GOP Mackinac conference a set-up for Snyder 2014 reelection bid

BY JAKE NEHER
Michigan Public Radio Network

About 15 hundred Michigan Republicans were on Mackinac Island this past weekend. They were gathered for the state GOP’s biennial leadership conference, where much of the focus was on a reelection campaign that has yet to be formally announced.

Governor Rick Snyder basked in chants of “four more years.”

He rolled out a campaign video.

He invited people to sign nominating petitions to put him on the August primary ballot next year.

But a formal announcement on his reelection plans?

“Stay-tuned.”

Snyder said that kind of announcement this early would shift the focus prematurely to the 2014 election.

“I’m really focused on being governor, when you’re in the official candidate role that makes it more confusing for people,” Snyder said.

But Snyder makes no secret of the fact that he intends to seek a second term, and used the Michigan Republican conference to test out some campaign messages, even tossing out some prospective slogans.

“One that I really do appreciate, that I’ve used in my life is, ‘Said it. Did it.”

Also, “One Successful Nerd,” that’s the title of the five-minute campaign video. It’s a play on the “One Tough Nerd” slogan used in Snyder’s first campaign. The governor’s early pre-campaign materials tout the elimination of the Michigan Business Tax, efforts to fix Detroit’s financial crisis, and an improving state economy.

“It’s not working.”

Also testing out some campaign messages over the weekend was Michigan Democratic Party Chair Lon Johnson, quite possibly the lone Democrat at mingling with Republicans and reporters at the conference.

“Where are the jobs? It was just released that we have a 9 percent unemployment rate, higher than the national average.”

That is, still higher than the national average, a fact that certainly pre-dates the Snyder administration by years.

There was at least one other Snyder critic roaming the sweeping porch and halls of the Grand Hotel.

Tea Party activist Wes Nakagiri wants to replace Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley on the GOP ticket. Under state party rules, nominees for governor can ask, but they don’t get to choose their running mates. That job falls to delegates to the party’s summer convention.

Nakagiri said this kind of challenge sends a message to Snyder and Republicans, a message that they need to align more closely to conservative principals if they’re going to win Tea Party support as they try to hang onto the governor’s office and their legislative majorities.

He said the governor’s support for expanding Medicaid convinced him a dissenting voice was needed in the administration.

“The difference will be that, if the policy that’s being pushed is diametrically opposed to the Republican Party platform, and this Medicaid expansion is diametrically opposed, I will speak out against it.”

There was, otherwise, little evidence of an anticipated Tea Party insurgency during their weekend’s events.

Even so, the lieutenant governor spent the three days working like a man on a mission. Calley was introduced often as a “conservative voice” within the Snyder administration. And a straw poll of conference attendees gave Calley a resounding 86 percent victory over Nakagiri, which would bode well for another Snyder/Calley run. That is, when an official announcement is finally made.

Copyright 2013, MPRN

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State will step in to certify Detroit election results

BY RICK PLUTA
Michigan Public Radio Network

The state will take the very rare step of tabulating the votes and certifying the results of Detroit’s mayoral primary. This is after a local elections board refused to count some votes.

A Wayne County elections board refused to certify the election because of a technical issue with how about 18,000 write-in votes were tallied. But Michigan Elections Director Christopher Thomas said that’s not how it’s supposed to work.

“Any error of an election official should never disenfranchise a voter,” Thomas said.

Thomas said the county will have to pay the costs of having the state re-tabulate and certify the votes. Almost all the untabulated votes were cast for write-in candidate Mike Duggan, who appears headed for a November match-up with Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon

Thomas said his office will monitor the city’s November election, but it will not step in to supervise.

Copyright 2013, MPRN

Former general to challenge Benishek

BY MIKE HORACE
A retired general has announced he will run for congress in northern Michigan, challenging two-term Republican Dan Benishek. 
Jerry Cannon made the announcement this morning, saying his focus will be on improving the economy and quote “getting the middle class a fair shake.”
Cannon served in Vietnam, and rose to the rank of major general with the Michigan National Guard. He was also the Kalkaska County Sheriff from 1987 to 2004.
Republicans have been quick to criticize Cannon. According to M-Live.com, a spokesperson for the National Republican Congressional Committee called Cannon a quote “uber-liberal Pelosi supporting candidate.”
Congressman Dan Benishek is running for a third house term next year. He won a narrow contest with Democrat Gary McDowell last year, the final margin was 22-hundred votes.

Both political parties look to increase number of women lawmakers

BY ANTHONY RIZZO
In Michigan and many U.S. states, women make up a relatively small percentage of elected officials. But the state’s two main political parties are trying to change that.
Out of the 148 seats in the Michigan legislature, only 28 are currently held by women, the lowest ratio of women to men in 20 years.
But officials with both parties are trying to change that – and they say they’re willing to work with women to educate them about the electoral process.
Republican Judy Emmons is one of just four female state senators. 
She said both parties are ready to help women understand the process of running, raising money, legislating and governing.
“We have a GOP-based program that is called GOP Women Matter. We try to gather women who are currently in office, or interested in office or running, and help them acquire the tools that they need, create some contacts, help them introduce themselves to others who may be of like-mind or could be beneficial in helping them navigate through the political process,” Emmons said.
Emmons said women often don’t run for office because of other priorities, like raising families and their careers.

GOP, Dems work through big leadership battles

BY RICK PLUTA
Michigan Public Radio Network
It was a weekend for political battling in Michigan at the Republican and Democratic state conventions. There were spirited fights over who would lead the parties for the next two years. Now, Democrats and Republicans in Michigan have to heal their internal wounds before they face each other next year. 
Democrats and Republicans both seem to think their parties are not winning as many races as they should in Michigan, a state that’s gone Democratic in six straight presidential elections but still sends lots of Republicans to Lansing. That’s led to big fights over direction and state party leadership. 
In Lansing, Republican Party Chairman Bobby Schostak won a second term, but it was close. Very close. Todd Courser is an evangelical Christian who said he was “called” by God to challenge the party leader. But he said his challenge was not theological, but practical.
“When people want to analyze why the Democrats won last time and they say it was this, or the other. I’d say it was all of those things and they did them better than we did them.” Courser said.
Courser said he doesn’t think Democrats won on issues, but outfought Republicans using technology to organize and contact voters. Courser had a lot of support from Tea Party factions in the Republican Party. But the delegates decided to stick with Schostak, a proven fundraiser. Schostak said he’s confident the losers in this fight won’t abandon the GOP.
“In any hotly contested race, you’re going to have people from all sides speaking out, but at the end of the day, people came together to say, we want to beat the Democrats.”
In Detroit, Democrats were busy beating up on each other. There was bickering, shouting matches between party leaders. Union leaders split on who should lead the Democratic Party. 
It looked like the race for Democratic Party chair was headed for a nail-biter finish. 
Until 18-year chair Mark Brewer stunned the convention. 
“I’m withdrawing my candidacy for chair…”
Brewer then left the convention and the Michigan Democratic Party to his successor. 41-year-old Lon Johnson is a venture capitalist and veteran campaign organizer who’s most recent political foray was an unsuccessful campaign for a northern Michigan state House seat.
Johnson said the numbers show Lansing should be controlled by Democrats. 
“We can win. This is Michigan. This is a state we that won by nine points with the president. This is a state we won by 20 points with Senator Stabenow. This is Michigan.” Johnson said.
 “The Democratic Party is not succeeding to the level we think it should.” Johnsons said.
United Auto Workers President Bob King helped engineer Brewer’s ouster as chair. King said now there are big expectations. 
 “Well, winning the governorship, winning the majority on the Supreme Court, winning majorities in the House and the Senate.” King said.
King said if Democrats sweep the 2014 statewide elections, that will be vindication of the ugliness at his party’s convention this weekend in Detroit. 
A big part of Lon Johnson’s job is to give progressive sympathizers, African Americans, Hispanics, gays and lesbians, among others, a bigger sense of ownership in the Michigan Democratic Party. That means engaging a lot of groups that have typically taken a back seat to union dominance in the state Democratic Party. 
UAW power in the Democratic Party won Lon Johnson his job. That job includes making unions a smaller part of a larger coalition that wins Democrats control in Lansing.
Copyright 2013, MPRN

State Republicans urge lawmakers to change how Michigan gives out electoral votes

BY JAKE NEHER
Michigan Public Radio Network
Michigan Republicans said this weekend they want to change the course of future presidential races by changing how the state allocates its electoral votes.
Delegates to the state GOP convention voted overwhelmingly to support the proposal.
Michigan Republicans want to join Nebraska and Maine to become the third state to portion out electoral votes by congressional district.
State Representative Pete Lund pushed the plan to GOP convention delegates over the weekend.
“We don’t have attention of presidential candidates. And if we change to a system like those two, we’ll become more relevant in the system.” Lund said.
Democrats say it’s an attempt to rig the system in favor of Republicans. If the state used the model in 2012, Mitt Romney would have won a majority of Michigan’s electoral votes. That’s despite losing the popular vote in the state.
Lund introduced a bill to change the system last year. But it never won support from either party.
Copyright 2013, MPRN

State Democrats and Republicans to gather this weekend for party conventions

BY JAKE NEHER
Michigan Public Radio Network
State Democrats and Republicans will meet this weekend to elect party leaders. 
Officials with both parties say they’ve got to become more modern and tech-oriented. 
Democratic Party Chair Mark Brewer has held the job for 18 years. He’s facing a challenge from former state House contender Lon Johnson. The tight race has pitted party members against each other, and likely won’t be decided until members cast their votes.
Republican Bobby Schostak also wants a new two-year term as party chair. But he faces a challenge from Todd Courser, an attorney from Lapeer. 
Courser has touted his Tea Party credentials in the race. But some self-professed Tea Partiers are throwing their support behind Schostak.
Democrats will cast their votes Saturday afternoon at Cobo Hall in Detroit, while Republicans meet in Lansing.
Copyright 2013, MPRN