Election 2014

How Michigan's gubernatorial race has changed over the last six months.
Real Clear Politics

Public Policy Polling released a poll today that shows Gov. Rick Snyder leading his Democratic challenger Mark Schauer 43% to 42%. With a margin of error of +/- 3.7%, that means this race is still a toss up at this point.

That wasn't the case six months ago. It looked like Gov. Snyder was on his way, easily, to being re-elected.

As of now, it looks like Michigan may have no statewide televised debates in either the races for governor or U.S. Senator.

This is pretty universally seen as a bad thing – except by the candidates who don’t want to debate.

As of now, Gov. Rick Snyder has refused to commit to any debates with Democratic candidate Mark Schauer. That’s politically understandable, even though the race is close.

Incumbents generally never like debating challengers, because it elevates their opponent to their level. Usually, they only do so because of political pressure, or if they are themselves behind.

GOP Senate candidate Terri Lynn Land’s refusal to debate Democratic nominee Gary Peters might seem more surprising. This is an open seat, and she is trailing slightly in most polls.

WASHINGTON (AP) - An outside group backed by Karl Rove is starting to run ads in Michigan's Senate race accusing the Democratic nominee of voting in Congress to curry favor with billionaire donor Tom Steyer.

Crossroads GPS placed the $800,000, one-week buy on Friday. It is the first spending from the group in Michigan's Senate race.

In the 30-second ad, a narrator tells voters that congressman Gary Peters opposes the Keystone XL Pipeline, which would transport oil from Canadian tar sands.

Courtney Hurtt / WDET

Gov. Rick Snyder spent an hour fielding questions from Michiganders on Friday. The questions spanned a broad range of topics, including education, the economy, the environment, and social issues.

During his appearance on Michigan Public Radio’s statewide call-in program "Michigan Calling," the governor pushed back against claims that his policies favor big businesses. He gave arguably his most detailed defense of sweeping tax changes made in his first year as governor.

 “This is Rich Baird ... " was the opening of the voice mail message left by Gov. Rick Snyder’s right-hand man and “transformation manager,” Rich Baird. The message was for union leader Carla Swift. And after that intro, it got nasty.

“I didn’t figure you would pick up on this call. It would take courage to talk to me face-to-face. Um, number one, you’d better be careful. I may be suing you …”

The voice mail from Baird is a response to a column that appeared last weekend in the Detroit Free Press, where Swift said Baird and other members of the Snyder administration play by their own set of rules.

Back to Baird’s voice mail: “I am sick and tired of you people and your unbased attacks. You should be ashamed of yourself.”

VIDEO: Call-in show with Michigan Gov. Snyder

Sep 5, 2014
"Rick Snyder for Michigan" / Facebook Page

Starting at 9 a.m., Michigan Radio airs a special live call-in show with Gov. Rick Snyder.

Gov. Snyder is seeking a second term as the Republican candidate and will take questions from a statewide audience.

The broadcast is part of the Michigan Public Radio Network’s “Michigan Calling” series of 2014 election specials.

Democratic nominee Mark Schauer appeared on “Michigan Calling” on Friday, July 11. That program is available here.

Voting Booths
Flickr

We are counting down the weeks to the November elections, but we are not counting down the weeks to debates between candidates.

So far, the chances of a debate between Gov. Rick Snyder and Democratic challenger, Mark Schauer, or between candidates for the U.S. Senate seat, Republican Terri Lynn Land and Democrat Gary Peters, are looking increasingly slim.

Terri Lynn Land
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

It appears highly unlikely there will be a televised debate between Michigan’s two major-party candidates for U.S. Senate this fall. 

It’s not for a lack of potential debate venues. Two TV stations and Michigan State University have offered to host a debate between Republican Terri Lynn Land and Democrat Gary Peters.      

The Peters campaign has accepted those invitations, but Land’s campaign has not.

Hillary Clinton speaks in Louisville.
User: UMWomen / Flickr

We'd like to believe that women, after all of these years, are treated equally in politics, but, as we know, that's not always the case.

A recent Detroit News column by writer Laura Berman has some examples of what she calls "a continuing snark campaign" that happens when women candidates run.

Berman’s column is titled "Candidate might dispute notion that it helps to be female." She talks about how women candidates are often subtly undermined.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Labor Day is the unofficial end of Summer.

For politicians, Labor Day is also seen as the unofficial beginning of the final campaign stretch toward the November election.   The election is little more than two months away.     

Many Michigan politicians spent the Labor Day holiday walking in parades and shaking a lot of hands.        

For Democrats, the place to be Monday was in or around the annual Labor Day parade in Detroit.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Thousands of union workers marched down Michigan Avenue today as part of Detroit’s annual Labor Day parade.

Just as the parade was getting started, a heavy downpour drenched the marchers as they stepped off from Michigan Avenue and Trumbull Street.

But the crowd’s passions remained enflamed by speeches from state union leaders, like SEIU president Marge Robinson, who attacked Governor Rick Snyder for signing Right to Work legislation.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Political TV ads are set to escalate in the final two months of the race between Republican Gov. Rick Snyder and Democrat Mark Schauer. If the ads that have already run in the contest are any indication, themes will used time and again.

Some charges are inaccurate or lack context the public might find useful. Snyder never cut education funding by $1 billion in his first year. State-based K-12 funding has gone up every year of his term. But he did slash universities' funding and deprive the K-12 school fund of revenue through a business tax cut.

The Truth Squad at Bridge Magazine reviewed a couple of TV ads put on the air by Republican Terri Lynn Land’s campaign for U.S. Senate. But, there’s a pretty substantial gap between the "truth" and the
"whole truth."

These two TV ads from the Land campaign attack the Democratic candidate, Congressman Gary Peters.

A Republican group is attacking Democratic congressional candidates, using online sites that resemble news websites. One of those 20 websites is called the “South Michigan Update.”

Both political parties held their state conventions last weekend. They filled out their slates of nominees, from state Supreme Court down to school board and university trustee slots.

With that the fall campaigns can fully begin in earnest.

Years ago, in a kinder and gentler era, they used to say that the public really didn’t tune in to campaigns until after the World Series.

Well, that was when the series ended the first week in October. These days it sometimes goes into November, and in Michigan the campaign for governor has been going on for more than a year.

My guess, however, is that most normal people start tuning into campaigns about Labor Day.

Here’s a tip: The media loves conflict and drama, and we tend to play up supposed splits within political parties. Sometimes these are very real, but most of the time those involved forget about their differences before the election because they hate the other party more.

It seems it’s not possible for an election campaign season to glide by without a debate over debates -- the one-upsmanship between various campaigns about who’s more willing to throw themselves open for an adversarial Q and A rife with drama and wonkiness.

Historically, the most memorable moments of debates are the human ones -- Governor Sarah Palin in the 2008 Vice Presidential debate asking then- Senator Joe Biden, “Can I call you Joe?” or Governor Rick Perry’s famous, fatal stumble in the Republican presidential debate in 2012 at Oakland University, forcing an embarrassing “oops” after he forgot the three federal departments he’d eliminate.

The public says it wants debates. Candidates say they’re anxious to debate. But in Michigan, so far, in 2014, we haven’t seen any debates scheduled in either the race for U.S. Senate or governor.

Democratic Senate nominee Gary Peters is certainly trying to make hay over the absence of debates. It plays into the Democrats’ narrative that Republican Terri Lynn Land is unprepared for the job. Mark Schauer, Democratic nominee for governor, is also pushing to share a stage with Gov. Rick Snyder.

Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley
Photo courtesy of www.governorelectricksnyder.com

Republicans and Democrats in Michigan will gather this weekend at party conventions to nominate candidates for statewide offices.

Secretary of State Ruth Johnson and Attorney General Bill Schuette are expected to be nominated for second terms at the state Republican convention in Novi.      

But it looks like there will be a fight over lieutenant governor. Gov. Rick Snyder wants the convention to renominate Brian Calley. But Tea Party activist Wes Nakagiri wants to deny Snyder his choice.

State GOP chairman Bobby Schostak says Calley appears to have the edge going into Saturday’s convention.

“I think that overall Brian Calley has been working very hard across the state to get the message across that he deserves to continue to be the lieutenant governor, and it’s going to be very hard to beat him,” says Schostak.

Democrats are meeting in Lansing this weekend. Oakland County Clerk Lisa Brown is Mark Schauer’s choice for a running mate. Democrats are also expected to nominate Mark Totten for attorney general, and Godfrey Dillard for secretary of state.

The parties will also nominate candidates for the state Supreme Court and education boards. 

In a wide-ranging interview on Friday, Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate Gary Peters said he does not support sending ground troops to Iraq.

The militant group calling itself the Islamic State has taken control of large sections of Iraq. But the Michigan congressman says he’s not interested in sending troops back into the country to fight the group.

“At this point, I see no reason to be back in Iraq with boots on the ground,” Peters told host Rick Pluta on the Michigan Public Radio statewide call-in program Michigan Calling.

“And even with airstrikes, you need to have a longer-term plan to go forward, and I’d like to get a better sense of what that is.”

Peters then urged the Obama administration to brief Congress on the situation in Iraq. He says members have not been kept up to speed with what’s happening on the ground.

We know the most important job in state government is that of governor, but the next two top jobs are far more important than we tend to realize.

Michigan’s attorney general is the top lawyer for the entire state, both for state government and the interests of all the citizens.

Meanwhile, whoever is secretary of state is responsible for pretty much everything that has to do with voting and elections – not to mention driver's licenses, automobile and other registrations, and regulating notaries in the state.

We elect these officials by a statewide vote in November. They serve four-year terms, and can be re-elected only once.

But here’s the odd thing about these jobs. We the voters have the final say in November, but have virtually no say in who the major political parties choose as their candidates.

The Michigan Public Radio Network's Rick Pluta sat down with the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate Gary Peters this morning, to take questions from our statewide audience.

Peters is currently the U.S. Representative for Michigan’s 14th congressional district. He's served in Congress since 2009. The district includes the eastern half of Detroit, as well as the Grosse Pointes, Hamtramck, Southfield and Pontiac. As senator, Peters would represent the entire state.

Peter's Republican opponent in the race for U.S. Senator is Terri Lynn Land. She served as Michigan’s 41st secretary of state. Rick Pluta will interview Land on Friday, Oct. 3 from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.

User: Andrew Ferguson / Flickr

It's a big weekend for Michigan's Democrats and Republicans: Both parties hold their state conventions – the Democrats in Lansing, the Republicans in Novi.

Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta, the co-hosts of Michigan Radio’s It's Just Politics, gave us a preview of the conventions.

For this weekend, Clark says she’ll be watching for a Tea Party effort to pry Brian Calley out as lieutenant governor.

"Tea Partiers and very conservative Republicans, looking at the Snyder Administration and saying, 'you know what? You may say you're conservative, but you are not conservative enough,'" says Clark.

As for the Democratic convention, there’s not quite as much drama expected in Lansing. However, Clark notes that it’ll be interesting to look at the Democratic nominees' races for attorney general and secretary of state.

* Listen to the interview with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta above.

* Be sure to tune in tomorrow morning at 9 when Rick Pluta will host a special call-in show with Gary Peters, Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate. 

 

CALI - Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction / Flickr

We're about two and a half months away from the November general election and two big statewide races – the race for Governor and U.S. Senate.

We're seeing plenty of advertisements in the campaigns, but no debates between the candidates.

Jack Lessenberry, Michigan Radio’s political commentator, said the reason for this is that front runners of the elections don’t want to give their opponents a shot to upstage them.

Lessenberry said Governor Snyder doesn’t want a debate for this very reason, as it would give his opponent, Democrat Mark Schauer, a chance to win the public over.

However the same is not said for the Senate candidates. Republican Terri Lynn Land is falling behind Democrat Gary Peters in polls. Normally Land would want the debate and Peters would not, but in this case, it's the opposite.

Lessenberry said he expects at least one debate in the governor's race, but it is unclear whether there will be one for the Senate race.

*Listen to the full interview with Jack Lessenberry above. 

Both major political parties have their state conventions this week. Republicans are meeting in Novi; Democrats in Lansing.

There’s always an element of the high school reunion about these conventions; people, including the press, look forward to them in part because they get to see old friends.

However, there are also squabbles.

Most of this year’s focus has been on the Republican gathering, where Tea Party insurgents are attempting to throw Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley off the ticket.

Democrats, however, have their own struggle behind the scenes.

In case you are new to this, these conventions actually nominate most of each party’s candidates for statewide office.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

LANSING – Michigan voters have viewed at least $20 million worth of political ads in competitive gubernatorial and U.S. Senate campaigns.

But whether they will see Gov. Rick Snyder and Mark Schauer, or Terri Lynn Land and Gary Peters, in one-on-one debates this fall is in question.

Debates appear to have lost cachet in Michigan's statewide races.

In 2010, Snyder and Democrat Virg Bernero had just one debate in the governor's race. Two years later, incumbent Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow and GOP challenger Pete Hoekstra couldn't agree on even one debate.

 Natural disasters, like the rain and floods that pounded metro Detroit this week, present a unique challenge for chief executives like Governor Rick Snyder. Natural disasters are certainly not like the slow work of trying to mend an economy, for example.

With natural disasters, all of an administration’s emergency planning is stress tested in real-time with real-life consequences. Years ago, Governor John Engler said a big natural disaster is any governor’s worst nightmare.

And, like most things with government, there are political consequences to natural disasters. How, for example, the public measures the way a chief executive handles the situation.

Here in Michigan, with the November election just two and a half months away, this was an important week for Governor Snyder. Which is why, when the magnitude of what was happening in metro Detroit became clear, the governor cut short a trip to the Upper Peninsula - a trip that included a fundraising event in Marquette - and returned downstate to reassure people that he was aware and in charge.

His administration certainly did not want a repeat of last winter, when Snyder was excoriated for not, at first, being visible during a powerful ice storm that knocked out electricity to big swaths of the state. We should note as well, however, that the governor’s Democratic challenger, Mark Schauer, was also not particularly visible during that ice storm.

So, this week, Governor Snyder flew south by helicopter, surveyed the damage and talked to the media. It was this latter part of his trip - speaking on WJR’s The Frank Beckman Show - that the Governor tried for a little empathy. “I’ve been through a lot of things like that… We just recently had holes in our roof from storm damage to our lake house, in terms of, yeah, we have a vacation place, and I had a limb come down from holes in the roof, had water running through the place. Those experiences are not pleasant ones, and we had to take some trees down,” the Governor said, trying to go for the common touch, the ‘I feel your pain’ explanation.

 

Nobody can say Governor Rick Snyder vacillated, when it was learned last week that Scott Woosley, his appointed head of the Michigan State Housing Authority, had been racking up expense account charges fit for a European monarch.

Well, figuratively speaking, that is. I can’t imagine even the last king of Albania paying twelve hundred dollars to have a stretch limo take him across Nebraska. And state officials did deny payment for a “dinner” that consisted only of three glasses of expensive rum.

Enterprising Democratic Party activists used the Freedom of Information Act to ferret out this information. But within 24 hours after it hit the papers, Scott Woosley was unemployed.

The governor didn’t move nearly so quickly when it came to the Aramark Correctional Services abuses. For weeks, there have been stories about maggots on the chow line and scores of Aramark employees fired or suspended for inappropriate behavior. 

Several political campaigns during the primaries got very nasty. Things haven’t been quite so nasty in the governor’s race … yet.

Most of the ads we’ve seen about Gov. Rick Snyder and challenger Mark Schauer have not been ads the candidates bought. Outside groups produced them and aired them.

The Democratic Governors Association paid for an ad attacking Republican Gov. Snyder.

 Here we are, trying to shake some more truth out of Tuesday’s primary results. And there is still at least one lingering result that has people continuing to wonder what exactly happened and why. And that would be Republican Representative Frank Foster’s primary loss to Tea Party challenger Lee Chatfield.

It’s not that people didn’t think a Tea Party win was possible. In fact, the Tea Party took aim at quite a few GOP incumbents over their votes for the Medicaid expansion and the Common Core education standards.

But every single other incumbent state lawmaker survived.

In Foster’s case, though, there were a couple of distinctions. Foster was identified by a political newsletter as one of Lansing’s most lobbyist-wined and dined. It’s never good when an incumbent is targeted as having “gone native” in Lansing or D.C.

Whatever your politics, there is both good news in yesterday’s election results, as well as some lessons to be learned. First of all, the good news: It had been widely predicted that turnout yesterday would be an all-time low. Some analysts felt that fewer than a million people might vote, which would have been the lowest in modern history.

Fewer absentee ballots than expected had been taken out, there were no contests for governor or senator, and on top of that, it rained in much of Metro Detroit.

Yet, in the end, more than 1.3 million people voted. That’s less than one-fifth of those eligible. But it could have been worse. Something else perhaps encouraging is that those who spent the most money didn’t always win.

Paul Mitchell, a rich businessman from Saginaw County, spent millions in an effort to win the Republican nomination to Congress. He lost to veteran legislator John Moolenaar in a landslide. In a similar election in Grand Rapids, another millionaire, Brian Ellis, tried to defeat maverick GOP congressman, Justin Amash. Ellis lost badly too.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

State Senator John Moolenaar  emerged from a sometimes brutal three way primary to win the Republican primary in Michigan’s 4th congressional district.

Moolenaar says voters responded to his efforts to reduce state spending and make Michigan more attractive to business. 

"It’s kind of a good prescription for Washington D-C.," Moolenaar said after winning the Republican nomination on Tuesday, "People really responded to that message.”

Moolenaar says he’s  looking forward to the fall campaign.

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