Election 2012

Rick Pluta / Michigan Radio

Peter Hoekstra won the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate, defeating three other candidates.

With 18 percent of the precincts reporting, Holland-native Hoekstra was ahead of his opponents by more than 20 points.

The Free Press reports most polls favored Hoekstra over the other contenders.



Reports of voters being turned away because they declined to check a box asking them to verify U.S. citizenship have been coming in from several areas of the state.

Michigan Radio first became aware of the situation when talking to Michigan Campaign Finance Network's Rich Robinson who said he was refused a ballot because he would not check the box. He refused because it is not legally required.  Other media sources picked up on the story. (see Free Press)

Other political groups received calls from voters complaining they had been refused the right to vote after declining to check the citizenship box.

Chad Livengood with the Detroit News reported:

Today is primary election day, and if you haven’t voted yet, I wish you would, even if there is only one race you care about.

Most of us won’t vote. Bill Ballenger, who has been closely watching politics in this state for half a century, predicts that less than one-fifth of Michigan’s registered voters are going to vote today.

Sadly, I don’t think he is wrong. That bothers me for a lot of reasons, one of which is that when I was twelve years old, three college students were tortured and murdered in Mississippi for trying to register people to vote.

User: Brother O'Mara / Flickr

Boost for Detroit neighborhoods, schools

Governor Snyder was in Detroit yesterday to kick off an intensive neighborhood stabilization effort. It will focus on 3 neighborhoods, anchored by 9 Detroit schools.  Sarah Cwiek reports:

The effort kicked off outside Clark Preparatory Academy in Detroit’s Morningside neighborhood, on the city’s east side. Morningside is one of three communities that will get state help to demolish the abandoned homes dotting the neighborhood, and clean up the area. Lansing also plans to send in some state police patrols, and will put social workers in the neighborhood schools.

Governor Snyder says Detroit must strengthen its neighborhoods if the city is to truly come back.

“That’s the goal. We’re doing this because we believe it will work, and we want to get good experience and do continuous improvement, and then continue to ramp up the program.”

The state is putting $10 million into the effort so far, and Snyder says more could become available. City officials say the state helps supplement existing blight eradication programs.

 Republican Senate candidates hold primary season debate

Three Republicans running for their party’s U.S. Senate nomination appeared together yesterday in their only televised debate of this primary season. Former Congressman Pete Hoekstra, charter school executive Clark Durant, and former judge Randy Hekman are running. Rick Pluta reports:

If what I am about to tell you doesn’t make you angry and indignant, then you must be  completely cynical.

Huge corporations and other special interests have already spent $20 million on ballot drives designed to bend the  Michigan Constitution to suit their selfish needs.

They have spent $20 million; they’ve raised almost $30 million, and every sign indicates they’re just getting started.

These numbers, by the way, come from the  non-profit, non-partisan Michigan Campaign Finance Network.

Immortal Poet / Flickr

A state elections board will meet today to finalize the Sept. 5 special primary that will narrow the field of candidates running to complete the term of Congressman Thad McCotter. The Livonia Republican resigned suddenly on July 6.

The board will also make decisions about half a dozen petition drives that turned in signatures to put questions on the November ballot.

The four-person, bipartisan Board of State Canvassers will set deadlines for people and groups to file any objections to the proposed ballot questions. The proposed amendments to the state constitution deal with energy policy, union rights, taxes, casinos, and a new international bridge in Detroit.

The board has until September to act on any challenges to the questions.

One thing the board will not do is deal with a lower court order to place referendum on the November ballot. The measure seeks to repeal the state’s emergency manager law. The issue must first be dealt with by the state Supreme Court – which holds a hearing this week on whether a dispute about type size on a petition is enough to keep the question off the ballot.

Kerry Bentivolio
Kerry Bentivolio / http://bentivolioforcongress.com

Democrat Dave Curson, and Republicans Kerry Bentivolio, Kenneth Crider, Steve King, Carolyn Kavanagh and Nancy Cassis all say they have filed enough valid signatures to run in the special election to fill the remainder of U.S. Rep. Thaddeus McCotter's congressional seat, according to the the Detroit News.

The deadline for filing signatures was 4 p.m. today.

After McCotter abruptly resigned from his seat in Detroit’s 11th Congressional district, he left a gap between his absence and the end of his term in early January. 

In order to fill the gap, Gov. Rick Snyder's office called for a special question to appear on the November ballot, in which 11th District voters will decide on a candidate to finish out the remaining six weeks of McCotter's term.

On the same ballot, these constituents will vote again for whom they want to serve the following term beginning January 3, 2013.  The deadline for candidates to file for that election has already passed.

A primary for the special election could be held on September 5, if more than one candidate from either party file enough signatures.

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI).

Tea Party favorite Gary Glenn announced yesterday that he is bowing out of the Republican race for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by two-term Democrat Debbie Stabenow and that he'll throw his support behind Clark Durant. The Associated Press reports:

The Ann Arbor District Library wants a new building downtown.
AADL / Facebook

Ann Arbor residents can add a new tax levy to the growing list of issues on the November ballot.

The local library board wants $65 million for a new downtown building.

After 60 years, the Ann Arbor library's main branch has done its job, according to the board. 

But now they say they're running out of space, so they want to tear down and rebuild on the same site.

The plan would mean a 30-year tax hike. It would add roughly $54 dollars to the annual tax bill of anyone with a home worth $200,000.

If residents vote no, it would be the first time in 20 years the town's rejected a tax increase for the library.

The four most famous words that Mitt Romney never wrote are, “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.”

You read that right.  Mitt Romney never wrote those words.  They were the headline of a New York Times op-ed column that was authored by Romney and published in the newspaper on November 18, 2008.

I doubt that most people could accurately recite so much as a sentence of the op-ed that Governor Romney actually wrote in that column.  All that anybody remembers is the headline, which I have discovered was written by a New York Times editor, not Governor Romney.

The Doctor Is In

Jul 17, 2012

Four years ago, Dr. Syed Taj, then chief of medicine at Dearborn’s Oakwood Hospital, decided to run for Canton Township trustee. His friends tried to talk him out of it. He had only lived there a year, and he was a Democrat. The affluent Wayne County area is pretty Republican. Taj is also a Muslim-American whose musical voice is rich with the accents of his native India.

Most figured he didn’t have a chance. But he won overwhelmingly. Though he was the only Democrat to win a seat on the board, he got more votes than anyone else.

“Most people trust their doctor,” Taj said, chuckling. Now, Taj is running for Congress from the Eleventh District, which tends to lean Republican. He is, once again, an underdog. But he is used to that -- and his chances improved when the incumbent, Thaddeus McCotter, mysteriously failed to qualify for the ballot and suddenly resigned.

Throughout the last decade, there was always speculation that a Democrat could win the 11th district, but the party tended to run lackluster and underfunded candidates. This time, it may be even harder. Redistricting has made the district slightly more Republican.

Ballotopia. Ballotmania. Ballotpalooza: These are all nicknames given to the situation that we’re seeing right now as various groups and organizations try to get Michigan voters, come November, to amend the state's constitution. On Election Day, we could see up to six ballot proposals and a referendum on the state’s  controversial Emergency Manager law. If all of these ballot proposals are, indeed, approved this would be the most statewide ballot questions on a single election day since 1982.

Grassroots campaigns? Not so much

It's nice to think that, in our democracy, these ballot campaigns are being led by grassroots groups - regular folks - trying to change their state's law. But, that's  not the case in this election cycle. Each  of these ballot initiatives have backers - some business groups, some union groups - with deep pockets. It costs a lot of money to organize these campaignsand to get people into the field to gather signatures. In fact, that’s why we saw some ballot campaigns fizzle this summer like the group trying to get a question about marijuana legalization on the ballot.

Just Say "No"

The deadline for these ballot campaigns to submit to the state enough valid signatures - more than 320,000 -  was Monday.  And, in the midst of the petition filings,  we saw some push back against "ballotmania. A "just-say-no" to every ballot question campaign has popped up. It's a coalition of businesses that thinks the easiest way to kill everything they don’t like, especially the ballot questions dealing with unionization – these have to deal with constitutionally protecting collective bargaining rights - and a mandate that the state increase the amount of energy it gets from alternative sources to 25 percent by 2025, is blanket opposition.

Be Careful What You Wish for...

At first glance, it seems like business groups would be in favor of some of these ballot questions, like the amendment that would require super-majorities in both the state House and Senate to raise taxes. Seems simple, right? Businesses tend to not like taxes, but there is some concern in the business community that a super-majority requirement for new taxes could actually make it harder to cut taxes. That's because, typically, when the Legislature cuts or eliminates a tax, it has to come up with some replacement for that lost revenue. Even something that’s considered a net tax cut – like last year's elimination of the Michigan Business Tax or this year's tax on industrial equipment  – required the state Legislature and Governor Snyder to replace some of that revenue. If lawmakers had had to meet a higher bar for other revenue – like last year’s  controversial tax on pension income – they couldn’t have touched the business or industrial equipment tax.

user mattileo / flickr

Every Thursday, we look at Michigan politics on Michigan Radio's Political Roundup.

This week, Michigan Radio's Jennifer White was joined by Ken Sikkema, former Senate majority leader and senior policy fellow at Public Sector Consultants and Debbie Dingell, political analyst and member of the Democratic National Committee to discuss the questions that may appear on this November's ballot.

This week, the Michigan Supreme Court agreed to take up the question of whether a referendum on Public Act 4, the emergency manager law, should appear on the November ballot.

Immortalpoet / Flickr

Today is the deadline for ballot campaigns to turn in their petitions. A total of six questions and a referendum have filed to appear on the November ballot. One of the questions up for voter approval would require two-thirds super-majorities for the Legislature to increase a tax.

Brighton Township Treasurer Lana Theis is leading the ballot drive. She says it should be easier to lower taxes than it is to increase them.

“If you ask the average homeowner, who do you think knows how to spend your money better – you or Lansing? It’s a very, very simple question, it should be the case that it has to cross party lines, and it has to be a super-majority not a simple majority," she said.

Another drive to protect collective bargaining rights for home health aides who are paid by Medicaid also filed today petitions. An amendment to stop a new publicly owned Detroit international bridge is also expected to file this afternoon.

A ballot drive to ban a gas drilling process known as “fracking” did not make the deadline and will focus now on the 2014 ballot.

Gov. Snyder and the election bills

Jul 5, 2012
mattileo / flickr

Every Thursday we look at Michigan politics with Ken Sikkema, former Senate majority leader and senior policy fellow at Public Sector Consultants, and Susan Demas, political analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service.

Republicans in the Legislature got a bit of a surprise this week when Gov. Snyder vetoed three of the 14 new bills related to voting. What would those three vetoed bills have done?

I don’t know how Governor Snyder celebrated the Fourth of July yesterday, but I have a strong hunch he didn’t stop by Secretary of State Ruth Johnson’s place for some barbecue.

The Governor stunned the secretary and other fellow Republicans Tuesday by vetoing three election bills. He said he feared they might be confusing.

“Voting rights are precious and we need to work especially hard to make it possible for people to vote,” he said.

Governor Rick Snyder has signed a reduction in the state income tax.

Last year, Gov. Snyder and the Legislature delayed a reduction in the income tax rate to January 1 of 2013. This measure moves it up a little. Now, the rate will drop -- slightly -- to 4.25 percent on October first. There will also be an increase in the personal exemption.

Democrats say the tax relief offered is a pittance – about 50 cents a week – compared to the dozen tax breaks for working poor households, homeowners, and seniors on pensions that were eliminated last year as part of a Republican-led tax overhaul. That did not stop most from voting for the rollback.  

Republican leaders say the economy – and, therefore, revenue – has improved enough for the state to afford a tax cut. It also happens to coincide with an election year. The two Republican sponsors of the tax rollback come from competitive districts.

Every week in It's Just Politics, Rick Pluta and I sit down and take a look at what's been making news in state politics. On tap for this week's extended edition: the Romney campaign shifts its economic message as state economies see improvement, Vagina-gate continues at the state Capitol, Democrats in the state's 76th District find a candidate to run against former-Democratic Rep. Roy Schmidt, we update the latest news on the state's many ballot proposals, and remember two state lawmakers who recently passed away.

The Romney campaign has made significant gains in a recent EPIC-MRA poll.
Rick Pluta / Michigan Radio

Today on It's Just Politics, co-hosts Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta discussed Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's Michigan campaign tour this week.  Romney also made campaign stops in Michigan last month, during which, Pluta says Romney's grim assessment of the Michigan economy created some friction with Republican Gov. Rick Snyder's more positive message of economic recovery in the "comeback state."

"We've talked about this before," said Pluta, "this tension between the messaging of a Republican governor, like Rick Snyder, who's saying, 'Look, we're making changes; things are improving; what we're doing is working,' and Mitt Romney coming into the state and saying, 'You're not doing that well.' It's basically a message of pessimism, and making the case for change."

On his tour this week, Pluta says, Romney has changed tones. The presidential hopeful lauded Snyder, saying he would do for the country what Snyder has done for the state.

Gage Skidmore / Flickr

In a Bloomberg piece this morning, Michael C. Bender is reporting that, “Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign asked Florida Governor Rick Scott to tone down his statements heralding improvements in the state’s economy because they clash with the presumptive Republican nominee’s message that the nation is suffering under President Barack Obama, according to two people familiar with the matter.”

But Romney doesn’t just have a Florida messaging “problem.” Last month, Rick Pluta, co-host of It’s Just Politics, and I took a look at the same problem that the Romney campaign is having with Republican Governor Rick Snyder and Michigan’s improving economy.

During a visit to Michigan in May, Romney said, “These last few years have been hard on the people in Lansing, and frankly, they've been hard on the people of America.” This message didn’t quite mesh with Governor Snyder’s statement that, “if you look at where we're at, we’re the comeback state in the United States today.”

Rick Pluta / Michigan Radio

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney wraps up a day-long campaign swing through Michigan tonight with a rally at the Holland State Park on the Lake Michigan shoreline.

Romney began the day in Frankenmuth, where he went on the attack against President Obama on the state of the economy, the new health care law, and energy policy.

“He may want to make things better. He just doesn’t know how to do to it," said Romney of Obama. "I think in order to create jobs in the private sector, it helps to have had a job in the private sector and I have.”

Romney acknowledged Michigan’s economic recovery and said he would do the same for the rest of the country if he wins the election. He opposed federal aid for the Detroit auto companies that are still the dominant force in the state’s economy.

Romney says he can be the first Republican nominee in 24 years to win Michigan.

“It is essential for America to grab that torch and hold it high," he said. "We’re that shining city on a hill. We’re going to do it with your help. I’m going to win Michigan with your help. We’re going to take back the White House. We’re going to get America on track and keep it the hope of the Earth.”

Romney was born in Detroit and is the son of former Governor George Romney.

Protesters also showed up at the Romney campaign stops but were kept at a distance. Democrats sponsored their own bus tour of the state yesterday.

"If you listen to a Mitt Romney speech, you’ll hear almost nothing about his plans, almost nothing about his time as governor of Massachusetts, and almost all about distorting the President’s record," said Brad Woodhouse of the Democratic National Committee. 

From Frankenmuth, Romney went to DeWitt, Mich.

Rick Pluta / Michigan Public Radio Network

Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney began speaking a short time ago to a crowd in DeWitt, Mich. Michigan Public Radio Network's Rick Pluta sent along these photos. Michigan Radio's Lindsey Smith will be in Holland this evening covering Romney's campaign stop in West Michigan.

Brother O'Mara / Flickr

Romney to wrap up Battleground Bus Tour in Michigan

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is on a tour of half a dozen battleground states that winds up tomorrow in Michigan. Michigan Public Radio’s Rick Pluta reports:

Romney will make three campaign stops and attend a pair of fundraisers.  Matt Frendeway is with the Michigan Republican Party.  He says the swing through Michigan is a signal that Romney will make a strong play for Michigan and its 16 electoral votes.

"He’s going to come to Michigan and talk to folks who are struggling under President Obama’s economy, under his failed policies. He’s going to be visiting small towns and talking to folks about the difficulties they’ve faced, the 400,000 Michiganders here who are still out of work, looking for work, looking for jobs."

Democrats have tried to make an issue of Romney’s opposition to federal loans to GM and Chrysler. But two recent polls show the race for Michigan’s 16 electoral votes is tightening.    
Rich Robinson tracks political spending for the Michigan Campaign Finance Network. He says Romney appears to be benefiting from advertising by independent groups attacking the president’s job performance.

"They’re not explicitly saying, ‘Don’t vote for this guy,’ but the effect of what they’re doing is pretty obvious."

The Republican presidential nominee last won Michigan in 1988.

publiceye.org / wikimedia commons

A five-day, six-state bus tour by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney will wind up next week in his home state of Michigan.

Romney last visited Michigan in May.

The Michigan swing with three stops will cap off a tour of half a dozen states deemed potential battlegrounds by the Romney campaign.

A survey of voters released last week suggests Michigan could be a toss-up between Romney and President Obama.

The president has made almost a dozen trips to Michigan to talk about green energy jobs, or to proclaim the success of the automotive rescue package. His campaign will spend this week calling attention to businesses that benefited from the auto recovery. Romney – who was born in Detroit -- opposed government loans to keep Chrysler and GM solvent through bankruptcy.

allieosmar / Flickr

Every week we check in with Michigan Radio's Political Analyst Jack Lessenberry to get an update on what's happening in state politics. On tap for this week:

The state holds a revenue estimating conference today... we'll get a better idea of how much money the state will take in and the political consequences of a possible budget surplus. Yesterday was the filing deadline for candidates who want to run for many local and statewide elections. We ask: who's in, who's out, and what were the big surprises. And, a petition drive is underway to ban"fracking" in the state constitution.

Republican Conference / Flickr

Five candidates have filed to run in Michigan’s Republican U.S. Senate primary. Yesterday was the deadline for candidates for most state and federal offices to submit their petitions to appear on the August primary ballot.

The campaign is already underway as the five GOP hopefuls appeal to prospective Republican primary voters. They’re arguing over who is the most conservative and who presents the best chance for the GOP to unseat incumbent Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow.

Retired judge Randy Hekman says he’ll put his conservative credentials up against anyone else in the field.

“We’ve got 90 days to show who we are, how we differ from others, how we’re going to fix our country, move ahead and win this thing," Hekman says.

Former congressman Pete Hoekstra, charter school CEO Clark Durant, businessman Pete Kontechy, and Gary Glenn – co-author of Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage and civil unions — have also filed.

“Jobs is going to be the Number One issue that I’m going to be talking about, but then you’ve also got some cultural issues. President Obama did me a favor last week when he came out and endorsed so-called homosexual marriage," Glenn says.

Their petition signatures still need to be officially counted and certified. Candidates also have until Friday to change their minds about putting their names on the ballot.



George Orwell once said that those who control the past, control the future. If you can revise history to fit your point of view, it gives you power. So, it should be no surprise that presidential candidates are struggling over some recent history - the auto bailout.


Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney gave a speech at Lansing Community College on the economy.

The New York Times blog "The Caucus" Ashley Parker writes that Romney cast the presidential election as a choice between the past and the future:

“President Obama chose to apply liberal ideas of the past to a 21st century America,” Mr. Romney said. “Liberal policies didn’t work back then, they haven’t worked during these last four years, and they will not work in the future. New Democrats had abandoned those policies, but President Obama resurrected them, with the predictable results.”

Standing in front of a backdrop a [sic] six flags — two Michigan state flags, and four American flags, one of which bore a steel border meant to invoke manufacturing strength — Mr. Romney seemed to prefer the “New Democrat” policies of President Bill Clinton, whom he touted as counterpoint to Mr. Obama.

Romney said “Americans are tired of living on the edge, tired about wondering about what kind of country they’re going to leave their children. They’re tired of being tired. This wasn’t what we expected from President Obama. He promised change and hope, and he said we could do anything we wanted together. But rhetoric met reality and reality won.”

Here's the text of Romney's speech.

And here's some reaction from those who came to see Romney speak at Lansing Community College today:

Romney supporter Harry Kost of Lansing says he liked the candidate’s remarks about business creation.

(He’s) Gonna make it easier for businesses to start and then not be taxed to death in that.  And I think he’s going to give us the chance to have more people go to work,” said Kost.

Kost also agrees with Romney about ending so-called ‘Obamacare’ and building a U.S./Canada oil pipeline.

Norma Jean Wiley voted for Newt Gingrich in the Michigan primary.  But the Hillsdale County resident says Governor Romney is growing on her.

“The more that I see of him, I can see that he has a more human, conservative side that I appreciate,” said Wiley.

She feels he has “a good plan for the future.”

Lynn Taylor of Ann Arbor says she plans to follow the details of Romney policies as they take shape.  For now, she is solidly behind the republican.

“He promised he’d end Obamacare and that’s important to me.  And he will fix it.  He said he would do a partnership with the government and the private industry, so I thought that was good,” said Taylor.

Taylor says she thinks Romney is committed to innovation and moving forward.

In a speech in Ohio yesterday, Romney brought up his position on the auto bailouts, going so far as to take credit for the U.S. auto industry's comeback.

It was a topic that The Caucus' Parker says he did not mention once in his speech today.

He did, however, make sure to say that he would “help usher in a revival in American manufacturing.”

“I’m convinced, if we take an entirely new direction in energy and in trade policy and in labor policy, we’re going to see more manufacturing jobs come back to America than those that have left America,” Mr. Romney said. “I am absolutely convinced of this. This is real. With the right policies and the right leadership we can see a resurgence in American manufacturing.”

Rick Pluta / MPRN

Rick Pluta of MPRN sent along this photo. The stage is set for Mitt Romney's speech this afternoon at Lansing Community College.

He's set to talk around 12:30 p.m.

Rick Pluta / MPRN

Mitt Romney's bus pulled into Michigan today as he prepares to give a policy speech this afternoon at Lansing Community College.

The fact that Romney is here is a sign that the Romney camp feels Michigan is a battleground state, but as MPRN's Rick Pluta points out, a "Republican nominee has not won Michigan in 24 years."

Romney is banking on his ties to the state. He was born in Michigan and his father, George Romney, served as governor in the 1960s.

Now to solve a nagging problem for Romney in Michigan.

In 2008, Romney wrote a New York Times op-ed piece that carried the headline "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt."

Yesterday in a speech in Ohio, Romney took credit for saving the auto industry.

Romney has continually said that President Obama ended up taking his advice on how to manage the ailing U.S. auto industry.

But the Associated Press reports that Romney took it a step further in yesterday's speech "by saying he deserves credit for its ultimate turnaround."

The course Romney advocated differed greatly from the one that was ultimately taken. GM and Chrysler went into bankruptcy on the strength of a massive bailout that Romney opposed. Neither Republican President George W. Bush nor Democratic President Barack Obama believed the automakers would have survived without that backup from taxpayers.

Romney opposed taxpayer help.

The Detroit Free Press reports that "the bailout of the Detroit-based automobile industry is expected to be a dominant issue today."

Romney got "two Pinocchio's" in a Washington Post "The  Fact Checker" piece when they looked at whether he's been consistent in his stance on the auto bailout.

Republican Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has endorsed Romney. Snyder is expected to introduce him today at Lansing Community College.

We'll have more on Romney's speech later today.