Blogs > Skoop's Blog

In and outs of the political campaigns, focusing on Michigan and Lansing, Tim Skubick will report regularly throughout the primary and then general election campaigns.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

On Second Thought

Poor Rep. Richard LeBlanc from Westland. He is the former local
cop turned chairperson of the Michigan State Police budget in the
Michigan House.
He had this brainstorm two weeks ago to shutter the State Police
post in downtown Detroit.
Democrat LeBlanc was hunting for some cost savings, but had no
intentions of yanking the state cops out of the city; instead he was
going to scatter them around into other cop shops in the county.
Now years ago, the chairperson of an important committee pretty
much got his or her way. Oh boy, those were the days which Mr. LeBlanc
found out in no uncertain terms.
First the state police presence in Motown is not a recent
development. In reality it goes back to the administration of former
Gov. Bill Milliken at the time that Coleman Young ran things in the
After some heinous crimes were committed on the Detroit freeways
and at a time when local cops were being laid off, Milliken sent in his
trusty side kick George Weeks to look for a solution.
And as they say the rest is history and the guys and gals in blue
have been there ever since.
Enter LeBlanc who got hit with a barrage of pressure from members
of the Detroit legislative delegation and supposedly from the House
Speaker who is, after all running for governor and would like some
votes out of Detroit.
Sheepishly under the onslaught, LeBlanc has backed off. He
refuses to say he was pressured. We'll give him the benefit of the
doubt so let's just say he had no choice but to recant. In other words
he was pressured.
He still asserts he will get some cost savings, but the crooks in
Detroit were hoping he would win this tug-of-war.
And frankly so were all those motorists with a lead foot.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Bing-Bishop Talk Hockey

Anybody got a vacant hockey rink you're not using?
With the Red Wings not re-upping their lease for the crumbling
Joe Louis Arena, speculation is rampant that the Ilitch dynasty will
build a new home downtown Motown.
Mayor David Bing would love that and he said so in a private
conversation recently with Mike Bishop, the Republican in charge of the
Michigan Senate.
"There was nothing specific," Bishop recounts his side of the
Since he revealed that talk took place, it made common sense to
ask if His Honor was hunting for any state assistance.
It's not exactly a new concept and millionaires always like to
have some public skins in the game so that their own check books are
not wiped out.
If you are an old timer, you recall the state coughed up
$800,000 a year for that white elephant known as the Silverdome in
Pontiac. And when there was chatter about a new Tiger Stadium, the
Lansing angle was in play.
So what about that Mr. Bishop?
"This is not the place to come looking for money," he advises as
he and his pals are trying to buy down a whooping $1.7 billion state
deficit at this very moment.
Bishop is content to let the Ilitch family figure this out as he
notes the Red Wing's franchise is "worth a great deal of money." Hence
the pizza guy should have "no problem finding the private dollars" to
find a place to drop the puck.
Bishop was also asked if he and Mr. Bing discussed the future of
the Pistons. Recall the former NBA star would like them to play in
Detroit over the objections of Oakland County Executive Brooks
You half expected Oakland County Senator Bishop to side with
Brooks, but he did not take the bait saying only that he wanted to keep
the Pistons in Michigan.
Actually they way they are playing…well let's not go there.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Got It Wrong Big Time

Mom always said when you make a mistake admit it. Here goes Mom.
The blog that appeared in this space on March 29th indicated,
incorrectly, that lawmakers had not taken a 10 percent pay cut. Turns
out in May of 2009 the State Officers Compensation Commission approved
the cut which is now in effect. I got it wrong…big time and apologize
to those lawmakers and to you for not getting it right. And a huge
thank you to the House Democratic staff for pointing this out. There
is no excuse for missing a story such as that.

Tim Skubick

Not Bold Enough

They called it bold.
Bold it was not. It was a meager attempt to squeeze a few million
bucks out of the legislative budget.
The House Speaker "Unveils Restructuring Plan to Cut $4.8 Million
from Budget," the democratic press release screamed in big bold print.
Andy Dillon and friends want to consolidate administrative
services such as the business office, human resources, finance and post
They also want to create one fiscal agency which does economic
forecasting. The senate and house each have one of those now. And
legislative employees would lose the state match they now enjoy for
their 401 (k) retirement plans.
While $4.8 million may seem like a ton of green, compared to the
state's $30 billion budget, it's not even a drop in the bucket.
This will not draw much attention accept to those current
employees who may be laid off.
What would get the public's attention is lawmakers doing
something about their salary and life time health care benefits.
Ah, that is a "restructuring" of a different color.
Let's tackle lawmaker's salaries.
At a time when they were trying to undo a 3% pay raise for state
union workers, lawmakers themselves have not taken an across the board
slice out of their paychecks. A handful have voluntarily done it, but
most have not. Do as I say and not as I do comes to mind.
Now you may have heard this: The legislature has passed a plan
to cut the pay of elected officials by 10%.
The statement on the surface is true and if you didn't know any
better you would assume they have taken a 10% pay cut.
Read on.
What they did do was pass a resolution that is not binding nor
does it have the power of law. The resolution calls on the State
Officers Compensation Commission (affectionately known in town as the
SOCC Commission as in Sock-it to the taxpayers) to reduce the pay.
The commission has not met and has not acted on the resolution
and when and if it does, it can ignore the request if it so chooses and
lawmakers paychecks will be left untouched.
It's clear why lawmakers don't explain all that to you when they
boast about taking a 10% phantom pay cut...they want you to think they

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Getting To Know You

GOP outsider Rick Snyder is proud that he has no hands on
experience in Lansing. All we basically know about him is what we can
glean from his TV commercials.
We know he doesn't't like ties, he owns same weird kinda looking
furniture, he's a business guy, knows how to use the computer, likes to
stick his tongue out and has linked himself to Bill Gates, Warren
Buffet, and Superman. And he's a BMOC.
What's that you say, he is not a Big Man on Campus?
He's a nerd?
Well imagine that.
Frankly this is not much to go on. Hence you would expect that he
would gladly participate in a time-honored tradition in town i.e.
filing out questionnaires
so that special interest groups can get to know him.
Turns out Mr. Snyder is not playing the game.
Maybe he's bashful?
Maybe he doesn't't know all the right answers?
Regardless, Snyder's unwillingness to fill out these questionnaires
is raising some eyebrows. He says he's not doing it because it is
inconsistent with his agenda to turn Michigan's economy around.
The Michigan Chamber of Commerce won't interview Snyder for an
endorsement unless he fills in some of their blanks.
And here's a biggy in the GOP primary: Looks like Snyder can't get
the endorsement of Michigan Right to Life unless he sends back their
Even if he does, he still may not get it because he supported
embryonic stem cell research and would allow for an abortion in the
cases of rape and or incest.
Those are deal breakers for MRTL, but yet the head of the group's
Political Action Committee is not ready to write Snyder off just yet.
Larry Galmish says sometimes candidates say one thing and later on
say another. So the PAC is willing to interview Snyder and if after
wards he has some more acceptable positions and if he fills out the
questionnaire, he will be cool with the group.
Actually all the other GOP contenders are hoping Snyder doesn't
flip on the issues or fill out the survey. Because then RTL will
conclude he is pro-abortion and that means the group will make an
endorsement in the race.
If all the candidates are pro-life the organization stays out of
the primary, but if someone in the field is not, the group wades in.
So even if Snyder fills out the paper, Mike Cox, Pete Hoekstra,
Mike Bouchard and Tom George may try to steal it so that they can get
the group's blessing.
Maybe Superman can help Snyder out if that happens.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Look Out For Those Back Wheels

Democratic candidate for governor Andy Dillon appears poised to
go where the former democratic candidate and front runner for governor
steadfastly refused to go.
Looks like Dillon is fixin' to toss his governor under the bus
and why not, it could help him win the democratic nomination.
Lt. Gov. John Cherry you'll recall was urged to put some
distance between himself and his boss as he rode to the party nod.
But Cherry could not bring himself to diss her to enhance his
own chances. Style points for being a nice guy…but we know what
happens to nice guys.
Enter Mr. Dillon.
Heretofore when asked about his disagreements with the governor,
he has played nice dismissing the question with answers such as, "I
would have done it differently" or some other quint rebuff that was
hardly hardball rhetoric.
Is that now changing?
At a forum the other day, Dillon volunteered that Ms. Granholm
was not adept at getting votes out of the legislature because she
"never built relationships" with lawmakers.
As Mark Hornbeck in the Detroit News correctly noted, it was the
most critical thing he has said to date about her.
And this may be just the beginning.
The sitting governor remains a grand person with all sorts of
energy and drive but politically she is toxic and everyone in town
knows it including Dillon.
Here is a guy who is fashioning a campaign theme that he can
stand up to his "friends" in organized labor when he has to and he's
lookin' like he'll stand up and take a shot or two at the governor.
The charge that she never built relationships with lawmakers is
certainly not for the lack of trying. The desire was there and she was
a likeable chap and fun to be around, but if there was no connection,
whose fault was that?
Certainly Dillon and his once happy sidekick and Senate GOP
leader Mike Bishop did not make her job any easier as they cut her off
at the pass, talked behind her back and seemed to be plotting to make
sure she never had a sound and trustworthy relationship with them. It
is a two-way street don't ya know.
So if Dillon is going to toss her under the bus on this point,
maybe he should haul himself and Bishop under there, too.
Look out for the rear wheels boys. They can be murder on your

Friday, March 26, 2010

Media Opportunists

There is nothing new about this but this election season it
has reached epidemic proportions. The practice of candidates latching
on to items in the news is a sure fire way to get your mug on the tube
and your name in print and Pete Hoekstra started all this way back last
At that time President Obama was making noises about finding a
new "home" for all those dastardly terrorists at GITMO and somehow
Michigan ended up on the list and the West Michigan Republican ended up
all over the media when he challenged that suggestion.
His jealous opponents, who frankly wish they had been that
smart, decried the effort with, "Hey, that's a national issue and has
nothing to do with the race for governor here."
Silly opponents.
Hoekstra gobbled up more free ink that anybody else and smiled
all the way to the free-media bank. He got his name out there and that
was the objective and if he did it on the back of a national story, so
be it.
In recent days Attorney General Mike Cox has demonstrated his
prowess as well.
Asian carp in Lake Michigan? There was Mike Cox filing more
appeals than Perry Mason.
Congress passes health care? There was Mikey joining 14 other,
mostly GOP A.G.'s, firing off a legal challenge and pounding his chest
about how bad it was to provide insurance to those who don't have it.
Imagine such an awful thing.
Toyota selling inferior products? Well after Lansing Mayor Virg
Bernero got his pound of free media out of that, Cox got into the act
as well trying to force the company to release self incriminating
On the downside, however, not all of the Cox media meandering
has bee positive as he would give his right arm to stop all the
Cox-Kwame Kilpatrick stuff that often fills the airwaves and news holes.
Bernero is a master at this game. Maybe you heard he got a lot
of face time on the talking head cable shows when the domestic auto
industry was melting down. In fact that's one of the reasons he snared
the UAW endorsement for governor.
So far you have to give this contest to Benero, Hoekstra and
Cox as Mike Bouchard, Rick Snyder, Andy Dillon, Alma Wheeler Smith, and
Tom George have pretty much been missing in action.
Maybe they don't read the paper or watch TV...or aren't as
sneaky at media manipulation as the other three?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Gutless In Lansing

Profiles in courage this ain't. An example of pretty sharp
politics, it is.
Faced with a $255 cut per pupil, lawmakers who profess that
education is their top priority, are in a box.
The governor wants them to expand the sales tax to services to
raise the funds to avert the cut, but in an election year, voting for
anything that even smells like a tax hike is verboten. But yet those
same salons run the risk of offending mom and dad back home if their
little Johnny or Janey ends up in a classroom with 50 of their closest
What's a poor legislator to do? It's a lose-lose which lawmakers
Here's what they will do: Punt.
Quietly unfolding out of view is a scheme to place the sales tax
question on the August ballot and here's the beauty of the move: If
voters approve the sales tax change, the schools are saved. If the
voters reject the sales tax and $255 is sliced from every school kid,
it's the voters who are to blame and not the lawmakers.
"We didn't't cut education, you did," willl be the defensive rally
cry of lawmakers seeking to save their own political necks this
election cycle.
Pretty nifty, hey!
"I think lawmakers should have the courage to do this," the
governor advised the weary legislators the other day. Easy for her to
say, she is not running for anything this time out.
But alas, she adds, if they can't muster that courage, she would
not stand in the way of allowing the citizens to take the lawmakers off
the hook.
So far there is not a consensus to take this escape route, but
knowing these guys and gals, it's only a matter of time before they do
the math and pawn this puppy off on you. Arf. Arf.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

He Said-He Said

About the only thing we know for sure about this blog is that
somebody is not telling the truth.
Don Nugent is a life-long republican and a member of the Michigan
State University Board of Trustees.
Chuck Yob is the former National Committeeman and honcho in the
state Republican party and now a paid political consultant.
Yob and the Nuge go back forty years.
But Nugent reports, "I have a hard time talking to him" now.
Here's why.
Trustee Nugent is in a reelection mode and as he tells his side of
the story, the aforementioned Mr. Yob came to him last January with an
offer: Yob wanted to help run the campaign for a tidy sum of $5,000 a
month. In the course of the exchange between the two veteran GOPers,
Yob reportedly said if Nugent didn't't sign up, Yob would find somebody
to run against him for the board seat.
"We can keep others from running against you," Yob supposedly
"I don't like that way of doing business,' Nugent now reflects
plus he told Yob, "I can't afford you.' Hence, no deal.
So what about this alleged political shakedown Mr. Yob? "That's
not true. That's an outright lie," he emphasized the point.
Yob says he does not operate that way but some others in the
party are not so sure.
Short of forcing both gentlemen to submit to a lie-detector test,
we may never know the truth.
But former state GOP chair David Doyle, who did get the Nugent
consulting contract has his take. "I've know both men for a long time"
and Doyle made it clear he does not want to get into the middle of this
but he did offer this: "Don has never said anything that wasn't 100%
Mr. Yob may think the number is closer to 95%.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Explosive About Face

For decades when it comes to 4th of July time, Michigan residents
become instant lawbreakers thanks to lawmakers who have banned really
dangerous fireworks.
Hence, half the state travels across the border into Ohio to pick
up the contraband and everyone secretly crosses the Michigan state line
hoping the state cops don't nab them en route to the family picnic.
But hope is on the way.
The continuing budget crunch is forcing lawmakers to get inventive
and here's the latest scheme: Legalize those fireworks, force the
seller to pay a fee and the money would go, where else? Into a fund to
cover the cost of local fire services.
It makes sense. Since the explosives are undoubtedly going to
cause some grass fires or injury to somebody, the local fire shops will
need the extra money to respond to all the firework mayhem.
Chalk it up as another example of how far lawmakers will go to
avoid a revenue increase. If dangerous fireworks were too risky in the
past, why all of a sudden is it safe to light these things now?
Because lawmakers don't want to tax you in the pocketbook and if you
lose a digit fumbling around with these M-80's and the like, that's
your fault not their's.
On a grander level the concept of a user fee, which is what the
fireworks fee would be, the backers of more revenue for the roads are
still stuck in neutral unable to muster enough votes to raise the road
Here again it makes logical sense to let those who use the roads,
pay for the roads. Yet as noted in this space countless times before,
when has logic ever been the touch stone of legislative decisions?
The road building lobby is running out of patience as it remains
clueless on how to break the log jam in this election year. The best
hope now is for a vote after the November election which means another
construction season will come and go with the pot holes getting bigger,
the cracks in the freeway bridges getting wider and because Michigan
can't match the federal highway dollars, that money will go to Ohio and
At least you won't have to drive to Ohio to get your

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Foot In Mouth Extraction

It's trite but still true: Timing is everything in politics and
Richard Bernstein is like the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland i.e.
he is late..oh yeah, really late.
In case you missed it, last week the democratic candidate for
Attorney General volunteered that there were many in the party,
supposedly including himself, who had had enough of the United Auto
Workers tossing their political weight around in the state Democratic
"People are tired of being pushed around and told what to do," the
passionate Mr. Bernstein asserted.
It was a great quote and almost unheard of in the annals of state
Democratic politics for someone to take on the UAW with such a direct
verbal broadside knowing that the union can influence who gets what
The comments sat out there for week. Untouched by other media
outlets, Bernstein's opponent David Leyton, whom the UAW likes, finally
weighted in calling Mr. B.'s remarks "highly disrespectful" to the
union leaders.
This prompted, out of fairness, an overture to the Bernstein
campaign to assess what push back, if any, it had suffered since the
original comments.
An email dated March 17, seven days after the interview, arrived at
2:18 p.m.
"Richard is a union member," it began…"He respects the UAW and the
labor movement and will be a great partner to them if elected," it went
There was no hint of an apology.
But something happened between 2:18 and 4:20 when a second email
arrived with this: "I made a poor choice in words and I apologize if
my remarks were off-putting."
Yes, it was an acknowledgment that he was sorry for what he said
on March 11th.
But why did it take a week for him to figure out he made a mistake?
Had the apology come within hours or even a day of the original
statements, that has some credibility.
But it took the Bernstein gang one week to figure out it needed to
remove the candidate's foot from his mouth.
Hence the apology looks more like an 11th hour political damage
control move rather than a sincere and from the heart, "I'm sorry."
Maybe it took him a week to figure out he spoke out of turn.
Or maybe he still believes what he said; he just doesn't want to
stand by his opinion for fear it might cost him the party A.G.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

That Time Off With Pay Thing Again

Here they go again and why should we not be surprised.
Last summer in the midst of legislative efforts to solve a $1.8
billion budget hole, legislative leaders pulled a fast one.
Instead of just being straight up with everyone about leaving
town for most of the summer, they created the impression that for at
least one day a week, they would return to town to do the citizen's
It was a ruse. When the appointed days came, they went by the
boards as no one showed.
At this point in this rant, one is obliged to trot out the
standard company line that leadership always uses when the issue of
time out of Lansing is brought up by the media.
"Just because we are not in Lansing does not mean we are not back
home working on state issues," is the time-honored explanation. And
for all we know it may be correct but last time anyone checked, there
was no way to check what lawmakers were actually doing "back in the
And short of assigning 148 capitol correspondents to spend each
day with each lawmaker back home, we will never know; so guess we will
just have to trust the leaders. (Yeah, that is a s-t-r-e-t-c-h isn't
Now comes Spring Break 2010.
The state is facing another budget crisis as long as your arm and
leg glued together. There are no agreements on how to fix it other
than a commitment, in principle, to get the job done by July first.
Hence there is no rush; why should anyone fret about taking two weeks
off and besides the Speaker of the House asserts that "committees will
be meeting" during the break?
Trust him.
Two weeks ago Speaker Andy Dillon was asked if there would be a
spring break? He said he did not know leaving the impression that,
sensing the urgency of the state's fiscal pickle, he just might keep
everyone in town instead.
Silly, silly senior capitol correspondent.
You could almost hear all the lawmaker's children, spouses and
others who were demanding time off. What is a poor lawmaker to do? If
you have family values, you must be true to those and take the time off.
Besides, no one was going to resolve this budget mess anyway right
now, so what the hey!
What's a little more time off. Heck everyone will come back
refreshed and will get this assignment done before July first.
Right! Any you know what will freeze over, too!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Teamster's Snake Pit

The "They Had A Lotta Guts" award this week goes to Rick Snyder
and Virg Bernero.
Snyder is the Ann Arbor business guy seeking to translate his lack
of experience in Lansing into a seat in the governor's office. And
Bernero, of course, is the angriest Mayor in American seeking to make
sure he it is he, and not Synder, getting that job.
At any rate, both were invited to attend a meeting of the
Teamster's union political screening committee the other day. And both
showed up, hence the award.
Snyder is a Republican and while the Teamsters have an independent
streak and have endorsed a Republican here and there, it was not
exactly a friendly audience that sat quietly as Snyder pitched his,
"I'm not a career politician" story in hopes of winning a few converts.
Bill Black, who runs the political arm of the union, was
"It takes a lot of nerve. He gets style points for showing-up,"
he reflects.
Now Snyder did not exactly wow the guys in the room when they
asked about the union's top priority the so-called "Mis-classification"
of workers whereby folks are hired as Independent Contractors rather
than regular employees with full benefits.
Snyder, whose been in business for years, told the group he would
have to research the issue a little more before he weighted in.
Even so Black was still nice saying, "That's the type of person he
is to show up anywhere and anytime" to talk about his candidacy.
Bernero also got good marks for showing up in that he has had
problems with his local Teamsters union including some unfair labor
practices and a not so smooth recent round of contract talks. But yet
there he was pitching his pro-union and populous message.
Black had warned his members to be respectful to everyone.
Why did he have to do that?
"These are the Teamsters,' he joked "who like to tell you what's
on their mind."
But he correctly asked them to be nice because, "You don't know
who the next governor is going to be."
Synder and Bernero, of course, hope it will be them which is why
they waded into the snake pit in the first place.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Pure Baloney

Come hell or high water, the legislative Republicans remain
fixated on one objective: To get through this election cycle without
ever raising any new revenue to balance the budget which is dipping
deeper into the red with no Obama money to tip the scale into the black.
This desire to stay on message and craft a self-serving
election year mantra, i.e. we did not raise your taxes so elect us,
maybe the right thing politically but when it comes to the Pure
Michigan campaign, the governor has this one right, it is
In case you don't have a TV, the wonderfully written and
produced Pure Michigan tourism commercials are a work of art and have
convinced lots of non-Michiganders to visit the state. In other words
the Tim Allen voice over spots work.
But it can't work without the $$ to buy the TV ads to lure
those out of starters to visit the island, Motown, the capitol or Uncle
John's Cider Mill up there in St. Johns.
Democrats have found an ingenious way to find the money by
taxing rental cars at the airport. Last time anyone checked local
taxpayers don't rent cars there; business guys and tourists do. So the
D's figure, let them foot the bill.
But even though it is a tax hike on non-residents, the
Republicans argue it is still a tax hike and by Gawd, they are not
going to raise taxes on anybody just to preserve their "no tax pledge.'
"We are approaching a drop dead date," warns George Zimmerman who
runs the state tourist shop and is itching to buy up the TV time to air
the commercials.
The stalemate to date means the state can't buy any spots in
April; that time is already sold out.
And unless there is a resolution within two weeks, it will be
ditto for the month of May which state officials point out is the month
many families decide where to spend their vacation money.
Greg Main from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation
figures if the state misses the May buy, you can just forget about the
summer advertising campaign altogether and watch the sale of fudge take
a dive.
If that happens, the state will lose millions of dollars in new
revenue from our temporary visitors, but the GOP does not care. When
it comes to helping the state or helping themselves to get reelected,
you know what is more important.
Somebody tell Tim Allen he can give his voice a rest this summer.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Richard vs. Goliath

This could get real nasty and fast.
    The battle for Attorney General on the democratic side is shaping up as a battle of the titans.  On one side you have the Bernstein family and the trial lawyers and on the other, the political punch of the United Auto Worker's union.
    The two sides are on a collison course and Richard Bernstein could not be happier.
    "We're going to have one hell of a convention," he said bursting at the seams at the thought of taking on the most powerful union in the Democratic party.
     Bernstein is not bashful about laying it out.
     Traditionally the union has been the 800 pound gorilla and is never bashful about tossing around its weight.
     Bernstein says he and others are tired of all that.
     "When you look at the UAW, there's a lot of people in this party who are tired of being pushed around and there's a lot of people who are being tired of being told what to do" and as if that is not enough, it closes with, "and there's a lot of people who are saying basically, you know, enough is enough."
     Take that Solidarity House.  Warm letter to follow.
     The union wants David Leyton, the prosecutor in Genesee County to be the Attorney General as a possible stepping stone to being governor some day.
    "I will not use the job as a stepping stone to anything,' Bernstein asserts while being reminded that the union controls a ton of delegates at a state party convention.
     Bernstein says he is not scared off by that and predicts, "I will bring all kinds of new people into the party" to help him beat Goliath.
     With his daddy's money and ground support from the trial lawyers, you can't count him out.
     Bernstein doesn't saying, "I've been counted out my entire life…This just makes me work harder."
     Oh boy.  This will be fun to watch.

Apparently Richard Bernstein believes he can nail the democratic
nomination for Attorney General without the aid of the United Auto
Workers union. That's because he torched that bridge last week.
Without prompting from a pushy reporter, Mr. Bernstein of
Bernstein, Bernstein, Bernstein and Bernstein fame (come on you've seen
the TV commercials) volunteered that lots of folks in the state D party
are tired of being "pushed around and told what to do" by the UAW.
Bernstein pledged to bus load some new folks into the party mini
convention next month to wrestle the nomination from the UAW and its
candidate for A.G., David Leyton.
Leyton, the Genesee County Prosecutor, read the anti-union attack
and called it "highly disrespectful" to the union leaders who over the
years helped to create the middle class and along the way used their
backroom influence to propel this pol and that into office.
"It was out of left field,' Leyton noted while adding another note
of criticism aimed at his opponent.
Leyton recalls that when Mr. Bernstein ran for the Wayne State
Board of Governors, he secured the UAW endorsement. Now he is fighting
the very same union.
Asked if that was an example of hypocrisy in action, Leyton dove
for the high grass saying, "That's your word, not mine." Come on
councilor, you surely recognize a hypocrite when you see one?
At any rate, Bernstein's remarks have certainly been reviewed at
Solidarity House and some theorize what chance he had at the nomination
has gone out the window. The union most certainly wouldn't push people
around at the convention to make sure Bernstein doesn't beat Leyton?
Or would it?
Bernstein may have been wrong to take on the UAW but he gets high
marks for speaking his mind and he is right about one thing, "This is
going to be one hell of a convention."
Oh yeah.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Experience Factor

    You've got to admire Rick Snyder, the GOP business guy running for governor.  He can put a positive spin on just about anything you toss at him… even it defies logic.
    Here's what he uttered the other day when the conversation turned to his undeniable lack of experience under the capitol dome as he proudly promotes himself as the consumate non-career politician.
   "Term limits will actually help me if I'm elected," he opined.
   "Wow.  The blind leading the blind," was the instant analysis from one reporter chatting with the Ann Arbor outsider.
     Snyder laughed but his statement meant that with no experience he would be right at home with all the inexperienced lawmakers showing up in town for the first time next year, and that somehow would present a template for getting something done.  The phrase, the blind leading the blind comes to mind.
     Talk to the 44 new comers in the Michigan House, who now, some 14 months into their 24 month term, have just begun to have an impact on the process and even that is minimal.  The learning curve is steep, and even the ones who supported term limits coming in, want no part of it going out.
     This is not to say that Snyder, with no experience, can't be successful. But some, such as the sheriff of Oakland County, argue a new governor in this economy, should hit the ground running with no time for on the job training.
     That will be one of the focal points of the GOP primary for governor as
 Mike Bouchard points to his years in the legislative trenches.  Pete Hoekstra has 19 years in Congress and Mike Cox has eight years as Attorney General.  Snyder dismisses them all as professional politicians.
    It will be a fasicanating debate and Synder is confident he can transfer his business world acumen to the decidedly different political world of Lansing.
     The outsider mantra does have box office appeal in this anti-incumbent climate.  The question is how many outsiders does it take to screw-up the legislative process or fix it? 

Friday, March 12, 2010

My Side vs. Your Side

     Everybody knows Michigan is a divided state.  There are "us' over here and "them" over there where Lake Michigan  hit the shoreline of a culturally different part of the state.
    And Michigan voters have not exactly fallen in love with the last two guys from "that" side of the state who ran for governor.  In fact nobody remembers Dick Posthumus.  You do remember Dick DeVos but you also remember you didn't much like him.
    Now comes a guy from as West Michigan as you can get, Pete Hoekstra of Holland.  He's running for the GOP nomination for governor and doing quite well even though he is not from over "here."
   Yet the popular wisdom suggests he won't win because Southeast Michigan voters will decided the outcome.  
    A prominent GOP pollster, researcher and campaign consultant who does not have a dog in the hunt offers a different take…a decidedly different take.
    This source, who wants to remain anyomous, argues that only 700,000 or so voters will show up for the GOP primary next August.  And 60% of those folks live outside the immediate Detroit-Metro media market of 13 counties.
    So what?
   Hoekstra has a base of voters in West Michigan from St. Joe to Ludington.  In fact he calls it Fortress Hoekstra and if he can just get his folks on "that" side of the state to hold the fort, he can win…so his theory goes.
    And the theory just got a huge kick in the pants.  West Michigan voters may turn out in unusually high numbers in August because there are two open Congressional seats in play.  Hoekstra and Vern Ehlers are not running for Congress and a host of Republicans are. That means it will be a very competitive primary and GOP voters may come out of the woodwork.
    And while they are voting for two new Congressman, they may hang around long enough to also vote for the guy with the Dutch name.
   Presto-change-o, Hoekstra wins.
   The Cox campaign begs to differ.  It contends that the Detroit media market is 46% of the voting population while the so-called "Fortress' is only 22%.  Do the math Cox-ittes argue.
   Nonetheless at this read, it is Hoekstra who has the lead and Cox is in third place.  Yet the advertising war has yet to begin, and once it does, look for the numbers to be volatile especially since Hoekstra is low on dough.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

You Can't Make This Stuff Up

       In an unbelieveable move, some key union leaders have asked former candidate for governor, John Cherry, to reconsider his decision to drop out of the race.
       It is another in a series of unprecedented twists in the democratic race for governor that has turned this spectacle into a certified train wreck.
       Here is the irony.
       Last December when then candidate John Cherry knew his campaign was about to self-destruct, he went to the UAW and pleaded for its early endorsement.  Cherry needed an infusion of money and grassroots support to keep his front-runner campaign alive.
       The union stiffed him.
       Within a month, Cherry shocked the political establishment by packing it in.
       Now within the last week, the union leaders went back to Cherry hoping he might change his mind.  He told them no. Cherry will not confirm any of this only to say, "I don't know what you are talking about."
       The fact that this happened underscores that some elements in the state's labor movement are not overjoyed with the current field for governor including House Speaker Andy Dillon, Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero, and Rep. Alma Wheeler Smith.
       Each has enough baggage to warrant an attempted re-do on Cherry.
       Labor appears to be fragmented which is not always a healthy sign and also nothing new.
       Dillon is getting the endorsement of the Building Trades unions.  The leadership was pleased when the Redford democrat took on Gov. Granholm last year when she wanted to slap a hold on badly needed construction jobs on a proposed coal-fired plant. 
       Benero may get the UAW endorsement, but there are mixed signals on that.
      And Ms. Smith, who clearly has the resume to be governor, is not raising any money and it appears no one is coming to her rescue.
      On top of all that, the Teamsters may be looking at an endorsement in the other party which would not be out of character for them.
      All of this is reaching critical mass as union leaders are set to huddle behind closed doors on Friday hoping against hope to find a consensus candidate for governor.
      "I think we can," reflects David Hecker who runs the Michigan Federation of Teachers.
       Based on all these latest signals, Mr. Hecker might want to think again.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Messin' With Mikey

    Michigan's political landscape is strewn with popular wisdom that turned out to be false.  To wit, John Engler can't beat Gov. Jim Blanchard; Jennifer Granholm can't beat money bags Dick DeVos and now comes Mike
 Bouchard will disconnect from the governor's race to seek a more winnable seat in Congress.
    Where the heck did that notion come from?
    Certainly not from Bouchard whose campaign sent out a to the point statement:  "I'm running for governor.  I am not running for Congress."
    Nonetheless seems like all the other campaigns have heard this "rumor" that goes like this:  Bouchard's gov effort is not getting traction despite his impressive $800,000 fund raising get; the GOP folks in D.C. want to take out Oakland County incumbent Congressman Gary Peters in the worse way and they figure Bouchard is the guy to do it; dissolving the Bouchard-Terri Land ticket would be a two-fer for the party in that Land could run for retiring Congressman Vern Ehler's seat and forget about be lt. governor with Bouchard.
    Far-fetched, of course.
    Totally out of the question, of course not.
    Just for the sake of filling out the rest of this blog, let's assume that the buzz has some gravitas, the first challenge for Bourchad is how does he "message" this thing in a positive way.
    His detractors will quickly tag Bouchard with job-hunting for his own person gain.  The story line?  Unable to win the governor's nomination, the political opportunist Mike Bouchard went hunting for a post he might win.  When will this guy just stop running for every office that opens up?
    The tag could stick, but Bouchard could counter it with this:  The party came to me with the desire to win back control of the Michigan Congressional delegation so that we could effectively fight President Obama's socialist policies.  If we defeat Peters, and Terri holds onto the GOP seat on the west side of the state, we can do more good for Michigan.  So it is with reluctance that I bow out of the governor's race for the good of the party.
    Hog wash says the Bouchard team and don't forget, some of the other contenders would love to undercut his effort, so why not fan a story that puts El Sheriff in a negative light. Bouchard's guys can't prove that, but they are surely thinking it.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Switalski Hit By Rangel Mess

      State Senator Mickey Switalski probably doesn't know Congressman Charlie Rangel from Adam, but Mr. Rangel has had a profound impact on the senator's  effort to unseat incumbent Congressman Sandy Levin this August.
      Funny how seemingly unrelated political events can be linked and in this case the New York Congressman's behavior has influenced the outcome of the contest between the Macomb County Senator and the incumbent Democratic Congressman from Royal Oak.
      Check this out.  Switalski shocked the political establishment last year by announcing that he would challenge Sandy Levin who has served in Congress since 1983.
     What did the Mickster have to lose?  He was term limited out of Lansing, had no where to go, so why not take a swipe at the 78 year old incumbent and if lightening struck, Switalski could trade his Senator's label for U.S. Congressman.
     To be chartiable to the challenger it was a long-shot from the get go until Mr. Rangel got into trouble over ethical questions surrounding his personal finances.  In the wake of that Rangel stepped down as chair of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee.
     And guess who is the new chair?
     Much to Switalski's chagrin, its  none other than Sandy Levin.
     Levin now has control over Congressional spending or if you want to be blunt, he can influence where the pork barrel funds go.  Which means he can campaign back here and tell local voters, if you send me back to Congress I will make sure Michigan gets its fair share of federal support. 
     In a battered economy, any ray of hope will be greeted with applause, and how does Switalski counter that?
     He might say, "I'm against pork barrel spending." 
     But Levin can counter, "So am I, but if other state's are going to take it, Michigan is now at the head of the line to get something, too."
     Mr. Levin will milk this chairmanship for all it is worth, and Mr. Switalski can't do much about it, accept send a nasty note to Rangel for messing up what little chance he had of winning in the first place.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Searching For A Scapegoat

      The Michigan Education Association is taking some hits for allegedly derailing the state's effort to secure $400 million in badly needed extra cash for the state's battered school system.
      It didn't take long for the boo-birds to go after the MEA when it was revealed last week that Michigan did not make the cut for the Race to the Top bonanza being doled out by the Obama folks.
      It is true that MEA balked at many of the so-called reforms.  It wanted to see everything in writing but got a 12-page summary instead.
      It is true that that the Obama folks were looking for states where all the special interests were on the same page and obviously Michigan did not fit that criterion.
      So conservative columnist are lashing out at the union and even the governor sort of hinted the other day that the MEA may have been part of the problem.  "I worry about that.  I don't know for sure," was her tepid response.
     And to make matters worse the Lansing State Journal popped a story the other day by pointing out that while rank and file teachers around the state were taking pay hits or measly pay increases that barely reached a half a percent, the leadership at the giant teacher's union was hauling down annual raises between seven and nine percent.  In fact since 2005 those increases approached 19%.
     In other words it has not been a good week for the union.
     The spokesperson for the MEA defended the staff increases under the rubric that to keep good talent, you have to pay good wages.
     But it rings hallow because the teachers in the trenches could make the same argument and probably with more veracity since they actually teach children, while the leadership at the union oversees the teachers who do the teaching.
     Beating up on the MEA is a popular in-door sport in this town.  It was former Gov. John Engler who made it fashionable and others have picked up where he left off.
     The union will get another chance to flex its muscles when lawmakers and the governor take another shot at round two of RTTT money.  Rep. Tim Melton who runs the House Education committee says he wants to review the federal critique of the state's plan, to see if improvements can be made.
     "We'll have to see if we have the political will to make the changes," he warns.
       MEA are ya listening?

Sunday, March 7, 2010

That's A "No"

       If it hasn't already, the phones will start ringing off the hook in the office of Michigan's junior U.S. Senator and Debbie Stabenow knows it.
       With the field for governor on the democratic side apparently set, there will be some disgruntled D's who are not happy with the prospects of a Virg Bernero, Andy Dillon or Alma Wheeler Smith sitting in Jennifer Granholm's seat.
       Which is why they will be calling Ms. Stabenow.
       The calls are nothing new.  For over a year the Lansing democrat has fielded inquiries about her interest in replacing JMG.  Far as anyone can tell, Stabenow has never budged an inch in that direction.
       Don't be mislead.  Stabenow did have an interest in the job and fought long and hard with former Congressman Howard Wolpe for the nomination. She settled for the second spot on the ticket but she and Wolpe lost to john Engler in a battle that was not even close.
      But that was way back when and this is now and Stabenow concludes, "I can serve Michigan best where I am" as the highest ranking woman in the U.S. democratic ranks including a seat on the powerful Finance Committee.
      "Why would I want to leave?" she asks herself and then answers the question saying she does not .  Yet others fret about the trio running for governor, and they will tell her she can win this thing if she got in.
       Easy for somebody else to say and certainly easier said than done.
       Former social worker Stabenow was not a math major but she can add this stuff up and it makes zero sense for her to make the run even though she would not have to give up her senate seat to do it.
      She is ensconced in a fairly safe seat in the world's most exclusive debating society.  She has been given substantive issues to tackle and has a grand working relationship with the Obama administration.
      Baring any unforseen pratfalls, she should glide into another six year term when she runs again in 2012.
      So why rock the boat when she is on a smooth sailing projectory?
       Nonetheless the phones will ring and ring and her staff will repeat and repeat that the boss is not interested.
      That's a no, then?
      "That's a no," she fires back hoping to snip this speculation off before it multiplies.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Which Way Did They Go?

          Oh my.  The democrats were elated when the presidential election results came in.  By an whooping 2 to 1 ratio, the always illusive youth vote went for Barack Obama.
        For eternity, both political parties have tried, and mostly unsuccessfully, to lure the 18 to 29 voter into their party and now here was proof positive that these young-ins were Democrats and some even boosted this was the genesis of a new Democratic movement.
       Well a funny thing happened on the way to the movement.  The 18-29 year olds abandoned Obama when he needed them most.
       When former U.S. Senator Teddy Kennedy's seat was up for grabs, the democrats assumed the young voters would turn out since Obama was pushing for a democrat to replace Mr. K. 
       The votes were counted.  The Democratic candidate lost. And the "kids" were nowhere to be found.
       Ditto for other special elections in New Jersey and North Carolina.  If there was a movement, you needed a magnifying glass at the polls to find it.
      To underscore the mercurial nature of this voting segment, a new PEW Research Center survey suggests that these first-time, young minorities and other youths are not wedded to the Democrats.
      Just after the Obama tidal wave, 62% of these folks declared they were D's.  The number is now 54%.  And to make matters worse for the D's, only 30% of these voters considered themselves Republicans in 2008 with the number shooting up to 40% now.  The so-called movement is moving in the wrong direction for the Democrats.
      So what gives?
      Democrats got it wrong when they saw all those votes for Obama in that they mistakenly thought the young adults would be loyal.  Hey man, they were voting for the man and not the party which is why it was easy to abandon the party when the man was not on the ballot.
      Both parties are desperate to hang onto these voters because they compose one-fourth of the U.S. electorate which is enough to decide any election…if they drop their Game-Boys and Blackberries long enough to vote.
      Getting them to vote is problematic as party loyalty is not in the DNA of these potentially influential kids.  Their only real allegiance is to themselves.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Save Those Bumper Stickers

   Hang onto those Dan Kildee for Governor bumper stickers.  They are about to become a collectors item as Kildee is expected, barring an 11th hour change of heart, to remove himself from the Democratic primary on Friday.
   In reality, nobody can hang onto the bumpers stickers because the Genesee County democrat's bid never got that far.
   Kildee said two weeks ago, "I intend to run."  But when the UAW sent word that it was going with Lansing Mayor Virg Benero, a certain fear gripped what there was of the Kildee for Governor campaign.  There was certain to be a domino effect, one insider put it.  First the UAW defected and other unions were sure to follow.
   Despite his years of carrying the water for labor in Genesee County, it was labor that rewarded Kildee by hanging him out to dry.
   There were fears in some democratic circles that if Kildee remained in the hunt with Bernero, those two would divided up the mainstream democratic vote leaving another 30% or so of the more conservative labor folks to side with Speaker Andy Dillon.  Theory was Dillon could then win and some factions in labor did not want that to happen.
   Part of Kildee's problem was he got a lot start once Lt. Gov. John Cherry dropped out. Bernero did not hesitate and pulled the trigger while Kildee was still looking for the trigger to pull.
   Kildee had second thoughts about this all along because he kept hearing that labor needed to find a consensus candidate.  But he still figured if he formed an exploratory committee, he could once and for all prove that he could cobble together a winning effort.
   In the end, he could not prove it and now it looks like Mr. Bernero has emerged the front runner.
   Ironically Kildee lamented weeks ago when he got the sense that he would be odd man out:  Does organized labor want somebody who is a good campaigner or someone who would be a good governor?
   It was a good question and turns out Kildee was not the answer.

Virg On The Verge?

   The caller  was direct:  I have it from a reliable source that the UAW is going to endorse the Mayor of Lansing.
    Wow.  The "Virg" on the verge of a mando endorsement.
    Actually the caller was a day late.  On Tuesday another source sent along the same story.
    That prompted a call to the man.  When his recorded voice came on the line, this cryptic message was left:  "I'd like to run the story that the UAW is going to endorse you.  Give me a buzz."
     A short time later while grinding away the miles on the tread mill the return call came in.  "What have you heard? I have not heard anything," the excited Virg Bernero reported.
    The buzz is all over town and of course it is not official until it is official but even the thought of landing such a plumb blessing is good news for Bernero who desperately needs this to jump start his fund raising efforts.
     The union would do him a huge favor by trotting it out now and how ironic.  At the time that Lt. Gov. John Cherry truly needed the UAW's help late last year, the union stiffed him and as Paul Harvey once said, "You know the rest of that story."
     Any Democrat would give almost anything to have the financial and grass roots support that comes with a UAW tap on the head.
    But just having that, while important, does not guarantee a win.
    Ask Larry Owen who got lots of union support when he ran for the democratic nomination for governor years ago and ended up losing the nomination to a guy named Fieger as in Geoffrey.  The UAW proceeded to stiff Fieger and you know the rest of that story, too i.e. John Engler wins a third term.
    There are some who will see this pending endorsement as an effort to wedge another labor Democrat out of the race namely Dan Kildee out of Genesee County.  Kildee and others buy into the theory that he and Bernero would divide up the mainstream democratic vote and the Blue Dog and more conservative labor folks would hi-tail it to Andy Dillon thus handing him the nomination.
    Kildee is not about to be scared off  by one endorsement but he did concede the other day if Bernero gets it, "It does change things."
    Oh yeah.  It sure do. (sic)

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Finger on the Trigger

       He has cocked the gun, but not pulled the trigger.  Yet this is the closest Joe Schwarz has come to running for governor as an independent candidate.
       When we last visited the former state senator/GOP congressman, he was in the midst of deciding what to do about this bid as the state on Sunday watched the U.S. lose in O.T. to the folks north of us.
       "I'm inclined to run," he revealed on Monday morning and lo and behold by Tuesday afternoon he cocked the gun by forming an exploratory committee.  He won't actually pull the trigger unless the exploration produces money, supporters and his guts to take a risk…all of these are unanswered questions at this read.
       Yet a possible independent bid for governor has the town talking. Schwarz actually followed the advice of what passes as his kitchen cabinet.  A majority of them told him, "You'll never know unless you try."
       A Schwarz candidacy potentially hurts Democrat Andy Dillon and Republican Pete Hoekstra the most.
       Schwarz no longer considers himself a republican because he is way too moderate for those who own the party.  He's out of step with Right to Life; he's willing to work with Democrats to get things done which puts him at odds with the Tea Party crowd which loathes any compromising of their principles; and he's open to a tax hike if elected.
       In other words, Schwarz has appeal to the sensible center of both the GOP and Democratic Parties which is the very same voters both Hoesktra and Dillon need to win their party nominations.
      Schwarz has seen recent "fresh data" suggesting he would siphon more votes from his former party while at the same time attracting some democrats, too.  That's why he has a shot, albeit a long shot, at winning this thing.
     He says the time has never been better for an independent party candidate to tap into an electorate that is fed-up with incumbents and career politicians.  Dr. Schwarz is a career politician but maybe with the "I" for indpendent after his name, voters will not automatically rule him out.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Dillon's Bouncy Launch

    He looks the part, but his campaign does least not yet.
     Democratic candidate for governor Andy Dillon does look like a governor.  All he needs is the votes to be one.
     However his campaign for governor designed to deliver those votes is not exactly hitting on all eight cylinders…more like four.  
     Dillon needed to make a good impression in Lansing where the political press corps thrives on politics and is capable of picking apart even the smallest flub.  He might get away with this stuff in Grand Rapids or even in Detroit, but the Lansing visit should have been a flawless performance.
     It was not.
     Scheduled for 11 a.m., the appointed hour came and went as the press secretary told everyone it would be 11:15 instead.  No sweat there.  Former Gov. Jim Blanchard was always late but he had the job.  Dillon was auditioning for it.  Huge difference.
     At around 11:20 or so, still no Dillon and his worker bees finally showed up with the sound system and the big Dillon for Michigan backdrop.  They scrambled to get it all set up.  Good thing the star was late.
     "He's in the building," a flustered yet relieved media secretary Ken Coleman was able to tell all the scribes.
      But instead of heading to the news conference, Dillon took a side trip to a meeting of business executives who happened to be in the building at the same time. 
      He dropped in to say hi, said he was running for governor and left for the news conference.  It is now approaching 11:40.
      En route a local reporter stopped him in the hallway.  At this point, a seasoned campaign machine would have told her politely to get lost and go up stairs with the other reporters.  But Team Dillon just stood there with the clock ticking off even more time while she asked some inane questions about something or other.
      Finally after five minutes or so, Coleman intervened, "Last question."
      Dillon, now some 45 minutes tardy, made his way to the news conference.
     After wards asked about the delay, Dillon said the 11 a.m. time was when the media was supposed to be in place.  Nobody said that before and Dillon protested that he had been on time.
     Close but no cigar.
     Symbolism is everything in politics.  His Lansing launch was not very pretty and some of his inside circle knew it.  Dillon has time, despite this pratfall, to whip these folks into shape.  If he doesn't, he can forget about being late like Gov. Blanchard.