Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan already had scoffed at the speculation he was eyeing a run for governor in 2018, but his flat declaration Wednesday that he will not be a candidate – and stop asking him about it, by the way – might finally put to rest any chance he will seek the Democratic nomination.
Might. Let’s not forget, Mr. Duggan presumably will seek re-election as Detroit mayor in 2017, and flirting with a gubernatorial bid more than two years from that election would be politically ill-advised, to say the least. If after the mayor’s race concludes in 2017 – and Mr. Duggan’s organization, name recognition among voters and first-rate fundraising ability allows him to wait much longer than other potential Democratic gubernatorial candidates – and Mr. Duggan still says he is not running, then it is safe to say he is 100 percent out.
But for now, let’s assume Mr. Duggan is out. Then what?
It deprives Democrats of their best candidate. No one can match Mr. Duggan’s combination of political strengths as outlined above and resume.
And winning the governor’s race is an absolute imperative for Michigan Democrats in 2018.
Democrats are in a position of permanent minority in the Michigan Senate with Republicans holding a 27-11 advantage. Just narrowing that gap to 24-14 would be a triumph for Democrats in 2018.
In the House, Democrats should narrow the 63-47 Republican majority in 2016 thanks to presidential year turnout and a slew of open seats though the odds are against them winning the eight seats needed for shared power to halt Republicans’ ability to pass legislation unimpeded. What will happen in 2018 is hard to say. A Republican in the White House, while surely a Democratic nightmare, would paradoxically enhance Democrats’ chances of mobilizing their voters for a better than usual midterm turnout, but history clearly suggests Republicans will have the advantage in 2018 with the House.
So that means if Democrats want any say at all in what happens at the Capitol anytime soon, they have to win the governorship. It also would mean in 2021, for the first time in 30 years, that Republicans do not have total control of redistricting.
After Mr. Duggan, the following names will get a long look: Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel, Oakland County Treasurer Andy Meisner, former Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer and … that’s probably it as far as candidates with a credible path to victory. Other than Ms. Whitmer, anyone not from Macomb, Oakland or Wayne counties need not apply. The outstate factor proved a major roadblock for the last two Democratic nominees, Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero and former U.S. Rep. Mark Schauer of Battle Creek.
Mr. Hackel clearly seems interested and toyed with the idea in 2014. There would be a couple complications, however. One, Mr. Hackel would have to give up the county executive post, which also is up for election in 2018. And his independent brand of politics that has seen him clash with some key Democratic interests could prove problematic in a Democratic primary. Still, he is hugely popular in a critical county and could have general election appeal to independents, who went heavily for Governor Rick Snyder in 2014.
Mr. Meisner could be in an interesting spot. Clearly a rising star in the party, holding a countywide office in the most politically important county in the state, having come up through the Levin machine, a former legislator and having strong fundraising ability, Mr. Meisner could be a player. But he will first have to make a decision about what to do in 2016. The county executive post will be up for election, and retirement speculation is running high on Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson.
If elected county executive, Mr. Meisner would face a difficult decision about a 2018 gubernatorial bid. It would require him to spend most of his first two years as executive campaigning for governor. And if Republicans move the date of the next county executive election up to 2018 from 2020, he would have to give up the job to run for governor.
Ms. Whitmer remains a player in the party though an unknown is how much being out of office will dim her star power. Had she run in 2014, the party would have cleared the field for her. In 2018, that won’t be the case unless Mr. Duggan, Mr. Hackel and Mr. Meisner all take themselves out of the running. If all three are out, there will probably be heavy pressure from party leaders to persuade Ms. Whitmer to run because after Ms. Whitmer, the options become a series of lesser-known current and former legislators or trying to find a business executive type who could self-fund a race.
But this all starts with Mr. Duggan. His comments Wednesday will stir the pot in Democratic circles. Come early 2017, when the other potential Democratic candidates will have to get serious about running, they will be watching for any change in tone on the subject from him.
MACKINAC ISLAND – What does everyone attending this, or any, Detroit Regional Chamber Mackinac Conference, really want to know? What’s in the bag?
Attendees to the conference are always given a vinyl briefcase/backpack (it seems to alternate between years, this year it is a briefcase, last year it was a backpack) filled with little promotional gifts from the different sponsors of the conference.
So what is in this year’s bag?
Fudge from the Grand Hotel. And, of course, a toothbrush from Delta Dental.
A Michigan-shaped bottle opener, one of the freebies provided to attendees of the Detroit Regional Chamber Mackinac Conference.
Anyone who has flown Delta Airlines is well familiar with their ginger cookies and pretzels, and there were packages of those.
Before eating all the goodies, one should wash one’s hands, so there is a container of hand sanitizer from Kelly Services.
A lot of electronic aids are included in this year’s bag. Ascension Health provided ear buds. Consumers Energy provided folks with a multi-USB port device. Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Michigan gave out portable chargers for cell phones and tablets.
Solicitation is strictly forbidden on Grand Hotel property. How one could stop that, no one has said. Truscott Rossman has provided copies of their lobby guide, and one can guess how that might be used, here on the island and elsewhere.
Lots of late-night parties are held during the conference, and the firm Conway MacKenzie provided a keychain/ LED flashlight to assist one in finding their way back to the hotels after the partying.
Probably the niftiest item is a sawn-steel bottle opener in the shape of Michigan’s two peninsulas provided by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. Who knew that Grand Traverse Bay could open a bottle of suds?
And the Michigan Health and Hospital Association provided everyone with sunscreen. Sadly, this year that item will not be used much. The Island is under heavy fog and rain and blessed with 100 percent humidity.
In fact, the one item often included, but not this year – and several people have been heard looking through their bags and asking, “Where is it?” – is an umbrella. A demand not met this year.