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Pro-Whitmer group launches ads to tout $400 insurance refund

December 16, 2021 GMT
FILE - Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaks before signing auto insurance legislation on May 30, 2019, at the Detroit Regional Chamber's Mackinac Policy Conference at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Mich. A Democratic group allied with Whitmer is launching ads over the bowl season to tout pending $400-per-vehicle refunds for all Michigan drivers with insurance. (AP Photo/David Eggert, File)
FILE - Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaks before signing auto insurance legislation on May 30, 2019, at the Detroit Regional Chamber's Mackinac Policy Conference at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Mich. A Democratic group allied with Whitmer is launching ads over the bowl season to tout pending $400-per-vehicle refunds for all Michigan drivers with insurance. (AP Photo/David Eggert, File)
FILE - Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaks before signing auto insurance legislation on May 30, 2019, at the Detroit Regional Chamber's Mackinac Policy Conference at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Mich. A Democratic group allied with Whitmer is launching ads over the bowl season to tout pending $400-per-vehicle refunds for all Michigan drivers with insurance. (AP Photo/David Eggert, File)

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — A Democratic group allied with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is launching ads over the college football bowl season to tout pending $400-per-vehicle refunds for all Michigan drivers with insurance.

The foray announced Thursday is Democrats’ first onto TV in the governor’s race, about 11 months before she is up for reelection in what could be a tough midterm climate. Whitmer, who signed a 2019 law to lower auto insurance rates and pushed for the earlier-than-expected refunds coming next spring, is featured in the 30-second ad paid for by Put Michigan First, which is affiliated with the Democratic Governors Association.

The ads will cost roughly $200,000 to run during 35 bowl games, including the Michigan, Michigan State, Eastern Michigan and Western Michigan games and the national championship.

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Wearing a “Michigan Mom” shirt — her daughters attend Michigan — the Michigan State alumna says fans can agree on two things: to root for Utah to beat Ohio State and that they deserve a break after “years of overpaying for auto insurance.”

“I got insurance companies to send refund checks directly back to you,” Whitmer says.

Central Michigan also is in a bowl game, but it will be streamed online instead of being broadcast on a traditional network.

The Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association, which assesses an annual insurance fee to cover unlimited medical benefits and other costs for seriously injured motorists, says the $400 refund is the largest in its 43-year history. The last refund came in 1998 and was $180 per vehicle. The fee was mandatory for decades but became voluntary in 2020 under the law pushed by Republican lawmakers and signed by Whitmer.

Republican groups and candidates have spent more than $2 million to date on TV, digital and radio ads criticizing the first-term incumbent. Two of the 12 GOP candidates for governor, self-funding multimillionaire Kevin Rinke and chiropractor Garrett Soldano, have aired TV ads.

Republican Governors Association spokesperson Chris Gustafson sought to blame Whitmer and President Joe Biden for consumer inflation.

“While families look for real relief from Democrat-induced inflation, Whitmer is busy taking credit for Republican auto insurance reform,” he said.

GOP legislators made the legislation a priority in 2019 at a time she was proposing a gas tax increase to fix the roads. The governor initially threatened to veto the bill but signed it after negotiating changes that won bipartisan support. Opponents of the overhaul say slashed reimbursements to rehabilitation facilities and attendant care providers have led to people losing care and access to care.

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Follow David Eggert at https://twitter.com/DavidEggert00