Election 2014

 “I would like to clear-up the biggest piece of hogwash on TV today.”

That quote was from Governor Rick Snyder at his first campaign town hall this week, pushing back on claims that his administration cut one billion dollars from the state’s education budget.

“They’re lying to you,” the governor told the town-hall audience on Tuesday evening in Kalamazoo.

And, it’s not just the governor, GOP officials and lawmakers have also released statement after statement calling the billion dollar cut a lie, as well as demanding TV stations pull the ad from rotation.

Mitt Romney
(courtesy of MittRomneyCentral.com)

This Week in Review, Jack Lessenberry and Rina Miller discuss Mitt Romney’s recent Michigan visit, billionaire businessman Dan Gilbert’s testimony in Detroit’s bankruptcy trial and allegations that Ferndale police are issuing a disproportionate number of tickets to black drivers. 

The Michigan Public Radio Network's Rick Pluta sat down with the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate Terri Lynn Land  on Friday, Oct. 3, 2014.

She took questions from our statewide audience.

Terri Lynn Land served two terms as Michigan’s 41st Secretary of State (2003-2010). Land was elected to the Republican National Committee. She is a graduate of Grandville High School, and went to Hope College, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science.

Lynn’s Democratic opponent in the race for U.S. Senator is Gary Peters. To listen to our Michigan Calling program with Peters, go here.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is lending support to GOP U.S. Senate candidate Terri Lynn Land.

Romney joined other Michigan Republicans today in Livonia. He said it’s important for Michigan voters to elect Land in November, so Republicans can regain control of the U.S. Senate. Romney says then the GOP will set the national agenda, not President Obama.

“We’ll be passing legislation that will get on his desk,” Romney told the crowd. “In Washington, (Land’s) voice will be one of those that takes us in a very different direction then the president has.”

If you are following the campaign for governor you really aren’t normal. Yes, you heard me correctly. The media, me included, has been writing more and more about the campaign.

Not just for governor, but for the Senate and various other races. Today, the Detroit Free Press’s headline trumpets: “With vote just weeks away, Snyder builds lead.”

That’s written as if it were describing something tangible and real, like “new mountain discovered in Brazil.” In fact, that story is based on a poll the newspaper and a TV station paid for.

The data is based on a mere 600 people and shows 45% percent favored Rick Snyder; 39% percent favored Mark Schauer.

That’s pretty close to the margin of error.

Nevertheless, Bernie Porn, the man whose firm did the polling said authoritatively, “Snyder went up with his advertising campaign and it’s made a significant difference in the race.”

But, as if conscious that nobody likes a play whose ending is revealed in the first act, Porn added, “Even with Snyder’s lead, it is certainly not too late for Schauer to turn things around.”

In other words, it’s the Belmont Stakes and the horses are just coming into the backstretch. However, I have news for us political junkies. Far more people are like the server at the cheap restaurant where I had lunch yesterday.

When I asked him about the governor’s race, he said “Is that this year?” He also thought he was a registered voter, but wasn’t quite sure. Well, I don’t need Bernie Porn to tell me how that guy’s going to vote: He’s not. In fact, most registered voters aren’t going to  vote.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Livonia will be the center of Michigan’s political landscape on Thursday.  

Republicans and Democrats are both planning big rallies in the Detroit suburb tomorrow.

The Republicans roll into town first. Their event will be headlined by former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney.  

The event’s being called “CommMITT to the Comeback” rally. Top Republican candidates will be there, from Attorney General Bill Schuette to U.S. Senate nominee Terri Lynn Land. 

Noticeably absent is Gov. Rick Snyder.

It’s looking more and more like Republicans and Democrats are doubling-down on getting female voters to the polls in November. As Rick Pluta and I talked about last week in It’s Just Politics:

Michigan is not a decisively blue state because so many Democrats sit out during the mid-term elections … It’s largely why we have a Republican governor, attorney general and secretary of state (many Democrats stayed home on Election Day four years ago). So, the challenge for Democrats is to convince Democrats to get out and vote, especially younger voters, minorities and females, who are statistically more likely to stay at home. That’s one of the reasons we’ve been hearing SO much about the so-called ‘War on women’. 

But, really, it’s a ‘war FOR women.' Women’s votes. Young women’s votes.

We linked to this anti-Obama ad that’s been airing for the past few weeks:

Pretty much every major political campaign develops a certain weirdness of its own. Some more than others.

There was Howard Wolpe, who ran for governor of Michigan by talking a lot about South Africa. And now we have the U.S. Senate race between Democrat Gary Peters and Republican Terri Lynn Land. You might think that there was a modern-day state or national issue or two worth worrying about, like jobs or education or ISIS.

But forget all that. For the past couple days, the candidates have been squabbling over what in economic terms is ancient history. Specifically, the so-called bailout of the auto industry in 2008 and 2009, and whether Land would have supported it.

What makes this weirder is that one of the candidates is only arguing about it by proxy. Land doesn’t talk to reporters or interviewers and so far hasn’t consented to debate her rival.

This Week in Michigan Politics, Emily Fox and Jack Lessenberry discuss Detroit’s water shutoffs, Detroit Public School’s emergency manager and updates from the campaign trail.

CDC

Congressional candidates in mid-Michigan appeared together in a debate Tuesday night. The 8th District candidates were asked about the usual topics, and one very unusual topic.

Ebola.

The first case of Ebola diagnosed in the United States turned up in Texas.   

The man flew to the U.S. from Liberia in West Africa before he was diagnosed with the deadly virus. Officials say the unidentified patient is critically ill and has been in isolation at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital since Sunday.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The race for Michigan governor is moving into its final weeks.

Gov. Rick Snyder held the first of 10 town hall events last night in Kalamazoo on the campus of Western Michigan University.

  

Snyder was greeted by a group that wants to make him a one-term governor.  Protester JoeAnne Peterson is a retired teacher who's angry with the governor for several reasons, including right-to-work laws and increasing taxes on Michigan pensioners.

“I do have a right to say you took. You didn’t ask,” Peterson said.

If you follow politics in this state, you probably know that John Dingell has served longer in Congress than anyone in American history.

You also probably know he is retiring at the end of this term, and that his wife Debbie is the Democratic nominee to succeed him. And given the realities of politics, it is absolutely as certain as anything can be that she will win.

Mrs. Dingell – she uses Mrs., by the way – would not want me to say that. Neither would her main opponent, Terry Bowman, a blue-collar Republican auto worker.

Lame ducks?
Simone Walsh / Flickr

This is the last week the state Legislature is scheduled to meet before the November election. Lawmakers probably won’t take up any controversial bills until their “lame duck” session in December.

Supporters of legislation to add LGBT protections to Michigan’s civil rights law are still optimistic lawmakers will pass it before the end of the year.

“I’m pretty heartened by the openness that [state House Speaker Jase Bolger] has shown to us in having those discussions,” said Shelli Weisberg with the Michigan chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union .

“But it’s going to be tough.”

Weisberg admits it would be a setback if the bill has to wait until 2015.

“I think it does make it harder to go into a new legislative session because we’ve got new members and we have to really put forth a whole new, kind of fresh education effort,” she said.

Gov. Rick Snyder says his top legislative priority before the end of the year is boosting funding for roads and infrastructure.

State Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe, says he wants to relax term limits on state lawmakers.

Lawmakers could also approve bills to relax restrictions on medical marijuana in Michigan during their lame duck session.

The persuadable voter. Political independents. There are not as many of them as there used to be. And they don’t seem to be the center of this campaign season as they have been in previous years (remember the ‘Soccer Mom’ or ‘Security Mom’?).

This year’s campaigns seem much more focused on getting out base voters. And, that is why we present a bold prediction: President Barack Obama will come visit Michigan before Election Day.

Democrats have pinned their hopes this year on Democratic-voter turnout. Michigan is a decidedly blue state. Democrats have a five or six-point behavioral - that is how people vote, not what they call themselves - advantage in Michigan. That advantage is why Democrats have won the last six presidential elections in Michigan.

But, Michigan is not a decisively blue state because so many Democrats sit out during the mid-term elections. And, that gives Michigan Republicans their best changes in statewide races. It’s largely why we have a Republican governor, attorney general and secretary of state (many Democrats stayed home on Election Day four years ago).

But, there’s another part of the equation: Republicans can’s win on their own. Yes, Michigan Republicans typically have a turnout advantage in mid-term elections, but it doesn’t get them all the way to victory. To win, Republicans have to win at least a slim majority of the independents who turn out to vote.

user memories_by_mike / Flickr

This Week in Review, Jack 
Lessenberry and Rina Miller discuss the latest polls for Michigan’s governor and U.S.Senate races, Detroit’s decision to keep emergency manager Kevyn Orr on board for now, and the latest scandal with Aramark, the state’s food services provider.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

There’s a lot of money being spent to elect Michigan’s Supreme Court justices.

The eight candidates running for three open slots on the Michigan Supreme Court have spent nearly $700,000 on TV ad buys as of this week.  

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

There’s still more than a month before the November general election, but many Michigan voters are already getting their hands on the ballot.

Today, the Lansing City Clerk’s office mailed out 5,000 absentee ballots. The office sent electronic ballots to U.S. servicemen and women, and other overseas voters last week.

Clerk Chris Swope says demand for absentee ballots is bigger than normal, which he partially credits with the close race for governor.

Michigan Municipal League

Six weeks from today, we'll be going through November's election results. Michigan will have a new U.S. Senator and voters will have either given Gov. Rick Snyder another term or elected Democrat Mark Schauer to take over the job.

Six weeks from today will also mean the beginning of the state's lame duck legislative session. Lame duck – the period of time time after the November election but before a new year, begins with many new lawmakers. 

The last lame duck session of the Michigan Legislature brought the passage of Right to Work. What are we going to see this year?

Rick Pluta is bureau chief of the Michigan Public Radio Network and co-host of Michigan Radio's "It's Just Politics." He says there are suspicions that something will come out of the blue. 

Michigan Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe.
Photo courtesy of Richardville's office

There's been talk in Lansing about whether term limits should be extended, and that talk is heating up. 

Michigan voters approved term limits for state lawmakers back in 1992, but Republican Sen. Majority Leader Randy Richardville thinks maybe it's time they are extended.

Richardville says Michigan has the most restrictive term limits in the country. Other states have either rescinded or eased term limits and, he believes Michigan should review the legislation as well.

Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio's political analyst, and he says term limits have been an unmitigated disaster. 

Water faucet.
jordanmrcai / Creative Commons

Emily Fox and Jack Lessenberry sat down to discuss what's going on this week in Michigan politics. They covered the high price of water in Flint and Detroit, GM’s decision to move its Cadillac headquarters to New York, and the debates for Michigan governor and the U.S. Senate race.


We can say two things about the race for governor today: Mark Schauer and Rick Snyder are essentially tied in the polls. And it looks like we may not have a single televised debate.

The last time that happened was 16 years ago, when John Engler refused to debate Geoffrey Fieger. There was a certain logic to that.

Fieger was going around saying that the governor was a “corn-fed bowser,” and declared he would not accept that Engler was the father of his triplets unless they had corkscrew tails.

That was not a normal campaign. But this one is, and the voters have a lot at stake. This time, the challenger wants debates and the incumbent doesn’t.

Conventional wisdom says that’s because the governor doesn’t want to make it seem like his opponent is his equal, or because it is always harder to defend a record than attack one.

That may be. But it is also possible that Republicans are wasting a golden opportunity to put the challenger on the defensive. Here’s why.

This week, former Governor Bill Milliken knocked us off the edges of our seats when he started making candidate endorsements (Ok, maybe we weren’t at the edge of our seats).

But Michigan’s political watchers are always interested in who the state’s famously iconoclastic and moderate Republican Governor will endorse.

In 2004, Milliken endorsed Democrat John Kerry for President. In 2008, it was Republican John McCain. Although he withdrew it just a few weeks before the election.

Four years ago, Rick Snyder, in an effort to burnish his centrist bona fides, sought and received the imprimatur of Milliken.

And, now, this election-cycle, Milliken has endorsed Democrat Gary Peters for U.S. Senate and Democrat Mark Totten for Attorney General.

One has to wonder how the Republican base is going to view the fact that the current governor is the only Republican (at least so far in this election cycle) to get the Milliken endorsement.

Michigan Republican Party Chairman Bobby Schostak doesn’t seem to mind. “He’s not relevant any longer,” Schostak recently told WJBK TV.

Television remote control
user ppdigital / morguefile

Thursday is the day we talk Michigan politics with Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants, and Susan Demas, publisher of Inside Michigan Politics.

This week is all about the political ads inundating the state. We talked about how ads are used to make the case for a candidate, the flood of ads on television, and whether voters are paying attention or tuning out.

Here's our conversation:

Terri Lynn Land
Michigan Republican Party / Facebook

With 48 days to go until the Nov. 4 election, many people are wondering if Michigan voters would ever get a chance to hear a debate between the candidates for U.S. Senate and for governor.

Republican Terri Lynn Land took the first step today toward holding a debate with Democratic rival Gary Peters.

Land's campaign just named Lansing attorney Richard McLellan as its debate negotiator. Land says McLellan will work with Detroit ABC affiliate WXYZ-TV and Peters' campaign to possibly find a West Michigan journalist to co-moderate a debate with WXYZ Editorial Director Chuck Stokes.

Peters named former Lt. Gov. John Cherry as his debate negotiator Aug. 6. Peters has accepted three debate invitations outright and two others on the condition that Land also agrees.

Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta are co-hosts of Michigan Radio's It's Just Politics. In their views, Michigan voters are clearly looking for the candidates' debates. 

Some years ago, I was studying some primitive TV campaign ads. One of them featured candidate Dwight D. Eisenhower being asked by a housewife, "Well, the Democrats have made mistakes, but weren't their intentions good?"

Squinting at cue cards, the nearsighted Ike replied woodenly, "Well, if you have a school bus driver who goes off the road, hits a pole and lands in a ditch you don't say his intentions are good. You get a new bus driver." 

Last night I thought it might be a good idea to send that ad to Governor Rick Snyder, with a note: Think about Aramark.

Six months ago, I was convinced Rick Snyder would be reelected in November -- not by the 18 point landslide he scored four years ago, but by a fairly comfortable margin.

Yes, I knew there was lingering anger over the pension tax and right to work, maybe other issues, but I figured that Snyder’s Republicans would have so much money they’d overwhelm Mark Schauer, his Democratic opponent, with broadcast commercials, the “air war” of modern politics.

Then too, Republicans have a built-in advantage over Democrats in midterm elections. Turnout is always smaller, and Republicans are better about showing up.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Governor Rick Snyder has been fond of calling Michigan the "comeback state" for at least 2 1/2 years. So he naturally made it a part of his re-election campaign early on.

But as the Republican governor's campaign ramps up in the final two months of the race, he's tweaking his message. Now Michigan's on the "road to recovery."

Pollsters say the fine-tuning reflected in new TV ads is an attempt to align with voters who are more positive about the state's direction but also say the recovery hasn't helped them personally.

Democrats in Lansing are not waiting any longer to push civil rights protections for gays, lesbians, and transgender people.

And the fact that Democrats are now out in front, signals this is no longer about adopting a policy, this is now political.

For several sessions, Democrats have introduced legislation to add LGBT protections to Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act. But last year they were persuaded to wait by civil rights groups who at long last saw a policy success in their grasp. That’s if they could get a Republican to take the lead (because, of course, the GOP runs the show in Lansing).

This week, however, those hopes essentially fell apart as prospective Republican co-sponsors bailed, and GOP leaders put unacceptable conditions on taking up the bill.

Now, the sole, lonely Republican publicly backing LGBT rights in the civil rights law, says he has not given up. “We’re still working and talking with colleagues and educating,” said Republican state Representative Frank Foster. Interestingly enough, as we talked about last month on It's Just Politics, Foster lost his primary in August to a more socially conservative Republican. There's continued debate over whether or not  his loss was do in part because of his support for adding LGBT rights to Elliott-Larsen.

State capitol
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The Legislature is back in session. Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville says in the 20 session days left between now and the end of the year he wants to find a plan to fix Michigan’s crumbling roads and a way to ease term limits on Michigan lawmakers.

However, adding LGBT protections to Michigan's civil rights law is proving to be an ongoing battle in the Legislature.

I spoke with Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants, and Susan Demas, publisher of Inside Michigan Politics.

Here's our conversation.

Ian Freimuth / Flickr

We saw big news out of Detroit this week: a deal over a southeast regional water authority and a tentative deal between the city and one of its largest creditors.

Meanwhile, lawmakers are back to the state capitol after their summer recess. And the two big statewide races for governor and the open U.S. Senate seat in Michigan are heating up.

Today on Stateside, we take a step back and see how these events fit together and impact one another.

Daniel Howes is a columnist with Detroit News. He says the good news in Detroit this week shows that leadership matters.

"What you're seeing here is a remarkable alignment of both political and business leadership across the state behind this Detroit bankruptcy effort," says Howes. 

Rick Pluta is the capitol bureau chief for the Michigan Public Radio Network and co-host of It's Just Politics. He says in the next few weeks, he's watching for what Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr puts in place in his final days to set the city up for what comes next. 

"A high level of control will have to be restored to the city," says Pluta.

* Listen to our conversation with Daniel Howes and Rick Pluta on Stateside today at 3 pm. We'll post the audio around 4:30 pm.

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