LANSING, Mich. (AP) — A retired businessman opposed to the election of Democrat Gary Peters on Wednesday announced the creation of a super PAC that will run the first TV ads in Michigan's Senate race more than 13 months before voters decide the outcome.
The 30-second attack ad, a parody of the Pure Michigan tourism campaign, likens the third-term congressman to "Pure Washington" — blaming Peters for increased spending, debt and helping to pass the federal health care law. It will begin airing Thursday on cable channels and run for a few weeks.
The ad launch purposely coincides with this weekend's 30th biennial Republican leadership conference on Mackinac Island, where GOP donors and activists will hear from 2016 presidential hopefuls and state leaders to build momentum toward the 2014 elections.
Peters is the only Democratic candidate for the seat opening with the retirement of longtime Democratic Sen. Carl Levin. The lone Republican candidate so far is former Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land, whose path has been eased by other Republicans deciding not to run.
The man behind the ads, Paul Mitchell, former CEO of what is now the Ross Medical Education Center based in Saginaw — which runs training schools for medical billers, dental assistants and others in five states — said he started the Pure PAC in part to change the narrative of the race.
Democrats coalesced behind Peters early so he could raise money and begin campaigning, while Republicans not sold on Land tried recruiting GOP congressmen who ultimately chose to stay put.
Mitchell declined to get behind Land's candidacy for now, saying he is waiting to see if other Republicans enter the race. The super PAC's strategy could evolve to both oppose and support candidates, including gubernatorial candidates.
"To be blunt with you, I certainly hope that this motivates Terri Lynn Land to move forward with her vision of what she brings to Washington," Mitchell told reporters gathered at a Republican political firm in Lansing. "I am hopeful that this ad invokes a conversation of people deciding it's time to get off our hands and start to get engaged, either directly ... to announce they are going to run or not going to run (or) get a message out. We have a choice. ... Sitting back and not participating is destructive."
In response to the ad, Peters' campaign manager Julie Petrick said he is running as an "independent voice" and is building a large grass-roots operation.
"The decision as to who will be our next U.S. senator belongs to the people of Michigan and cannot be bought by dark money or special interest super PACs," she said in a statement.
Super PACs can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money but must operate independently of campaigns. They must disclose their donors.
Mitchell and the ad's creator, Jeff Timmer of The Sterling Corp., did not say how much was spent to run the ad airing for three and a half weeks. A disclosure to the Federal Election Commission is expected within days. It is less expensive to run ads on cable instead of broadcast channels.
A recent poll showed a tight race between Peters and Land. Lansing pollster EPIC-MRA found that of 600 likely voters surveyed Sept. 7-10 with live calls, 38 percent supported Peters and 37 percent backed Land. It is still early, though, as 25 percent were undecided or refused to answer.
The poll involved landline and cellphone interviews and had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.