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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.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Getting Out of Dodge

   Brace yourself.  Here we go with another round of chatter over legislative time off from Lansing.
   By the end of this week, the state's 148 lawmakers will have wrapped a very productive first five months in office.  They got the budget done four months ahead of time; they slapped a very unpopular tax on some pensions and the business community got a windfall $1.7 billion tax break that may or may not create any new jobs.
   It was impressive and they worked hard with the governor to get there, so why not leave town for two months?
   Two months?  Don't most working slugs get two weeks?
 There are no slugs in Lansing boys and girls.  July and August are set aside by the GOP leadership as time to get back to the district to see how the other half lives.
   "It would be unfair to call this a recess," observes the former GOP Speaker of the Michigan House Rick Johnson who presided over time off when he was in office.
     He thinks legislators are busier when they are home than up here.  He may be right, but how in the heck do you prove it?
     You don't.
     There are not enough correspondents to go around the state to keep tabs on what is actually being done during these two months.  So the "honor system" will have to apply.
     Yeah, that is a little scary.
      Certainly Gov. Rick Snyder must have concerns given his self-described work-a-holic drive to get things done.  You can't do much reinventing if there's nobody in town to reinvent.
      Former Gov. Jennifer Granholm once complained about all the time off and she was escorted to the legislative woodshed where leaders from her own party told her to knock it off pronto.
     Hence, Mr. Snyder is not about to take the same pratfall.
     "They are back in the district.  So they're not really taking time off," he lectured the capitol press corps the other day.
      "This is part of the normal tradition," he reflected.
      Ah.  Traditions.  Aren't they grand.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

RTW Train Coming

   Even though there were some in the news media that lusted for a Wisconsin-like confrontation here between labor and Republicans, it never materialized, but don't give up hope.
   It's only a matter of time before conservative Republicans move on flipping Michigan into a Right to Work state whereby you don't have to join a union even if your job is in a union shop.
   It's a freedom of choice issue and a job creator claim the proponents, but call it what you will, for organized labor around these parts, RTW are fighting words and fight they will.
   State Democratic Party Chair Mark Brewer sums it up the best, "It will create the biggest multi-year fight that will be all over the national news.  Why would anyone want to invest here when we have that kind of fighting going on here in Michigan?"
    Now Mr. Brewer and the new GOP governor share very little in common but they agree on the blood-bath a protracted labor vs. business battle would spawn.
    During the campaign and now in office, Gov. Rick Snyder has made it clear that RTW is not on his immediate or far-range agenda.  He has said he would sign it, if it got to his desk, but betting money is, he never wants to see it on his desk.
    But some conservatives are not detracted from their mission.
    Leading the charge is Rep. Marty Knollenberg out of Oakland County who reflects on Brewer's dire warning with: "That's a matter of debate."
    As for his governor's less than rousing endorsement, the GOP lawmaker observes, "It's our job to bring things to him."  But what if he doesn't want this brought to him?
    The governor must know this kind of conservative stuff is not going to vanish just because he thinks it should.  Which is maybe why he is fixin' to keep lawmakers busy on a host of other issues when they return from summer break.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Recall Cone of Silence

   Here's an up to the minute update on the effort to recall Gov. Rick Snyder.
    There is no update.
    The good folks running this thing have clamped a cone of silence on the effort.
    "We're doing very well," is the only comment one of the organizers would volunteer when asked how many signatures had been collected.
     Does that mean they have ten thousand names or ten?
     They ain't saying.
     Now the cynic might conclude, they obviously won't release the number because it is so pitiful. To reveal it would indicate that the recall effort is deader than a door nail and that would erase any hope of gathering one million names by August 5th.
     You read that correctly.  The recallers need about 10,000 names everyday in order to reach that objective and while they deserve credit for acting on their beliefs that the gov. should go, the reality is, it would be a miracle if they got the names to force a statewide vote in November.
     The "committee" as Tim Kramer of Oakland County describes it, has a different reason for sitting on the number:  Security and they want to get it right or as one web site put it, "We would rather be 100% accurate in our assessment than misrepresenting the current standing."
     It is true that during the ill-fated recall of one Gov. John Engler, those organizers hyped the media with glowing reports of hundreds of thousands of names and with no way to check it, the media reported same.  Ah, but alas the number was far less.
     It is pretty clear that these organizers are passionate and at one web location, a writer tried to prove it by saying, "This is not some girl cookie sale (apparently leaving out the word scout), we are serious, covering all our bases and intend to take back our state from Engler, Snyder and maybe Dick Cheney." (Not sure how Cheney got into this mess?)
     While they steadfastly refuse to provide an update, the web sight does reveal they have a goal of $250,000 and to date, they've raised about $14,000.
      You can pretty much figure out where this thing is headed with or without the release of any numbers.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Calley Is No Cherry

     Former Gov. Jennifer Granholm had zero experience in Lansing when she decided to run for governor. So she picked a running mate who did. 
    Gov. Rick Snyder did the same thing when he tapped Rep. Brain Calley for his running mate and there the parallell between the two governors and their second in command ends.
    Ms. Granholm's selection of veteran Lansing insider John Cherry was a grand move.  He knew everyone.  She knew no one.  He knew how to make a legislative deal.  She was better in a room by herself with a pen.
    But somehow it sorta just didn't totally work out.  Cherry was used by her and in the best sense of the word, but it never reached the level of the current dynamic duo.
    The theme song for Gov. Snyder and L.G. Calley should be "Wherever you go, whatever you do, we're gonna go through it together."
     Gov. Granholm could not sing that tune and popular wisdom in town was Mr. Cherry was under utilized because there was only room on the stage for one star and he was not it.
     Gov. Snyder, in strong contrast, is fond of saying. "This is not about me.  It's about we" and that certainly includes Mr. Calley who has turned out to be the point man on every major item on the governor's reinvention agenda.
     Pension tax?  Calley worked it.
     Budget?  Calley worked it.
     Bridge?  Calley is working it but not getting very far.
     But the point is, Mr. Snyder has surrounded himself with a better team than the previous governor who went through Chiefs of Staff like a knife through butter and Calley does not have to claw his way into the inner circle.  He is the inner circle.
     Wonder if Mr. Cherry ever ponders what might have been, had he worked for the Nerd instead of the Rock Star?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Tea Pasrty Awakens

    All of a sudden the sleeping giant, known in some circles as the Tea Party, has awakened from its winter hibernation to get back in the political game.
    In the space of a couple of days, media email bins were over flowing with T.P. missives which is in stark contrast to previous months when you never heard a peep from them.  Most surprisingly, they said nothing about the tax hike the governor imposed on some seniors.
    The datelines were Washtenaw County, Alpena, Onaway (where the heck is that?) and Cheboygan where the "Tea Party leaders" were calling on the governor and their local salons to pass a Michigan Right to Work law.
    Don't these folks read the papers?
    The governor says this is not a top priority for him and although he has said he would sign such a bill if it got to his desk, he is not pushing for it to get there.
    Undaunted the press releases suggest it is "Un-American" to not have this law.
    House Republicans have made noises about working on this bill but up until now the governor has prevailed in asking them to hold off while he works on reinventing Michigan.
    Impatience may be growing among the more conservative and Tea Party leaning Republicans to move on it soon to wit the news releases now.
    The T.P. gang from Newaygo County (is that any where near Onaway?) fired off a news release calling on the governor to knock it off with all this bridge stuff.  The folks up there don't want their tax dollars going into another span between Detroit and Windsor.
    Don't these folks read the papers?
    The governor says their tax dollars will not go into the project, but the owners of the Ambassador Bridge disagrees and looks like the T.P. gang is going with the Morouns and not Mr. Snyder.
    Maybe the Morouns have volunteered to buy them a boat load of tea?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Everybody in Favor Say Aye

    The governor will need a ton of his RPA elixir to turn this puppy around.
    In fact he will need more than Relentless Positive Action to convince Republicans in the state senate to support that second span between Detroit and Windsor.
    The numbers inside the GOP senate caucus are Ugly with a capitol "U."
     Hold up one finger and you have the number of current "yes" votes he has out of 26 potential "yes" votes from members of his OWN party.
     During a closed door meeting this week they conducted what they call a whip count i.e. everybody discloses how they will vote.  17 Republicans are no votes. Another 8 claim to be undecided, but it's a ruse.  They are really self-confessed no votes but don't want that on the record because they "don't want to embarrass the governor."
     Aren't they sweet?
     This is not music to the governor's ears who has been patiently waiting five months to get this bridge thing off dead center.  He wanted to push it after he endorsed it last January.  But legislative leaders informed him they had other things to do and the bridge would go on hold.  He went along with the delay.  He really had no choice.
     So now with the budget out of the way, the administration finally gets a hearing where the committee chair Sen. Mike Kowall (R-Oakland County) confesses there aren't enough votes to move the thing from the panel.
     Can you say "bleak?"
     The gov's guy can not.
      His point man on all this is Lt. Gov. Brian Calley who was given the score the other day:  The Moroun family, owners of the Ambassador Bridge have one and the governor has a goose egg.
      "This is just starting," reflects the optimistic Mr. Calley who drinks the same rosy kool-aide that his boss consumes in mass quantities.
       One vote and counting but the good news is, there is only way for the governor to go…up. Maybe.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Man of Steele

    Based on his strong showing last November against the longest serving member in the Congress, a relatively unknown Republican is eyeing an even steeper climb i.e. trying to unseat a sitting U.S. Senator.
     Mind you Dr. Rob Steele has not decided to take on yet another Democratic giant, but he's doing all the things you would do just in case.
     Steele gave John Dingell a scare last year as Steele forced the veteran Democrat to actually spend money to save his seat from the unsuspected challenge in the downriver district.
     The only thing that stands in the way of Steele seeking the GOP nod, is his medical practice and finding a way to "stop working" without damaging his partners who must carry on in his absence, if he runs.
     He and they are about half way into the talks and if it can be resolved, he leaves little doubt he will run.  "That's a fair statement," he confesses but extricating himself from the practice is not an easy task.
     But it will still be easier, in comparison, than unseating the incumbent and hard working Stabenow.
     The state GOP has been fumbling around trying to find someone to take her on. Most of those on the "A" list have found something else to do.
     Steele is confident he can get the job done otherwise why go through the drill?
     Steele is interviewing staffers and has traveled over 700 miles on his one day off to press the flesh and grow some grassroots across this huge state.
     It's an undaunting task.  Stabenow may be vulnerable, the polls suggest, but a lot of the popular wisdom is based on the fact that Democrats did poorly last year. 
     That's why Steele gave Dingell fits, but beating an incumbent is tough and here is Steele thinking about trying it again.
     He's clearly got the bug and one GOP insider thinks he is 80% ready to run.  Steele won't go that far, but will have a decision by September.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Morouns Have No Horses to Trade

     Matthew Moroun, of the infamous Moroun family that owns the Ambassador Bridge, came out of his meeting with newly elected Gov. Rick Snyder weeks before his first State of the State.
      The Junior Moroun was buoyed by the talks about the proposed second bridge between Detroit and Windsor.  He thought the new governor understood that the traffic volume on the current bridge did not warrant construction of a competing bridge.
      "I never got a commitment," Moroun remembers but he was told there would be more meetings and he felt things were going his way then the roof caved in.
       There were no more meetings and just minutes before the Gov's SOS, the phone rang and on the other end of the line was Dick Posthumus who does legislative arm-twisting for the governor.  Moroun hung up the phone after being "blind-sided and shocked."
      The governor was poised to endorse the second span which meant Moroun was now fighting his second governor on this issue.
      What happened?
       Who "got" to the governor and convinced him a second bridge must be built?
      Moroun asked around and still has a goose egg on both questions.
      He is careful not to bad-mouth the governor but he concludes the decision was "inconsistent" with the governor's agenda to expand the economy.  He credits Mr. Snyder with being pro-business "except when it comes to my business."
      But even so it's still the crusty Moroun family 1 and the governor nothing on this continuing bridge saga.  Mr. Governor is still challenged to line up the votes he needs to pass this thing before his self-imposed July 4th deadline.
      It would be an unbelieveable victory if the new gov. cobbled this thing together by then and there is one thing Moroun fears most:  horse trading.
      While the Morouns have spread around over $1.5 million in support to lawmakers and for an endless array of anti-bridge TV commercials, they can't offer up anything else to lawmakers and the governor can.
      He can offer projects, or support for this bill or that and some have even suggested lawmakers, who are worried about the new district they must run in next year, may get the governor to draw a redistricting line "here" rather than "there" to protect that lawmaker from running in a seat he or she can't win.
      Moroun has a bridge but no "horses" to trade which keeps him awake at night.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Bikers Want to go "Topless"

   Apparently nerds did not ride motorcycles or at least the Gov. Nerd doesn't.
   With a couple of hundred bikers on the capitol lawn the other day for the 44th consecutive year seeking the repeal of the helmet law, Governor Rick Snyder was asked if he would allow his kids to hop on a hog and ride without a brain bucket?
   "Sue (his wife) won't let me on a motorcycle let alone let the kids on a motorcycle," he told the capitol press corps.
    But don't conclude  that he would veto the helmet repeal law when and if it gets to his desk.  He is still on the fence.
     On one hand the governor admits helmets save lives but on the other he is not sure what impact the repeal would have on non-bikers regarding insurance and health care costs.  Insurers argue the cost will go up.
     Not to worry contends biker Vince Consiglio who runs the ABATE organization.  He points to other states that are helmet-less and the death rate, he contends, has not skyrocketed, but the registration of bikes has with a positive economic pot for those states.
     Vinny has plenty of back-up among those who surround the governor.  The Lt. Gov. is on board, as is the attorney general and the secretary of state is a biker herself.
     The AAA and other insurance types are very nervous.  They are afraid if this measure passes, eliminating the mandatory seat belt law could be next. And it looks like there are enough votes to pass this repeal with no Gov. Granholm to veto it this time.
     What will this governor do?
     He refuses to tip his hand even when one scribe asked, "Can we push you as to which way you are leaning?"  He shot back, "You can push all you want, but I'm still analyzing the question.'
      Varrooom.   Varooom.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


This is a message from Mrs. Sarah.Willoughbys in Queens Hospital. Please kindly read the attached message and reply back to her

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Randy Helping Rick: Not

   Heads are being scratched all over this town as folks wonder why in the heck the Senate GOP leader did this?
   After all he is on the governor's team and the governor wants this one real bad but there was Sen. Randy Richardville setting up a self-imposed and artificial perquisite for building that second span between Detroit and Windsor.
    The Monroe Republican contends if he can not get 14 GOP votes for the bridge, he will not allow a vote on it which is just a polite way of saying, the thing is dead.
    Asked about all this, Richardville says the senate is a co-equal partner with the executive branch.  Yeah, so what?
    Well turns out Mr. R. is getting some push back from many of his caucus members who are not ready to jump through this Snyder hoop by the end of this month or the end of the year for that matter.
    "Hell no," lamented one West Michigan GOP senator when asked about backing his governor.
    Richardville may be the gov's senate lieutenant, but he is beholden to his members first.
    This issue has produced some angst for R.R.  He was given the "honor" of introducing the bill, but there was a some hemming and hawing behind the scenes about the honor of it all.  Eventually he did intro it but then headed to Mackinac Island to announce to the media his 14 vote requirement.
    The governor was asked about this move and, per usual, he put on his smiley face and noted that he had a "good working relationship with the Majority leader."
     So good that Richardville did some free-lancing without the governors's blessing and now the governor's uphill battle to scramble enough votes  to build the bridge..well let's just say Mr. Richardville has made the climb a little steeper.

Monday, June 6, 2011


 McLellan: Recalls Act of Desperation

     He's worked on recalls before and Lansing attorney Richard McLellan is dismissing any chances of recalling the governor or any legislator for that matter.
     "This is a union strategy," he tells MIRS,"and it's an act of desperation to scare people into not taking action on some tough issues" in the legislature. He pinpoints the public employee unions as part of this effort.
     McLellan who remembers the 1982 recall fervor that engulf two sitting Democratic state senators, sees no parallel to the current climate.  "It is no where near the broad public outrage of 1982" during which Senators David Serotkin and Phil Mastin were booted out of office.
     The chatter about recalls, he figures, will cause a lot of money to be spent and will be fodder for lawyers and political operatives, but at the end of the day, "it will lead to nothing."

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Rock on Rick

     What a huge difference a year makes.
      On Mackinac Island last year, candidate Rick Snyder was just one of seven contenders seeking to be the new governor.  His chances were not very good; his debate performance was gnarly when he got into a nasty and very personal exchange with fellow GOP candidate Mike Cox.  He and his wife may have been the only ones who really believed he could win.
      This year, he and his wife had a nice little joint on the know that "cottage" right next to the fort that you can see from the lake front. 
      And this year he was afforded rock star status by the adoring business types who whooped and hollared at everything the new governor said.
      They did not seemed bored at the continual references to "best practices" or the need to "continue the dialogue" or that Snyder "RPA" or renlentless positive action stuff.
      Hey, if the guy had just given you a whopping $1.7 billion business tax cut, you would not be bored either.
      And so it went as Gov. Snyder put his fingerprints on almost everything that unfolded at the Detroit Chamber gig.  He was everywhere and his behavior was in stark contrast to his immediate predecessor.
      When Jennifer Granholm hit the island she did it on her terms which meant you only saw her when she wanted to be seen.  For example, after she delivered her swan-song good-bye speech, she and an aide dasked out the back door of the Grand Hotel to avoid the media.
        Mr. Snyder?
       Heck his handlers were offering him to everyone in the media;  if you were the editor of a tiny outstate paper, you could get at him with ease.
       The conclave was a huge victory lap for the governor and he took it but was also judicious about sharing the glory and down playing his role as he elevated his "partners in the legislature" to equal status.
       "This is not about me.  This is about we," he repeated and repeated.
       Hey this relentless positive action is starting to take hold, he smiled and all the capitans of industry smiled right back.
       Heck, with a little rock music this could have been a love-in.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Pent-up Demand from Far Right

   Oh my this could get mucho messy.
   The ultra conservative wing of the state GOP has been patiently marking time since January when the Rick Snyder juggernaut rolled into town.
 The new governor told everyone  he was all about getting a new budget and business tax in place and would not be diverted by "other" issues.
    Well the budget is in place as is the business tax and here comes Gary Glenn of the American Families Association of Michigan.  Let's just say Mr. G.G. is not a liberal..not by any stretch.
     And he's got an agenda as long as your arm of 15 issues that he wants the governor and GOP legislature to tackle.
     Try this on for size:
(1)         prohibit state funding of any sex changes for prison inmates.
(2)         prohibit use of classroom dollars to "promote any form of sexual activity outside of marriage.
(3)         Halt any show of nudity during "drama productions" at state universities.
(4)         Cut off support to Planned Parenthood
(5)         Make sure homosexual couples can't adopt children.
       One could go on to list the other 10, but you generally get the idea here, right?  BTW, none of those items where in the Snyder campaign blueprint to reinvent Michigan.
       Obviously there's been a pent up demand to address some of those social wedge issues which the current governor has demonstrated little stomach to stomach.
       Mr. Glenn even launched some radio commercials sticking the Right to Work issue right in the governor's relentless positive action face.
       Recall Mr. Snyder thinks RTW is divisive and would pit business against labor in what could well be a nasty political bloodbath.
       Mr. Glenn and company appear to be saying, bring on the blood.
       Wonder what blood-type the governor is?