Election 2012


The candidates looking to represent Michigan’s northernmost congressional seat call the Great Lakes the “jewel of the Midwest” and a “treasure of immeasurable value.” Both say they’re committed to keeping the lakes healthy. But they vehemently disagree about the best ways to do that.

Climb the lighthouse tower at the tip of the Old Mission Peninsula  -- where the two Grand Traverse bays meet … and look out over rocks and exposed bottomlands.

The shallow surf dried up years ago and levels on Lake Michigan are now at near-record lows.

Immortalpoet / Flickr

This week on It’s Just Politics we take a look at Michigan’s Supreme Court races.

State Supreme Court candidates appear on the non-partisan part of the ballot with no hint of party-affiliation, except if a candidate is an incumbent. But these justices are initially nominated by political parties at conventions. It’s slightly bizarre. The idea was the political parties would do the initial vetting, but then the candidates – and the Supreme Court – would be independent of partisan influence. As a matter of fact, an incumbent Supreme Court justice can nominate himself or herself without having to win at a party convention. Justice Charles Levin used to do that that until he retired in 1996. However, this hasn’t happened since, largely because of money.

The Supreme Court nominees don’t get the benefit of straight-ticket voting. But they do get all the other benefits of major party nominations. The Republican and Democratic parties and their kindred interest groups spend millions of dollars to get their candidates elected to the Supreme Court. Those kindred interests are business groups, the insurance industry for Republicans; the trial bar for Democrats. The campaigns go largely unnoticed, but they’re fierce, even personal sometimes.

There was the “sleeping judge” ad in 2008 that depicted then-Chief Justice Cliff Taylor as someone who slept through arguments (which wasn’t true). The ad helped make Taylor the first sitting justice to lose his job in an election in something like a quarter century. One year, Republicans ran an ad against a Democrat that showed this shady character’s shifty eyes and said as a judge, he favored lenient treatment for all kinds of horrid criminals. And, just this year, Michigan Democratic Party Chair Mark Brewer said Republican Justice Stephen Markman would be sympathetic as a judge to Jerry Sandusky, the assistant Penn State coach charged with child molestation.

Teamsters Local 299 has agreed with Matty Moroun to support Proposal 6.
Steffen Norgren / flickr

Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun has secured the support of Michigan’s 5,000-member Teamsters Local 299 for Proposal 6.

Proposal 6 would amend the state Constitution to require a statewide vote before Michigan constructs or finances any new international bridges or tunnels for motor vehicles.

The Moroun-backed amendment is opposed to Governor Snyder’s New International Trade Crossing.

States with supermajority requirements for tax increases. Mich. has a supermajority requirement for raising property taxes. If Proposal 5 passes, Mich. would join the states in gray with the most restrictive taxing policies.
Citizens Research Council of Michigan

State legislators play the game. Michigan voters will set the rules.

The playing field for Michigan lawmakers could change significantly after Nov. 6, if voters approve any one of five constitutional amendments on the ballot.

The "bed sheet ballot" is something California voters are used to, but Michigan voters haven't seen this many proposed constitutional amendments since 1978, when voters faced 9 proposed amendments.

We're posting on all the proposals seeking to amend the Constitution.

Odds are that when you vote three weeks from now, you’ll be voting for some of the people I am about to name:  Michael Busuito, a plastic surgeon from Troy.  Lupe Ramos-Montigny. Todd Courser and Melanie Kurdys. Melanie Foster and Brian Mosallam. Satish Jasti and Shauna Ryder Diggs. She‘s a dermatologist, by the way, from Grosse Pointe.

I‘ll bet you didn‘t know that, but don’t feel bad. Neither did I, until I looked it up this morning. I‘d also bet that you probably haven‘t heard of most or all of those people either, right?

With just 25 days to go before the Presidential election, and a week since the first Presidential debate, a few pollsters and at least one analyst are putting Michigan into swing-state territory even though, as we’ve noted before, President Obama’s generally been given the edge in most polls in the state.

This week, Michigan enjoyed a round of visits from top flight presidential candidate surrogates starting with Republican Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan on Monday. And, just today, we saw Anne Romney stumping for her husband, Mitt Romney, in the couple’s native-state.

So, the question remains, after five presidential election cycles with Michigan falling into the Democratic column, is Michigan an actual battleground state in 2012?

The right-leaning website Real Clear Politics says so. A Detroit News/WDIV poll shows the Obama lead shrinking since last week’s debate and a Gravis Marketing poll also puts the race for Michigan’s 16 electoral votes much closer than it has been. President Obama still leads, according to these surveys, but the momentum is moving toward Mitt Romney.

And, as we’ve said before, Michigan seems like it should be attainable for the GOP. It’s not like a Republican can’t get elected here statewide. Just ask Governor Rick Snyder, Attorney General Bill Schuette or Secretary of State Ruth Johnson.

But, aside from the Real Clear Politics call, no one else is really putting Michigan into that list of eight or nine states that are the focus of the fiercest competition (states like Ohio, Virginia, Colorado, New Hampshire, Nevada and Iowa). And, we’re certainly not seeing a big re-allocation of resources by the campaigns that would suggest things are changing in the mitten state.

One question that gets bandied about is: if Michigan isn’t a battleground state, then why are high profile campaign surrogates making regular stops here? Well, there are lots of reasons why candidates and their surrogates visit a state – fundraising, a quick visit to make sure a safe state stays that way. But President Obama hasn’t been here since April; Romney since August. In fact, this was the first time in decades that neither presidential candidate themselves visited Michigan during the entire month of September. In 2004, George W. Bush made John Kerry work for Michigan, which maybe meant he wasn’t able to spend as much time and money in places like Ohio and Florida – true swing states with lots of electoral votes.

Concept NITC Drawing

Mickey Blashfield, Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun's director of government relations and head of the Moroun-financed group "The People Should Decide" released a statement following a report from the Detroit Free Press on a possible deal between the UAW and Moroun.

The Ambassador Bridge.
Lester Graham

Proposal 6 was introduced by the owner of Detroit's Ambassador Bridge as a direct reply to the proposed New International Trade Crossing (NITC).

The new bridge was first proposed in 2004, after a long-term study highlighting the need for a new crossing was commissioned by the Border Transportation Partnership--a coalition of Canadian and American transportation authorities.

It would be sited two miles south of the Ambassador Bridge and would connect directly to the Canadian highway.

Nathan Boomey and Brent Snavely of the Detroit Free Press have a report on a "2 for 6" deal between the UAW and Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun. 'You support my proposal.... I'll support yours.' Michigan Radio's Tracy Samilton is following up on this report.

Anna Strumillo / fotopedia

Under the federally-funded Home Help Services Program, qualifying elderly or disabled residents of Michigan are eligible to receive in-home assistance with personal care and household chores.

Participants of the program have discretion in the hiring and firing of home health aides, and have their services paid for by Medicaid funds administered through the Michigan departments of Community Health and Human Services.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, not everybody in your virtual circle of friends shares the same political beliefs as you.

Jennifer White talks with Cliff Lampe, Assistant Professor in the School of Information at the University of Michigan. He gives some tips on how to survive social media, especially Facebook during this election season.

Take a vacation from social media

“If for instance, you were ever thinking about trying out Pinterest, now might be the time because there you’ll see a lot of pictures of cupcakes and dresses, and very few political campaign messages. Or if you were thinking about trying out Instagram and sharing your photos with people. So, this might be a great time to try another site and explore that for a little bit,” Lampe said.

Hide posts if you must, but try to embrace political differences

Oakland County Michigan

2012 just may go down as the year of election fraud in Michigan.  After scandals involving Jase Bolger and Thad McCotter, now it's the case of the two John Scotts.

The elder Scott is the Republican commissioner of Oakland County. He says this summer he heard about another John Scott, this one a 22-year-old Eastern Michigan University college student,  who was gathering signatures to get on the ballot as an independent. 

Update 4:19 p.m.

There will be no citizenship checkbox on ballot applications for Michigan voters this November.

Secretary of State Ruth Johnson said she won’t challenge a federal judge’s ruling that the citizenship question is unconstitutional because the election is getting so close.

She did say there could be further legal action after the election.

Johnson says she also intends to press the federal government for naturalization records that would help her clear voter rolls of non-citizens.

Wind power could feature prominently in Michigan energy production if voters amend the state constitution to include a new renewable energy standard.
cwwycoff1 / flickr

Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) promote the use of renewable energy by requiring that a minimum percentage or amount of energy sold in a state come from sources like wind, solar, biomass, or hydropower. 

There are currently 29 states with some sort of RPS in place. Michigan is one of them. 

Michigan’s current standard, passed by the legislature in 2008, calls for 10 percent of retail electricity sales to be derived from renewable sources by 2015.

The candidates for Oakland County Commissioner in the 5th District.
Oakland Co.

Voters in Oakland Co. will see two John Scott's on their ballot this November; one an incumbant Republican, the other an Independent.

The race for Oakland Co. Commissioner in District 5 is between John Scott (R), Alexandria Riley (D), and John Scott (I).

The Oakland County prosecutor's office says it plans to charge John Scott (I) with election fraud over alleged petition-gathering irregularities.

Chief assistant prosecutor Paul Walton says a misdemeanor election fraud warrant would be issued today in Waterford District Court against the independent candidate for commissioner.

John Scott (I) is a 22-year-old Eastern Michigan University college student from West Bloomfield Township.

The incumbent John Scott (R) says his namesake opponent is trying to confuse the election process.

From the Detroit Free Press:

Commissioner Scott said several of his strong supporters had signed the petitions. When he called them to find out more, he learned John Scott was listed as the circulator on some of the petitions, but the people who signed them said a woman had solicited the signature.

Such tactics constitute misdemeanor election fraud, which carries a 93-day maximum jail sentence, said Oakland County chief assistant prosecutor Paul Walton. The warrant will be issued in Waterford District Court today.

Back in July, the incumbent Republican Oakland County Commissioner promised to challenge his namesakes petition gathering tactics.

From the Oakland Press:

Commissioner Scott is seeking a sixth two-year term in a newly drawn district representing parts of Waterford and West Bloomfield townships.

The commissioner says the other Scott’s filing “is just to confuse the election process."

“Naturally we’ll challenge this,” the commissioner said. “It’s fraudulent because there’s friends of mine signing petitions thinking it’s me.”

Back in July, John Scott (I) said he wasn't aware of the issue, “I didn’t really know who was running at first. I just wanted to get my name on the ballot.”

Scott (I) declined to speak with the Detroit Free Press about the issue.

In the lead up to the November elections we’re hearing a lot about different voting blocs.

Well, the Michigan Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations has released a detailed presidential election summary and legislative scorecard focused on issues of concern for Muslims here in Michigan.

A new TV ad for Senator Debbie Stabenow.
screen grab

Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney and Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow are both far outspending their opponents on TV ads in Michigan.

That’s according to a report released Monday by the Michigan Campaign Finance Network.

The report says groups supporting Romney have spent about $13 million for ads in Michigan since the February primary.

The Obama campaign and supporters haven’t spent as much in Michigan, but Obama still has a lead among likely voters, according to most polls.

Rich Robinson is with the Michigan Campaign Finance Network.

Gage Skidmore / Flickr

A poll released yesterday by EPIC-MRA of Lansing shows the presidential race tightening in Michigan.

Aided by a strong debate performance, Mitt Romney has reduced President Barack Obama’s ten point lead to just three points—within the margin of error for the poll reports the Detroit Free Press.

From the Free Press:

Protestors outside the Indiana Capitol building when the "right-to-work" legislation passed earlier this year.
screen grab from video / The Statehouse File

Michigan voters are faced with a choice:

Should the right to collective bargaining for all Michigan workers be enshrined in the Michigan Constitution?

The amendment would affect the rights of workers in private companies and workers in the public sector.

If you work for a private company, the right to collectively bargain is upheld by federal law (the National Labor Relations Act). But the NLRA does not cover government workers.

Mitt Romney's presidential campaign is hoping a visit from VP candidate Paul Ryan will put pressure on the Obama campaign in Michigan.
Monkeyz_Unkle / Flickr

Paul Ryan will be at Oakland University in Rochester tonight as the Romney campaign refocuses its attention on Michigan.

This comes after fundraising visits to Midland and Novi from Chris Christie on Saturday night.

As MLive reports, the vice presidential candidate will be introduced by Kid Rock at what the campaign is calling a “victory rally.”

From MLive:

The Citizens Research Council has been analyzing the six ballot proposals facing Michigan voters.

The non-partisan, independent Citizens Research Council has been busy analyzing the six ballot proposals facing Michigan voters.

Today at 2 p.m., they're holding an online "webinar" to discuss proposals 1, 2, and 4.

From the CRC:

CRC will offer summaries of its analyses of the referendum on Public Act 4 of 2011, the proposed constitutional amendments to enshrine the right to collective bargaining in the constitution, and the proposed constitutional amendment to establish the Michigan Quality Home Care Council and provide limited collective bargaining rights to home health care workers.

To take part in the webinar, you can follow this link.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Every Saturday Rina Miller talks with Michigan Radio's political analyst Jack Lessenberry about some of the biggest stories in the week's news. Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson was ordered to be in federal court this week, even though she asked someone else to speak on her behalf. Also, controversy surrounding Speaker of the House Jase Bolger (R) brings up the question of whether Democrats can be competitive for the Speaker of the House’s seat in November. Plus, a Detroit scandal involving Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee creates head ache for Mayor Dave Bing.

user jdurham / MorgueFile.com

DETROIT (AP) - A judge has told Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson to remove citizenship check-off boxes from November ballot applications.

U.S. District Judge Paul Borman made the ruling Friday during a hearing in Detroit. A written decision is expected Tuesday.

Borman told Johnson the boxes that ask Michigan voters to confirm their U.S. citizenship slows the voting process, is confusing and is a burden on the right to vote.

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow
Studio08Denver / Flickr

This week we saw the debate showdown between President Obama and former Governor Mitt Romney. Political pundits are talking non-stop about how Romney pulled off a campaign reversal. Debates can be game changers. And, then, there are the Michigan debates, or lack thereof. We have a statewide race that pits incumbent Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow against former Republican Congressman Pete Hoekstra. They’ve both agreed to debates. They just haven’t agreed to the same debates.

It’s a debate… about debates

Hoekstra has the most to gain by debating. It’s why he’s pushing for more than just the two that he and Stabenow have agreed upon – at least in concept. One of those two debates, to take place at the Detroit Economic Club, isn’t really a debate but more of a joint appearance. As the incumbent with what appears to be a very comfortable lead,  Stabenow has the most to lose. Certainly we saw an example of that Wednesday night: the perils of a debate to a front-runner. So, it raises the question, if Stabenow has very little to gain from a Senatorial debate, why hasn’t Hoekstra agreed to dates for the two appearances both campaigns have accepted. Holding out certainly hasn’t seemed to help the Hoekstra campaign.

Foreign affairs

If you’re the Hoekstra campaign and you can’t get your opponent to debate and you’re looking for something that changes the conversation, pulls you out of a rut, what better than to take a few days to travel… to the Middle East; Israel to be exact. This past weekend Hoekstra flew to Tel Aviv in an effort to turn the conversation to a topic where he is taken seriously: foreign policy. When Hoekstra was in Congress he chaired the House Intelligence Committee and had a security clearance.

However, when Hoekstra returned from the trip and was asked about the officials with whom he met, he said he couldn’t say. He says this was because the trip was not State Department-approved and in order to get officials in Israel to speak with him, he had to promise them their anonymity.

Michigan Secretary of State, Ruth Johnson.

Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson will be in federal court Friday to defend a citizenship checkbox she ordered on November ballot applications.

Election officials would ask voters to confirm their U.S. citizenship, but would not deny them a ballot if they decline to answer.

A number of county clerks say it’ll cause confusion and could scare off eligible voters.

Andrew Nickelhoff, an attorney for the coalition against the checkbox, questions its legitimacy.  

“We know from experience from the August primary and from information we’ve received afterward that many voters don’t think it’s appropriate, and many clerks who are administering these elections don’t think it’s appropriate,” he said.

The Secretary of State had filed a motion asking to have her election director speak on her behalf during the hearing.

The judge denied the request today, saying she had to be present in the courtroom.

Johnson says the citizenship question will help cut down on voter fraud and the number of non-citizens who receive ballots.

Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama square off in their first debate.
Commission on Presidential Debates

The first Presidential debate of 2012 is in the history books.

Radio, Television and Newspapers are filled today with opinions, verdicts and spins.

Who came out on top?

Will the undecided voters be moved one way or another?

Did the 90-minute debate contain anything likely to strike a deep chord with voters here in Michigan?

Every Thursday we take a look at Michigan politics with Susan Demas, Political Analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service, and Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants.

They talk with Jennifer White about the lack of mention for the auto industry at Wednesday night’s first Presidential debate between Democratic President Barack Obama and the Republican Candidate for President Mitt Romney.

Keep the blood pressure down, play some Bingo tonight.

Our friends at WNYC have come up with a way to keep score at home tonight as you watch the first presidential debate.

Pete Hoekstra is running against Debbie Stabenow for the U.S. Senate.
Rick Pluta / Michigan Radio

Former Congressman Pete Hoekstra is trying to make foreign policy a bigger issue in Michigan’s U.S. Senate race.

Jobs and the economy seem to be tops in voters’ minds, and Hoekstra says he does not expect that to change.

But the Republican nominee says the recent turmoil in the Middle East should make President Obama’s handling of foreign affairs an issue.

Hoekstra says that’s why he staged a quick visit to Israel over the weekend to meet with unnamed academics and government officials.

Hoekstra chaired the House Intelligence Committee as a member of Congress.

He says incumbent Senator Debbie Stabenow endorses the President’s foreign and energy policies.

“She’s continuing to send a signal that says, We’re going to rely on a part of the world that right now we’re screwing up. It’s going to be less stable. It’s going to be more anti-American, and that’s where we’re going to get our energy from,” says Hoekstra.

Stabenow says she thinks the President is doing a good job, and her campaign will continue to focus on jobs and fair trade.

She supports the use of more renewable energy resources.

Voting booth

The presidential election is still a month away, but in many states, early voting is already underway.

Today, Ohio opened the polls to early voters.

It’s one of 34 states that have some kind of early voting system.

Michigan, however, is not one of those states.

Last week, I went to my local city hall. I was feeling good. It was my daughter’s 18th birthday. I helped her register to vote - civic pride for a dad.

After that, my mood darkened.