Candidate’s PAC raises $20,000 for Democrats

She’s not an official state House member, yet, but the political action committee (PAC) connected to 69th House District candidate Julie Brixie raised $20,105 to help fellow Democrats in politically competitive seats in the third quarter.

This piece of news is noteworthy in so many ways, but let’s start here.

What the Meridian Township treasurer is doing has never been done before. In this term-limited era, incoming state House members in non-competitive districts just don’t start up leadership PACs. Doesn’t mean they can’t. They just don’t.

Brixie not only did it, but did it in impressive fashion.

The “Julie Brixie Blue Wave Fund” raised the seventh biggest amount of money for the period of July 21 to Oct. 20 among independent PACs associated with likely 2019-‘20 House Democratic caucus members.

By comparison, Rep. Kristy Pagan, D-Canton Twp., one of the House D’s campaign co-chairs, raised $4,555 for her PAC.

Brixie raised four times that amount.

If the UAW’s $150,000 contribution to Democratic leadership candidate Brian Elder’s PAC is taken out of the equation, Brixie raised more than he did.

“After Trump got elected in 2016, the engagement of the residents in Meridian Township, East Lansing and local Democratic activists, in general, was so high,” Brixie, the Meridian Township treasurer, said. “I wanted to capture that enthusiasm and engagement so we could bring about some meaningful change for the state of Michigan.”

Leadership PACs give legislators stature among their peers when it comes time to doling out leadership roles for the coming election cycle. By already having given contributions to candidates like Angela Witwer, who are running in politically competitive seats, Brixie is laying the groundwork for a future leadership role.

East Lansing has been spoiled by having Rep. Sam Singh as the House Minority Leader and House Minority Floor Leader before that. Those positions don’t come with a specific geographic region. Legislators must earn these spots each term.

In large part, they come from connections with colleagues, which Brixie is already forming. She’s doing it in an unconventional way.

In Lansing, most leadership PACs raise money through specific Lansing-based interest groups. For example, Rep. X hosts a breakfast at the Grand Traverse Pie Co. or a lunch at the Beer and Wine Wholesalers. A representative from Blue Cross Blue Shield or AT&T or a specific organization stops by, chats with the legislator, gives him or her a check, eats some food and leaves.

Both Republicans and Democrats do it and it’s such common practice that it’s become part of the regular routine on session days.

Brixie is doing it differently. She went back to her new constituents — the people who voted for her — and basically said, “Thanks for voting for me. If you want to elect more like-minded Democrats statewide, help me raise money for them or we risk two more years in the minority.”

What she wrote in her fundraising email blast was a bit more, shall we say, charged.

“There is so much at stake, and it’s time to change the course of our state. We can’t afford another two years with lawmakers who have the audacity to threaten our right to choose, allow our infrastructure to crumble before our eyes, and turn public education into a for-profit industry,” she wrote.

“It’s time to match the billionaires who have bought our state government for nearly a decade with our strength in numbers!” In response, 157 donations were collected. That’s more than any other Democratic House member raising money for a PAC, including Rep. Christine Greig, the likely next Democratic leader, who gathered 131 donations this past cycle.

Brixie’s fundraising haul came after she already spent more than $110,000 in her competitive primary race against Teri Banas and Penelope Tsernoglou on Aug. 7. The Julie Brixie Blue Wave Fund started the next day and has collected 150 individual contributions from people who — by and large —live in her Ingham County district.

Brixie said many residents in her neck of the woods are highly educated individuals who understand that to advance the policies they care about goes beyond electing a Democrat to the bright blue 69th House District.

“We need to elect like-minded lawmakers across the state from Menominee to Monroe to turn things around in Michigan,” she said. “Our residents have been happy to support the good cause.”

The only other non-incumbent House candidate MIRS found to have created a PAC is Joe Tate in Detroit, but he’s only raised $25 to this point.

(Kyle Melinn, of the Capitol news service MIRS, is at melinnky@gmail.com)