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Nessel, Leonard have early fundraising leads in Michigan AG race


Lansing — Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and former Michigan House Speaker Tom Leonard could be headed for a rematch in 2022 if early fundraising numbers are any indication.

Over the past three months, Nessel, a Democrat who is seeking reelection, raised the most money of all of the attorney general candidates in the state, reporting $451,117 in contributions. But Leonard, a Republican from DeWitt, collected the most among the three GOP contenders at $350,580.

The latest disclosures covered from July 21 through Wednesday. State Rep. Ryan Berman, a Republican from Commerce Township, reported $202,930 in contributions for his attorney general bid, and Kalamazoo lawyer Matthew DePerno, who has been endorsed by former President Donald Trump, reported raising $76,598.

In 2018, Nessel defeated Leonard by 3 percentage points to win her first term. As of Wednesday, she had $1.4 million in her campaign account available to spend, $1 million more than any of her potential GOP opponents.

"I promised Michigan voters that I would be the people’s lawyer, and under my leadership, we have made good on that promise," Nessel said in a statement. "The overwhelming grassroots support we have received this year is a direct reflection of that commitment, and I am humbled by the outpouring of support I have received."

The Plymouth Democrat's top donors over the last three months included the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters, which gave $20,000; the Michigan Democratic Jewish Caucus, which gave $15,000; and TV producer Shonda Rhimes of Los Angeles, who gave $7,150.

Leonard announced his 2022 campaign on Sept. 24, leaving him about a month to raise money before the disclosure deadline.

His top donors included current House Speaker Jason Wentworth's leadership committee, which gave $30,000; Matthew Moroun, director of CenTra, who gave $7,150; and Mat Ishbia, president of United Wholesale Mortgage, who donated $7,150.

The majority of Berman's fundraising haul came from other committees tied to him: $146,500.

Benson has big advantage for SOS

Like Nessel, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat, has a big fundraising lead in her race for reelection. Benson reported raising $449,766 over the last three months with $1 million cash on hand as of Wednesday.

Her top donors included the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters, which gave $10,000; New York developer Stephen Ross, who contributed $7,150; and Huntington Bank Chairman Gary Torgow, who donated $7,150.

"Secretary Benson continues to work to defend our democracy and transform the Department of State so motorists can be served quickly and efficiently," said Liz Boyd, spokeswoman for Benson's campaign. "She is delivering on her promise to work as hard as citizens do, even in the face of an ongoing pandemic."

Republican Kristina Karamo was the leading fundraiser among the GOP candidates for secretary of state. She reported raising $99,042 over the last quarter and having $116,886 as of Wednesday.

State Rep. Beau LaFave, R-Iron Mountain, who is also seeking the GOP nomination for secretary of state, reported raising $5,700 during the last quarter. But he launched his committee on Oct. 1, 19 days before the deadline.

cmauger@detroitnews.com