Blog Posts For The Week Of April 17, 2014 Through April 23, 2014

Walberg Draws An Interesting Challenger
By Zachary Gorchow
Editor

Posted: April, 23 2014 6:02 PM

Elections bring out a slice of life, and that is certainly true in the 7th U.S. House District where Douglas Radcliffe North of Jackson has created one of the more unique campaign websites I have seen in his challenge to U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Tipton) for the Republican nomination.

You like campaign videos? Mr. North has got ’em.

He has videos titled “Gangsters” and “Walberg’s Soul” for starters.

Unfortunately, I can’t embed the videos here, but if you go to www.northforcongress.com, you are in for something unique.

The first video alone is memorable for Mr. North’s Panama hat/turtle neck/trench coat ensemble.

So Mr. Walberg is in for at least a nuisance primary as Mr. North appears nothing if not willing to take a few shots.

Ah, The Surprises Of Candidate Filing Day
By Zachary Gorchow
Editor

Posted: April, 22 2014 10:47 AM

4 p.m. today is the deadline for partisan candidates seeking nomination in August and election in November to file to run for office, and it is always a banner day on the political calendar, especially because there is usually a surprise of some sort.

Sometimes, the surprise is startling, but ultimately not that big a deal. In 2002, a knife-making business owner named Jim Moody unexpectedly emerged from nowhere and filed what he said were 17,000 signatures to run for governor as a Republican. His short-lived long-shot bid ended weeks later when the Department of State determined he failed to gather the minimum 15,000 valid signatures.

One of my favorite filing day gambits occurred in 2004. That year, former Rep. Lamar Lemmons III sought a House seat in Detroit. In a neighboring district, so did his father, Lamar Lemmons Jr. And in another neighboring district, so did his son, Lamar K. Lemmons. The two elder Lemmons both won, but the youngest lost in the Democratic primary.

Then there are the name game tricks. In 2010, someone named Zack Brandenburg filed to run as a Republican in a Macomb County Senate race where Jack Brandenburg already was running. Zack Brandenburg shockingly (sarcasm alert) went into hiding and could not be found to determine who put him up to the trick before finally withdrawing after the controversy built.

Had he remained on the ballot, possibly it would have helped Jack Brandenburg, who could have been given a ballot designation. Or possibly it would have hurt him if voters were confused and cast some votes for the interloper.

Sadly, Zack Brandenburg never returned my messages to find out why he filed. Thanks to the wonders of Facebook, I can tell you he remains in the music business as a guitarist for a band called Short on Shame.

But the biggest surprise of all I have seen by far was the 2012 bombshell in which then-Democratic Rep. Roy Schmidt, who had filed many weeks before the filing deadline for re-election, at the last minute filed as a Republican and withdrew his Democratic candidacy.

For the purposes of this blog, I won’t rehash in detail the aftermath that followed other than to recall how a family friend of Mr. Schmidt’s named Matt Mojzak filed as a Democrat about the same time in a bid to thwart Democrats from unseating Mr. Schmidt later that year, a gambit that turned into one of the biggest blunders in modern Michigan politics.

T-minus five hours and change to go. Grab yourself a bucket of popcorn, keep an eye on the filings and enjoy the fun.

Race To Succeed Camp Just Got Interesting
By Zachary Gorchow
Editor

Posted: April, 21 2014 3:28 PM

Sen. John Moolenaar has been seen as the prohibitive favorite to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Dave Camp, a fellow Midland Republican, in the 4th U.S. House District since Mr. Camp announced he would not seek a 13th term.

Republican business executive Paul Mitchell previously had announced his bid, but it was unclear just how serious a threat he could be. Monday, he made clear he is very serious when he announced a campaign staff of some of the biggest names in Michigan Republican circles, landing Jeff Timmer, formerly of the Sterling Corporation, as campaign manager and Stu Sandler, president and CEO of the Decider Strategies consulting firm, as general consultant.

The Mitchell campaign announced several other notable hires to fill out its campaign staff.

The third candidate in the race for the Republican nomination, Peter Konetchy, will be running a much lower-budget race than his two opponents.

Mr. Moolenaar will surely have a strong campaign team as well and already has worked with Marketing Resource Group, but everyone expected Mr. Moolenaar would have a good operation. The surprise here is that Mr. Mitchell seems intent on doing what he can to make this a race.

Who Thinks Congress Is Doing An Excellent Job?
By John Lindstrom
Publisher

Posted: April, 18 2014 3:18 PM

A grand total of six people in Michigan think Congress is doing an excellent job.

Well, okay, that’s not quite true. The latest State of the State Survey from the Institute for Public Policy and Social Research at Michigan State University found that of more than 1,000 people surveyed, just six people thought Congress was doing an excellent job.

Clearly more people in the entire state think Congress is doing an excellent job. After all, there are 16 members of the U.S. House and Senate from Michigan, and their spouses, kids, grandkids, siblings, etc.

Well, Congress is obviously not popular in Michigan or nationwide right now, but it was striking that just six people out of the number surveyed said they thought Congress was doing an excellent job.

So reporters asked MSU Economics professor Charles Ballard if there was any distinct comparison between those six people.

Not really, said Mr. Ballard. Four were men, two were women, one was black and five were white, two were from Ingham County, and then one each from Kalamazoo, Kent and Wayne counties.

One person was a Republican, Mr. Ballard said, who said Congress was doing an excellent job, the GOP-controlled House was doing an excellent job but the Democratic-controlled Senate was doing a poor job.

That person, he said, he understood. Otherwise there was no pattern.

“This is sort of like, every now and then something weird shows up in the numbers,” Mr. Ballard said.

What Role Will Detroit Bankruptcy Play In The Election?
By John Lindstrom
Publisher

Posted: April, 17 2014 4:26 PM

So far the 2014 campaign has played itself against a historic backdrop – an unpleasant backdrop, one that has brought the state a lot of unwanted attention, but historic nonetheless.

The entire election, so far, has been played out against the backdrop of the Detroit bankruptcy, the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history.

If all goes according to plan, the city should emerge from Chapter 9 bankruptcy in October, barely a month before the November election.

So, what role will the bankruptcy play in the election itself? For political-watchers, this is truly unmapped land. As such, the bankruptcy could help or hurt both sides. Much of its overall effect will depend on the final results and how the public reacts. Based on the latest happenings, it could very well prove to be a positive for Governor Rick Snyder.

Early on, when Detroit was put under emergency manger Kevyn Orr now 13 months ago, there were clues as to how voters would react. Mr. Orr was named not quite six months after the voters had rejected the controversial emergency manager law, PA 4 of 2011, only to see the Legislature enact a new emergency manager law, PA 436 of 2012.

A lot of people, Democrats mostly, were furious at this turn of events, a fury which remains unabated. The idea of the state seizing control of a local government continues to grate. It is seen as paternalistic, arrogant, uncaring of local needs and undemocratic by taking away any authority to make needed decisions by local elected officials.

Worse, since virtually every entity under emergency management is populated primarily by African-Americans, the exercise has been denounced by some opponents as de facto if not de jure racist.

However, just as early on, putting the city under emergency management and then into bankruptcy has gotten a lot of support. Some of that support grudging, but the city’s struggles with its finances as a symptom of its larger overall problems has been known for decades. Painful as the action was, Mr. Snyder got a fair amount of support for taking a hard step.

That support always had a contingent sense, however, which relied on what the final outcome of the bankruptcy would be. It especially relied on what might happen to the collection at the Detroit Institute of Arts. If the collection, or a part of it, were lost, then a lot of voters would be angry at Mr. Snyder.

Right now, however, the actions in the bankruptcy all seem to favor Mr. Snyder.

City pensioners, the city and bondholders have shown remarkable speed in the last several weeks on reaching agreement on different terms (granted, those agreements come after the city filed for bankruptcy nine months ago, after dozens of court hearings and with some critical elements – like an agreement on the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department – still unsettled).

Even with that caveat, it seems highly likely the city will emerge from bankruptcy and begin steps toward restoration. Restoration, though, will also likely take decades and will require a substantial economic redevelopment, improved security and mostly a new attitude toward and about the city from, well, just about everyone.

Mr. Snyder seems confident the resolution of the bankruptcy will go his way. As he filed his petitions for re-election Thursday, he praised the new hope the city has. And if the bankruptcy is completed smoothly – even with the problems of blight, crime and a weak Detroit economy ongoing – it certainly will give him a boost with voters.

But if major problems erupt – if the Legislature does not agree to the state’s $350 million part of the Grand Bargain, if the conclusion of the bankruptcy blows a gasket because no agreement on the water department can be reached, and if a couple of Van Goghs are carried out the DIA’s doors – then the political winds could very well turn and put an unwanted chill on Mr. Snyder.

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John Lindstrom
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