Blog Posts For The Week Of September 16, 2016 Through September 22, 2016

Driskell Links Walberg To Obama
By Zachary Gorchow
Editor

Posted: September, 22 2016 4:24 PM

Republicans have had a field day for years linking Democratic candidates to President Barack Obama in parts of the country where he is unpopular, and apparently Republican U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg’s Democratic challenger, state Rep. Gretchen Driskell, has decided to borrow the tactic.

In 2012, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney carried the 7th U.S. House District over Mr. Obama, 51 percent to 47.9 percent, according to Daily Kos. It’s not unreasonable to think in this mostly rural, socially conservative district in south central Michigan that Mr. Obama’s popularity has dropped in the four years since the election.

There’s little doubt part of the Republican playbook is to link Ms. Driskell, of Saline, to Mr. Obama (and the roster of other top Democrats like presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi).

It’s somewhat subtle, but Ms. Driskell’s latest television advertisement throws the argument back at Mr. Walberg, of Tipton. Ms. Driskell is hammering at Mr. Walberg’s support of free trade deals in her commercials so far, and the latest one includes a shot at his voting to give Mr. Obama fast-track negotiating authority on the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

“Just last year, he voted to give Obama enhanced power to negotiate TPP,” the narrator says in the commercial of Mr. Walberg.

If you closed your eyes and had no idea about the backgrounds of the candidates, you’d think it was a Republican ad attacking a Democrat. It sounds like the Driskell campaign found one of the narrators the Republicans typically hire who can pronounce “Obama” with just the right mixture of nausea and loathing.

Ms. Driskell has an uphill battle. The district leans Republican, and it’s a district where Republican Donald Trump is likely to outperform Ms. Clinton. She started the campaign as an unknown in the district outside of her home turn in Washtenaw County. Mr. Walberg is running for the seat for the seventh time, and while he’s not known as a campaigning dynamo (he lost an open seat race in 2004 and then lost as an incumbent in 2008), he’s a known commodity.

That said, Ms. Driskell has to win some soft Republicans and independents to win the seat. There are not enough Democrats to carry her to victory. This ad seems like a crafty move.

Will it work? We’ll know if the National Republican Congressional Committee gets involved in the race and starts airing ads attacking Ms. Driskell. If that happens, and the president happens to visit Monroe, Adrian, Jackson, Hillsdale, Coldwater, Saline or Eaton Rapids this fall, he probably should not turn on the television. It looks like he’ll be getting attacked by friends and foes alike.

Open Meetings Act v. Security: Who Will Prevail?
By Christopher Klaver
Staff Writer

Posted: September, 21 2016 11:48 AM

“A person shall not be required as a condition of attendance at a meeting of a public body to register or otherwise provide his or her name or other information or otherwise to fulfill a condition precedent to attendance.”

Unless the security guard at the state building in question tells you to sign in and asks for your identification.

Once upon a time, there was no question on that top quote from the Michigan Open Meetings Act. One could sneak in and out of public meetings, often with little notice.

Then came the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and government workers at all levels asked, reasonably so, for more security on their buildings. For the state, that meant putting in barriers and posting a security guard at open entrances.

But, on questioning from Gongwer News Service (See Gongwer Michigan Report, September 15, 2005), state officials acknowledged you could not ask people to sign into the building and have that not be considered signing into the meeting.

The review led to a variety of changes, including moving some meetings to avoid state building security.

In the Capitol Complex buildings, that has meant (usually) getting a badge that says “Public Meeting” before being escorted to the meeting room (after which, meeting attendees often have free roam of the building, but that is for another blog).

So, problem solved, right?

Well, yes, as long as the security person at the building in question has been trained. It was some time after the full review that this reporter attended a Liquor Control Commission meeting where he had to show ID and sign in at the building door, and then sign in again meeting room door, and neither appeared optional.

At a meeting earlier this week, this reporter had to sign into the building, though not show ID.

And many of the boards and commissions continue a practice of asking everyone to introduce themselves, a friendly gesture, but still technically a violation. No one wants to be that person who has to awkwardly pass their turn to stand up and say their name.

Don’t get me wrong. I have no problem signing in or saying my name. It leaves a paper trail to show that I was in fact, working.

But is it time to revisit the OMA, state security, or both?

Snyder Ads For House Candidates Tout Snyder Too
By Zachary Gorchow
Editor

Posted: September, 20 2016 3:35 PM

Governor Rick Snyder is taking a more aggressive role on behalf of House Republican candidates this year than he has in the previous two elections during his time as governor, using a nonprofit to air ads on behalf of six candidates so far.

Mr. Snyder, as he has done in the past, also is hitting the fundraising circuit for House GOP hopefuls as well.

It’s no wonder why Mr. Snyder wants to keep the House. Should the Democrats win the majority, it would greatly complicate his ability to move on his key remaining agenda items for his final two years in office. As Gongwer News Service first reported last week, that includes a major initiative to address unfunded municipal liabilities.

More problematic for the governor, a House Democratic majority could do what Republicans have refused – call Mr. Snyder, Lt. Governor Brian Calley and Snyder appointees to testify before committees on the Flint water crisis with subpoenas if necessary and have them testify under oath. House Minority Leader Tim Greimel (D-Auburn Hills), who would likely become the speaker if the Democrats win majority, has called for Mr. Snyder to resign over the water crisis.

Monday, Mr. Snyder’s political team unveiled ads, paid for by a 501(c)4 and thus not subject to disclosure, and what immediately stood out was the ads appear to have a dual purpose. Usually, issue ads praise the candidate, talk about how great they are and urge viewers to thank that person (because as an issue ad it cannot directly call for the viewer to vote for the candidate).

These ads do praise the candidate, but more time is spent praising the record of Mr. Snyder.

By my count, the first 13 seconds in each ad laud Mr. Snyder’s record (during which time Mr. Snyder and Mr. Calley are seen walking and talking as the narrator says, “Under Governor Rick Snyder’s leadership, over 450,000 jobs have been created, unemployment is the lowest in 15 years and education funding is at record levels”). The next 11 seconds tout the candidate and the final six seconds call for viewers to visit www.michigancomebackstory.org with a final disclaimer of who paid for the ad using Mr. Snyder’s voice.

Here’s one of the ads that touts Rep. Brandt Iden (R-Oshtemo). The other ads are essentially the same, just sub out Mr. Iden for another candidate.

The strategy is curious on a couple levels. One, at best, Mr. Snyder has split popularity numbers. Statewide, his job approval/popularity numbers are poor. A survey out today from Morning Consult of all 50 states showed he is the fourth least popular governor in the country with a disapproval rating of 61 percent.

Now, that is statewide, and the districts where the ads are running all tend slightly Republican. So surely Mr. Snyder’s standing in these districts is much better, though it’s hard to imagine any of them where he is overwhelmingly popular. If Mr. Snyder was boasting an approval rating of more than 60 percent, then an ad like this could be a useful way to transfer some of that popularity to these candidates. Instead, the ads seem to gamble time that could have been spent on the candidates on tying them to Mr. Snyder.

Most of these districts featured in the ads, however, are unlikely to actually be competitive.

Mr. Iden’s seat remains somewhat in doubt, but he’s the favorite there. The same is true of Republican Bronna Kahle of Clinton in the 57th District and Rep. Klint Kesto (R-Commerce Township) in the 39th District. Republicans Julie Alexander of Hanover in the 64th District and Beth Griffin of Mattawan in the 66th District are solid favorites. I’m not aware of anyone who thought Republican Pamela Hornberger of Chesterfield Township in the 32nd District was anything other than a lock, but one of the ads features her.

It’s an interesting move by Mr. Snyder. He is lending a hand to some candidates who probably don’t need it, probably building some goodwill by doing so with those will be in the House the next two years and in the process working on rebuilding his standing with voters.

Democrats could hardly be happier about the move since they see Mr. Snyder as a political anchor. If they think it is truly damaging, then one would expect to see them tying Mr. Kesto, Ms. Kahle and Mr. Iden to Mr. Snyder in a much less flattering way, and with some real money behind the message, not just a press release.

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Gongwer Staff

John Lindstrom
Publisher
jwlindstrom@gongwer.com
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Zachary Gorchow
Editor
zgorchow@gongwer.com
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Danielle Emerson
Staff Writer
demerson@gongwer.com
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Alethia Kasben
Staff Writer
kasbena@gongwer.com
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Christopher Klaver
Staff Writer
cklaver@gongwer.com
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