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Running for First: Lon Johnson stockpiles money in House race

Lon Johnson for Congress

Lon Johnson, a Democrat running for northern Michigan’s seat in U.S. Congress, raised more than three time as much money as all the other candidates combined in 2015. His total was $625,723, according to an end-of-the-year filing report with the Federal Election Commission.

“His fundraising numbers so far are looking pretty solid for him,” says Craig Mauger, executive director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network. Mauger covers political spending across the state.

Johnson had $483,529 cash on hand to start 2016. He served as chair of the Michigan Democratic Party until last year.

Mauger expects the 1st Congressional District, which spans the upper Lower Peninsula and the entire Upper Peninsula, will see the most political fundraising of any district in the state this year. Analysts say the district is one of the most competitive in the nation.

Among Republicans in the 1st primary, state Senator Tom Casperson took in $145,089 last year.

“Senator Casperon’s [numbers] aren’t quite as high as other Republicans in competitive districts are,” Mauger says. “Then again, he hasn’t had the time to fundraise.”

Casperson didn’t announce he was running until November.

Former state legislator Jason Allen, a Republican, did not announce for the race until January, and didn’t have to file a campaign finance report in 2015. Allen ran for the seat in 2010 and lost in the primary to incumbent Dan Benishek. Benishek decided not to run for a fourth term last September.

Lon Johnson’s only rival in the Democratic primary is former Kalkaska County Sheriff Jerry Cannon, who lost to Benishek in 2014. Cannon raised $25,885 in 2015.