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Oct. 30 | This Week in Government: Oakland County Candidate Funding Analysis; New MDHHS Rules for Gatherings

Each week, the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Government Relations team, in partnership with Gongwer, will provide members with a collection of timely updates from both local and state governments. Stay in the know on the latest legislation, policy priorities, and more.

Plus, join the Detroit Regional Chamber Thursday, Nov. 5 at 1 p.m. for an insiders’ conversation on Michigan’s election outcomes with Gongwer’s Executive Editor and Publisher Zach Gorchow and the Chamber’s Vice President of Government Relations Brad Williams. Register today.

See below for this week’s headlines.

  1. Oakland Dem House Candidates Crushing GOP in Funds; HRCC to Rescue
  2. New COVID Order Requires Bars to Keep Patron Logs for Contact Tracing
  3. House GOP Spent $5.8M in 3Q, Dems $3.1M
  4. Shirkey, Chatfield Letter Requests Collaboration in Fighting COVID
  5. DHHS Roundtable Share Fears, Strategies Ahead of COVID Second Wave

Oakland Dem House Candidates Crushing GOP in Funds; HRCC to Rescue

Three Oakland County women working to flip GOP districts from red to blue raised huge money in the lead up to the general election, campaign finance reports due Friday showed.

Democrats Kelly Breen of Novi in the 38th House District, Julia Pulver of West Bloomfield in the 39th District, and Barb Anness of Rochester Hills in the 45th District each raised nearly $300,000.

Their Republican counterparts didn’t bring in nearly as much, campaign finance reports covering Aug. 25 until Oct. 18 revealed, though the flush House Republican Campaign Committee PAC gave considerable amounts. Far from the expected edge Republicans were expected to enjoy because of the HRCC, however, the huge sums raised by Democratic candidates have evened the playing field.

In the 38th District, Breen raised $306,381 and spent $183,741 in her effort to pick up the seat where she came close to unseating the GOP incumbent in 2018. The caucus also kicked in $229,445. She has $166,221 on hand heading into the election.

Republican Chase Turner of Northville raised $40,916 and spent $48,819. The HRCC has spent $316,051 in this district along with another $100,000 in a late contribution this week. Turner reported $19,459 on hand.

Pulver raised $299,402 and spent $281,273. The Democratic caucus provided $176,499 in in-kind contributions as well. She has $92,549 on hand.

Rep. Ryan Berman raised $118,735 for the period with the HRCC kicking in $502,391 in in-kind expenditures. The caucus also provided Berman with another $100,000 this week, a late contribution report showed. Berman spent $100,924 and has $185,556 on hand for the final days of the campaign.

Anness raised a significant $282,790 for the period and spent $266,265. She has $61,403 on hand heading into November. The Democratic caucus spent here, too, bringing in $151,401.

Republican Mark Tisdel of Rochester Hills reported raising $59,430 with the HRCC spending $333,729 on his behalf. Tisdel spent $72,051 and has $121,749 on hand.

The three Oakland County seats are prime targets for the Democrats as they hope to take majority control of the chamber for the first time in more than a decade. They are all near the top of Gongwer News Service’s list of House districts likely to flip.

For Democrats, the momentum is real. Sources said at the beginning of October that Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden was up over President Donald Trump by nearly 30 points in Oakland County. Republican internal polling had that lead at 18 points, still a very concerning spread considering Trump only lost by 8 points in 2016.

In 2012 and 2016, Democratic presidential candidates had eight-point wins in the county.

Republicans, though, are not giving up in the county. They remain confident in their three Oakland candidates, particularly in the 45th where they think the environment is better. They don’t have much of a choice, however, because there are so few seats in play and if Democrats win all three, plus the seat in Portage in Kalamazoo County, the Republican majority is likely gone.

Campaign finance reports in other districts being tracked by Gongwer News Service are listed below in numerical order:

BOTH SIDES SPENDING BIG IN 19TH: Republican Martha Ptashnik of Livonia reported raising $97,588 with the HRCC providing $410,170 in in-kind contributions. Ptashnik’s committee spent $48,975 and she has $141,383 on hand.

Democratic Rep. Laurie Pohutsky of Livonia reported raising $161,294 with the caucus spending $231,911 in the seat. Pohutsky reported spending $154,920 and she has $81,633 on hand for the final days.

KOLESZAR IN GOOD SHAPE IN 20TH: Republican John Lacny of Plymouth reported raising $16,700 in his effort to unseat Rep. Matt Koleszar (D-Plymouth). Lacny spent $30,532 and has $3,658 on hand. Koleszar raised $64,968 and spent $90,584 for the period. The Democratic caucus also kicked in $75,331. Koleszar has $40,084 on hand. As expected, there is no sign of a Republican push here.

CAMILLERI FIGHTING OFF LATE CHALLENGE IN 23RD: In the 23rd House District, Rep. Darrin Camilleri (D-Brownstown Township) reported raising $63,639 with the Democratic caucus bringing in $13,687 in in-kind contributions. He reported spending $107,267 and has $19,141 on hand.

The Democratic caucus also has come in with a late contribution for Camilleri of almost $48,000.

A report for Republican John Poe was not available before publishing, though the HRCC this week provided him with $190,000 in a late contribution.

DEM CAUCUS SPENT NEARLY $200K FOR SHANNON IN 25TH: Rep. Nate Shannon (D-Sterling Heights) raised $89,756 this period and spent $42,793 as he seeks a second term. The caucus also kicked in $195,931. He has $90,523 for the final weeks. Republican Paul Smith, who has been disavowed by the Republicans, didn’t do much. He brought in $2,930 and spent $6,201. He has $39,173 on hand, though most of that was loaned from his own funds and given his low spending that suggests he will likely pay himself back, not invest the loan in campaigning, that the loan was just for show.

MINIMAL SPENDING IN 43RD WITH SCHROEDER V. BREADON: Republican Rep. Andrea Schroeder of Independence Township reported raising $39,860 with the caucus putting in $46,524. Schroeder reported spending $54,927 and has $38,443 on hand. Her Democratic opponent Nicole Breadon of Clarkston brought in $17,832 and spent $18,561. Breadon has $25,059 on hand.

GOP SEEMS TO BE SPENDING MORE IN 48TH: Democratic Rep. Sheryl Kennedy (D-Davison) reported raising $56,658 and spending $80,355 during the period. She has $16,319 on hand. Republican David Martin of Davison raised $15,123 and spent $43,219. The HRCC provided $189,237 in in-kind contributions here, too. Martin has $7,365 on hand.

MORSE, HALTOM SPENT $200K+ IN 61ST: In a surprise to absolutely no one, both sides spent big in the 61st House District. Democrat Christine Morse of Texas Township reported raising $257,614 and spending $244,530 for the cycle. The caucus put in another $362,725. She has $163,029 to finish up the campaign.

Republican Bronwyn Haltom brought in $128,916 and spent $195,539. The HRCC kicked in another $387,151. She has $119,850 on hand heading into November.

BIG MONEY FOR WITWER IN 71ST: In the 71st House District, Rep. Angela Witwer (D-Delta Township) raised $148,605 and spent $106,820. The Democratic caucus spent about $300,000 on the race. She has a solid $168,283 on hand for the final stretch. Her Republican opponent Gina Johnsen of Delta Township raised $49,832 and spent $37,754. The HRCC also kicked in $115,145. She has $38,885 on hand.

JOHNSON WITH SOLID CASH RESERVE IN 72ND: Rep. Steve Johnson (R-Wayland) raised $65,869 for the period with the caucus kicking in $140,653 in in-kind contributions in the 72nd House District. He reported spending $37,624 and has $84,962 on hand. Johnson also received a $35,000 late contribution from the HRCC. Democrat Lily Cheng-Schulting of Kentwood reported raising $30,860 and spending $24,590. She has $10,173 on hand.

SAXTON AHEAD OF POSTHUMUS IN CASH IN 73RD: In the 73rd House District, Republican Bryan Posthumus of Oakfield Township raised $35,000 and spent $20,325. He has $17,030 on hand for the final stretch. Democrat Bill Saxton of Grand Rapids reported raising $22,474 and spending $42,155. He has $48,937 on hand.

PITCHFORD RAISED $140K IN 79TH: Democrat Chokwe Pitchford of Benton Harbor in a long-shot bid for the 79th House District reported raising serious money. For the period, he brought in nearly $140,000 and spent $101,426. He has $68,264 on hand for the final days.

Rep. Pauline Wendzel (R-Watervliet), who holds the seat, reported raising $35,225. The caucus also spent $80,258 in the seat and along with Ms. Wendzel’s $99,584. She has $11,205 on hand, though she also received $40,000 in a late contribution from the HRCC.

GOP SPENDING HUGE ON BESON IN 96TH: Rep. Brian Elder (D-Bay City) reported raising $83,636, with $14,000 coming from his own political action committee. The Democratic caucus kicked in $87,669 and Elder spent $73,123. He has $74,126 on hand.

Republicans spent big here. Candidate Timothy Beson “raised” $80,185 – nearly all of those funds coming from House Republican leadership PACs with as little as $6,000 from individual donors – and spent $66,230. The HRCC spent another $300,000. Beson has $30,680 on hand, though he also received a late contribution from the HRCC for $60,000.

GLENN COMING IN WITH THE BIG BUCKS IN 98TH: Rep. Annette Glenn (R-Midland) raised big money and spent big money this period. She brought in $150,436 and spent $260,304. The HRCC put in $244,518. She has a solid $94,755 on hand for the final days.’

Democrat Sarah Schulz of Midland raised $106,911 for the period and spent $140,585. She has $67,315 on hand going into the election.

HRCC SPENDING NEARLY $500K IN 104TH: Republican John Roth of Traverse City raised $176,000 with the HRCC putting in a whopping $486,806 into the race. Roth’s committee spent $147,911 and has $100,311 on hand.

Democrat Dan O’Neil showed yet again he can raise large sums by bringing in $242,584 during the period. He spent $323,688 while the Democratic caucus provided about $215,000 in in-kind contributions. O’Neil has $132,072 to close out the campaign.

NOT MUCH HAPPENING IN 110TH: Janet Metsa of Houghton reported raising $49,240 in her bid to unseat to Rep. Greg Markkanen (R-Hancock). She spent $48,820 and has $12,333 on hand. Markkanen brought in $16,750 and spent $11,539. He has $45,428 on hand.

New COVID Order Requires Bars to Keep Patron Logs for Contact Tracing

Bars and restaurants would be required to collect names and contact information from patrons for coronavirus contact tracing under an amended emergency order issued today by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

New restrictions for those establishments will also prohibit more than six people sitting at a single table in an effort to cut down on people from more than two households co-mingling in the same indoor space, which the order says has been a primary source of new infections.

The order also reduces the maximum 500-person indoor gathering limit to just 50 people in settings like weddings, parties, and banquets which occur in nonresidential settings without fixed seating.

In a call with reporters prior to the order’s release, DHHS Director Robert Gordon said that the measures were targeted to address outbreaks in all portions of the state, which have been rapidly rising. He also said the order brings the entire state into Phase 4, which was not the case for the Traverse City region, which was previously at Phase 5. Those regions saw a lower than average number of infections during the Michigan pandemic’s first major wave in the spring, but were home to new outbreaks along with others across the state.

However, the phase designations were created when Governor Gretchen Whitmer was able to issue emergency orders determining what was allowed based on each region.

Enforcement of the new order will consider violations punishable by a civil fine up to $1,000 and may also be treated as a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than six months or a fine of not more than $200.

Gordon and DHHS Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun both said today that Michigan presently has 172 cases per million people and that the positivity rate has increased from around 2% to 5% – indicators that have been increasing over the last four weeks.

Virus-related hospitalizations have doubled over the last three weeks and the state now has a death rate that has increased over the last five consecutive weeks.

The state also has 34 new outbreaks of the virus related to gatherings like the ones curtailed by the new order, with three to 10 cases from friend and family gatherings, weddings, and bridal showers; nine to 22 cases from funerals; and six to 19 cases from outings, social clubs, and bowling parties.

An additional 18 outbreaks with up to 52 associated cases are linked to church services, which are exempt from the order, Gordon said.

When asked why the state wasn’t considering a new stay at home order considering cases appear to be mimicking the volume seen in the spring, Gordon again said that targeted measures could address the outbreaks and that the department simply knows more about the virus than it did in March.

Gordon and Khaldun stressed the wearing of masks or facial coverings in indoor spaces, adding that they were the key to continuing daily activities in public without the risk of greater community spread like they are seeing now.

Gordon also said he could not produce a clear timeline of when things might turn around, saying it depends on the level of compliance with mask wearing, social distancing measures, and adherence to DHHS emergency orders.

House GOP Spent $5.8M in 3Q, Dems $3.1M

The House Republican Campaign Committee reported spending $5.79 million in the third quarter of the year ahead of November’s election while the Michigan House Democratic Fund spent $3.11 million, campaign finance reports due Monday showed.

The caucuses were nearly even in funds raised between July and October with the Republicans reported $2.4 million raised and the Democrats $2.3 million.

With days to go before the election, the Democrats have $751,745 left on hand and the Republicans have $1.2 million in their respective caucus PACs.

A Super PAC spending for Democratic candidates in key House races – Prosperity Michigan Action Fund – reported raising $585,000 and has $218,292 on hand going into next week’s election.

The Democrats reported receiving most of their money in the caucus PAC from the Michigan Democratic Party, which contributed $437,075, according to the report. It also received 849 total contributions.

Other top contributions for the Democrats came from SEIU Michigan State Council ($41,975), Paul and Wendy Greeney of Traverse City ($41,975 each) and Douglas Song, CEO of Duo Security ($41,975). Several other caucus members or candidates contributed either the full amount allowed or a bit less.

The HRCC, which reported 451 individual contributions, saw the maximum contribution – $41,975 – from several members of the DeVos family, Stephen Ehmann of Profile Films and J.C. Huizenga.

A statement from GOP leadership said the HRCC has broken a record in every quarter of the current cycle and increased the caucus’s lead over the Democrats each time.

“HRCC is going to leave nothing on the field in final days of this campaign,” said HRCC Co-Chair Rep. Jason Wentworth (R-Clare). “Our team has worked incredibly hard to put our candidates in the best possible position to win, and they are continuing to work hard every day to maintain a Republican majority. That dedication and these results are going to help us cross the finish line with another strong majority on election night.”

Top House Democrats said in their own statement the money raised in the third quarter of 2020 is the most the caucus has ever raised and double what was raised last cycle. Additionally, Dem leaders pointed to individual candidate numbers, which were above their GOP counterparts in several key districts

“This is the most important election of our lifetime, and these numbers show that people are hungry for real leadership in Michigan,” said Dem Campaign Chair Rep. Donna Lasinski, of Scio Township. “In 2018, we elected Democrats up and down the ticket, and we’re ready to do it again. As we’ve said before, this election is about moving Michigan forward. The people are with us, the momentum is on our side, and we’re ready to deliver real results for our state and country.”

Shirkey, Chatfield Letter Requests Collaboration in Fighting COVID

Republican legislative leadership in a Tuesday letter requested a meeting with Democratic leadership, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, and medical experts to discuss the impact of the coronavirus in the state in light of the recent spike in infections and deaths.

Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) and House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) said in the letter a collaborative effort would benefit all residents of the state.

Shirkey and Chatfield in Tuesday’s letter said the request for a meeting was in response to an Oct. 22 letter from the Michigan Health and Hospital Association regarding COVID-19 caseloads and hospitalizations across the state.

As of Wednesday, there was no information on when the proposed meeting may take place.

“We believe a collaborative effort amongst our legislative colleagues, the executive branch, and medical professionals to discuss emerging data will benefit all Michiganders,” the Republican leaders wrote. “For the past eight months, we have had an open invitation to anyone willing to meet with us and work on this important issue, and nothing about that has changed. It is well past time we all stop arguing from afar and in the press and start working together in person for the people who are counting on us. Time is of the essence and we welcome a commitment from our partners, or their designee, to meet at their earliest convenience.”

For COVID-19 cases, the seven-day average of newly confirmed cases surpassed 2,000 recently and has tripled in the past five weeks.

The request is after months of partisan fighting between Republican leadership and Whitmer over the Governor’s use of executive powers to issue orders in response to the pandemic.

Republicans filed suit against the governor and the Supreme Court ruled the 1945 law from which Whitmer was operating under a state of emergency to issue nearly 200 executive orders was unconstitutional.

Since then, the Department of Health and Human Services has moved to issue several emergency orders to keep a narrowly targeted number of items from the nullified executive orders in place.

Whitmer addressed the letter from Republican leadership during a press briefing Wednesday.

“We have had so many opportunities to brief the Legislature. We will of course take every opportunity to do that and have an ongoing conversation with the Legislature,” Whitmer said. “This letter might lead you to conclude that those opportunities have not been made available to them when they have throughout COVID-19. I’ve conducted Quadrant calls throughout. Sometimes the leaders join us, sometimes they don’t, but we have made opportunity to share that information and we will continue to do that.”

The Legislature since the Supreme Court ruling has also approved two sets of COVID-19 related legislation in response to the pandemic, a start in having some level of bipartisan cooperation.

MHA Communications Director John Karasinski in a statement said the group looks forward to a meeting with leadership.

“We are awaiting further details on a possible meeting time,” Karasinski said. “The MHA welcomes the opportunity to meet with Michigan’s elected leaders in a collaborative format to discuss the concerning trend of increasing hospitalization, and how we can use public health measures to stop the spread of this deadly disease.”

Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich (D-Flint) addressed the letter from Republican leadership Wednesday in a brief statement.

“We’re glad to see Republican leadership finally recognize that there’s (a) deadly pandemic going on out there,” Ananich said. “We’ve been working with the governor for eight months on this and they’re welcome to join us. Of course I’ll participate once the meeting is scheduled.”

A spokesperson for Minority Leader Christine Greig (D-Farmington Hills) said she is always available for a serious conversation to combat the pandemic. However, Greig also said Chatfield wasn’t taking the pandemic seriously and pointed to a photo of him at a rally for President Donald Trump on Tuesday without a mask.

Chatfield Spokesperson Gideon D’Assandro declined comment on the charge that the speaker wasn’t taking the pandemic seriously.

Separately Wednesday, Michigan Education Association President Paula Herbart in a statement called on state lawmakers and leaders to support the wearing of masks and other measures such as practicing safe distancing to control spread of the virus (editor’s note: this story changed to correct the spelling of Herbart’s last name).

“Michigan lawmakers need to step up and do what’s necessary to keep our children healthy and our educators safe amid the greatest public health threat in a century,” Herbart said. “Our hard-working, dedicated educators in public schools and higher education institutions across the state are putting their lives on the line daily to serve our students, families, and communities, and we must do everything in our power to ensure their safety during the ongoing pandemic.”

DHHS Roundtable Share Fears, Strategies Ahead of COVID Second Wave

Fears about noncompliance with coronavirus mitigation strategies, the dismantling of gains made to address racial disparities and safety on college campuses – and even in hospitals – were among those shared by a panel convened by the Department of Health and Human Services to discuss issues around an inevitable second wave of the novel virus.

The panelists, who appeared via webinar on Monday with DHHS Director Robert Gordon and Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun playing host, also discussed various strategies their departments, employers and students have taken to address community spread in the face of the continuing pandemic.

Panelists included Dr. Thomas Frieden, president and CEO of Resolve to Save Lives and former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Emily Martin, associate professor of Epidemiology at the University of Michigan; Angelique Joynes, health officer for Allegan County Health Department; Dr. John Deledda, chairman of Emergency Medicine and chief medical officer for Henry Ford Hospital and Henry Ford Medical Group; M. Roy Wilson, president of Wayne State University; and Dr. Norman Beauchamp, executive vice president for Health Sciences at Michigan State University.

At the top of the conversation, Martin said that U-M has recently noted a marked increase in the number of new COVID-19 cases, both in magnitude and speed, unlike what they witnessed in the spring.

“What we see now is a bit of a new phenomenon, is that we’re seeing increases across the state in all different regions,” Martin said. “So, this consistent pattern of rise is being seen everywhere and some areas are more effective than others, but we are seeing a rise everywhere. It’s highly concerning because of overall levels of spread but also because of the challenges that come in managing increased spread across so many areas at once. It’s going to be a big, big challenge.”

Another concern is that that the state’s much-increased testing capacity does not explain the rapid rise in cases, either, Martin added.

Many of these illnesses, Martin said, have much to do with large superspreading events seen not only on college campuses but elsewhere. The quick rise in cases coupled with relaxed efforts to social distance or use low-tech, low-cost mitigation strategies like mask wearing will make it increasingly difficult to slow the spread of the virus in what appears to be coming second wave.

Friedman said similar – that Michigan is nowhere near the end of the pandemic – even as he praised the state for its response and noted that states or regions that have fully embraced the advice of public health experts have had fewer impacts in terms of disease prevalence, associated deaths, and economic strain.

Going forward, Friedman said the focus for decision-makers should be to continue to reduce spread by taking the handles off of what he called “COVID-19 pumps,” or large social events or other outbreak drivers, and protect people with ongoing mitigation factors. That includes mask wearing and social distancing but also testing – in a more timely fashion but not necessarily in a higher capacity – and changing social stereotypes about isolation and quarantine.

“Quarantine should be a VIP experience. It should be, ‘we care about, you stay at home, we’re going to bring you your food, if you need it. We’re going to do your laundry, if you need it. We’re going to make sure you get paid, we’re going to pay you if you can’t get paid,'” Friedman said. “If we make isolation, quarantine, things that people actually want to get into rather than out of, we’re more likely to succeed.”

With that in mind, Friedman said that countries and states that have reduced their infection curves to drastically few new cases have been slower to reach previous high viral peaks, but those that have had a steady number of cases simmering below the surface are seeing stronger resurgences of COVID-19 and may continue to do so until the curve can be crushed once again.

He also said that the lack of federal leadership on the issue from The White House on down has only “blunted” more precise tools to stop the spread of COVID-19. If things continue to get out of control, Friedman added, more blunt measures like large scale economic shutdowns may be inevitable.

“You may be able to keep a virtuous cycle rather than a vicious cycle, I see a lot of this around the country and around the world,” he said. “If you’ve got few enough cases that you can get on top of them rapidly, stop them from exploding, then you can do a better and better job managing those cases. The moment it gets out of control, you’re in trouble.”

Answering a question from Gordon, Martin said aside from gatherings at colleges or other large events like weddings, bars and restaurants appear to be intersections for exposure because of an accumulation of risk factors in one setting, which is not to say eateries and watering holes are inherent factories for COVID-19.

Being at a bar or a restaurant requires you to take off your mask for at least a period of time to eat or drink while indoors, all while still being close to other people in an environment that may not be well ventilated, eventually putting patrons at a higher risk of encountering someone who could be shedding COVID-19, Friedman said.

He added that through the collection of real-time data and possibly market-driven risk rating system – much like one implemented in Los Angeles, California – bars could be reopened more expeditiously and safely.

On college campuses and their effect on community spread, Wilson said it really depends on the dynamic of the community. Universities in small towns can influence case rates in the greater community, and many of those small towns expressed deep concerns about bringing students back on the campuses for that very reason.

However, in the case of WSU, Wilson said the community rates affected the university, as the campus practically shares open borders with Detroit. The city struggled mightily in the beginning of the pandemic to control cases, which overwhelmed Detroit hospitals in April and May, but have since been able to reduce its infection rates considerably.

The same can be said for racial disparities which saw Black communities disproportionately affected by the virus in the spring, disparities that have since been alleviated after the state put a greater emphasis toward addressing them.

Wilson said he’s worried those gains could be dismantled by a strong second wave of the virus.

“I fear that neither Detroit nor Wayne State … can sustain its low case rates without something else and that something else is a more of a national strategy,” Wilson said. “I also fear that that’s going to be the case, once the vaccine is available, that people won’t take it, and African Americans disproportionately won’t take it. And there’s some anecdotal evidence right now that they’re more reluctant to take a vaccine if it were to come out right now.”


MDHHS Virtual Roundtable Reveals Troubling Trends, Challenges as Michigan Faces Latest Wave of COVID-19