This year’s race for governor has been unusual in one way. Four years ago, both parties had intense primary campaigns going on, and we had no idea in April who the nominees would be.
But this time, it has been settled for months.
Democrats avoided an expensive and divisive fight by uniting early around former legislator and Battle Creek congressman Mark Schauer.
There was never any possibility of a GOP contest once it was clear Rick Snyder would run for reelection, but the last few months must have been frustrating for Schauer.
Most polls show the race close, or dead even, but Schauer has failed to attract much attention. In part, that’s because there’s been so much other news, from Detroit’s bankruptcy to retiring congressmen to General Motors’ huge ignition-switch crisis. But it is also due to the fact that Schauer, a likeable and intelligent man, does not “fill up a room,” with charisma and the force of his personality.
Yesterday, however, he took a stunning and significant step that will almost certainly help him.
He chose Lisa Brown, the fast-rising Oakland County clerk, to be his running mate. Brown may well be better known to some voters than Schauer.
Two years ago, Brown, then a state legislator, made headlines when the Republican leadership clumsily tried to censor her during a debate on a bill meant to put further restrictions on abortion. That came after she said, in opposition to the bill, “I’m flattered that you are all so interested in my vagina, but no means no.”
But attempting to silence her backfired.
Instead, Republicans managed to create great sympathy for Brown, especially after one lawmaker said she and another woman legislator were “kids” who needed a “time-out.”
That fall, Lisa Brown ran for clerk in traditionally Republican Oakland County, and easily beat the incumbent.
Despite her “vagina monologue,” Brown is scarcely avant-garde.
She is 47-year-old suburban soccer mom with three sons and two stepsons. She is an attorney and a realtor and active in a conservative synagogue in Farmington Hills.
Most recently, she drew notice when she opened up the clerk’s office to allow same-sex couples to get licenses and marry on the one day before an appellate court imposed a stay on the decision allowing their marriages.
Choosing Lisa Brown as his running mate doesn’t mean that Mark Schauer is going to win the election.
In fact, he is still the underdog, but it does mean Snyder is now certainly toast with the vast majority of gay voters, Jewish voters, and pro-choice women.
It will also help Democrats raise money.
For Brown, this is a win-win situation. She doesn’t have to give up her current position to run. And win or lose, this almost certainly helps her career.
Twenty years ago, Democrats nominated a former congressman, the late Howard Wolpe, for governor.
He ran a horrible race and got smeared. The only positive thing about it was his nominee for lieutenant governor, a woman who, like Brown, was also a former state legislator.
You may not remember Wolpe, but I’ll bet you’ve heard of his running mate. Her name is Debbie Stabenow.
** Correction: An earlier version of this essay stated that Lisa Brown "defied" Attorney General Bill Schuette in opening up the clerk's office to allow same sex marriage. This is inaccurate and has been updated.