizinga could use a good 4th quarter to close out the year. It is interesting seeing how different GOP factions are lining up against one another, which should make for an entertaining 2010.

On the Democratic side, a strong case can be made for a Muskegon County candidate, particularly if Riemersma gets the Republican nomination. Riemersma has already started running on hard-right social issues, which may play in Ottawa County, but won’t likely appeal to much of the general electoral outside of it. Should a Democratic candidate be well-financed (raising over $500,000), this could be a race. That said, the eventual GOP nominee is the clear favorite at this point.

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