The Detroit Regional Chamber’s Mackinac Island Policy Conference wraps up today. Michigan Radio’s It’s Just Politics team was there listening to speeches and talking to state leaders about policy, petitions, and politics.
Rick Pluta, Michigan Radio's Capitol Bureau Chief and Zoe Clark, Michigan Radio programming director and resident political junkie spoke with Stateside about some of the highlights of the conference.
This year nearly 1,700 business leaders, politicians, and philanthropists headed to Mackinac Island to rub elbows, and discuss issues in the state ranging from education to transportation.
“Michigan’s political establishment decamps for this conference because they are drawn by the movers and shakers in the business world who come up here, and vice versa -- the business people come up because there is easy access to Michigan’s political class,” Pluta said.
Clark said while many look down on the conference, it's actually pretty important.
“You can look at it with a cynical eye, and I think plenty of folks do, and there are parts of it that I think it's fair to feel that way about, but there is also plenty of people that I talk to who say they make real lasting connections at this conference and are able to actually do some good from it,” Clark explained.
One of the biggest events of the week was a bipartisan gubernatorial debate held Thursday evening. The debate featured democratic candidates Abdul Al-Sayed, Gretchen Whitmer, and Shri Thanedar. On the Republican side were Attorney General Bill Schuette, Lt. Governor Brian Calley, and state Senator Patrick Colbeck.
According to Pluta and Clark, former Democratic Governor Jennifer Granholm and President Donald Trump took up just as much airtime as the actual candidates, despite not actually being there. The Republicans pushed voters to be wary of electing a Jennifer Granholm 2.0. Democrats warned of putting another Trump in office.
Clark added that Schuette took any opportunity to remind voters he has been endorsed by President Trump.
Another highlight of the week for Pluta and Clark was a panel featuring former U.S. Speaker of the House John Boehner.
Boehner’s comments on the panel regarding the state of the political party spread quickly to the rest of the country.
"There is no Republican Party," Boehner said. "There is a Trump party. The Republican Party is kind of taking a nap somewhere."
The Michigan Republican Party released an official response stating the party is alive and well, but Pluta said the arguments Boehner made were profound.
So where are attendees they are not sitting in on debates and panels?
“Fundraisers,” Pluta said.
“So many fundraisers,” added Clark.