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.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Scott First Recall Victim?

    The list of Republicans subject to a possible recall is about as long as your arm as the anti-Snyder and pro-labor forces out there are on the march. But there isn't anybody in this town who believes for one second that dozens of lawmakers will be ousted from office.
    But picking off one or two?
    Now we can talk.
    Item: Rep. Paul Scott (R-Genesee County).
    Mr. Scott is a bit of an anomaly..a Republican in a heavily leaning Democratic region of the state.  Yet he won his house seat, he says, by a comfortable margin as he "beat the UAW" in the contest last year.
    He chairs the House Education Committee which has been steadily grinding out "anti-teacher" legislation according to the Michigan Education Association which is up to its eyeballs in trying to oust the chairman.
    With a goal of 10,000 names to bring this to a vote, the recall effort, reportedly collected about a third of the signatures in less than a week.  A $25,00O union contribution will certainly help as the August 5 deadline approaches.
     Mr. Scott confides if they got every teacher and UAW member to sign, this could get interesting, yet he reflects, "whatever is going to happen will happen" which is code for there is not much I can do about this.  It also masks the fact that he should be shivering in his boots.
     Well apparently some other forces are not nearly as sanguine because somebody is paying for robo-phone calls into the district urging citizens not to sign the recall petitions.
      One person supporting the recall could not be happier in that the calls are leading some of the citizens to ask, "I didn't know there was a recall.  Where can I sign one?"  In other words the strategy could back fire.
      Mr. Scott concedes, "that could be valid."
      The governor is getting into the act by attending a fund-raiser for the targeted Republican..that's a sure sign that there is some trepidation in the GOP ranks.
      Scott, in an attempt to get the last laugh, suggests, even if he is recalled, he could actually run for the seat again and end up serving longer than he can now.
      But first things first.  For now Mr. Scott is on the state's endangered species list.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Gov. Kill Joy

   Smokers and hard liquor drinkers must have been buoyed by reports the other day, that lawmakers were thinking about cutting the taxes on tobacco and booze.  Talk about your Christmas in July.
   It made sense in that Republicans always believe that cutting any taxes is a sure fire way to kick start the economy.  Never mind that the evidence suggests it doesn't always work, but that was not the point. 
   It was a great political move in that many Republicans voted earlier this year to tax unsuspecting seniors, and this was a good opportunity to score some points with folks back home who might be hacked over that.
    After all some do still smoke and last time we checked, liquor sales have not dropped off the map.
    But turns out there is one Republican in this town who does not buy the GOP tax cut mantra, at least in this case.
    Asked for his thoughts on his level of support for these two tax cuts and the governor shot back, "The level of support here would be NONE."
    So much for that.
    Turns out Gov. Rick Snyder is on his way to balancing the state budget and plans to slice those two sin taxes might jeopardize those efforts.
    Now he was very careful to soften the blow of his lack of support by suggesting that lawmakers can debate anything they like and he respects that.
    But if they send this stuff to his desk, he owns a red veto pen ready for action.
    Sorry smokers and drinkers..maybe next governor.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Clark D-Who for U.S. Senate?

       It will be a real shocker if Clark Durant does not run for the GOP U.S. Senate nomination.  In fact instead of wasting your moola on the lottery were the odds are rotten, put a little money on him as the odds are much better he will get in.
       Some of you, maybe many of you are going Clark D-who?
       If you were around in 1990 Mr. Durant ran for the senate but lost to GOP winner Bill Schuette who proceeded to lose to one Carl Levin.
       Mr. Durant is back looking seriously and saying it is "highly likely" he will take on the equally entrenched incumbent Democratic U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow.
       His current day job is running the Cornerstone charter schools in Detroit where he says he is  graduating and sending to college most of the kids who attend.
       Earlier this year, the newly installed state GOP chair was scrambling to find somebody to take on Ms. Stabenow.  Pete Hoekstra's name was in play as was Terri Lynn Land.  Party Chair Bobby Shostack was apparently unimpressed with those two West Michigan folks so he asked Durant if he would make a run?
      Durant said no but agreed to work the phones to find somebody who would.  Subsequently Ms. Land and Mr. Hokestra took a powder and eventually Durant decided he would consider it.
      Now it turns out Mr. Hoekstra has changed his mind and is running and Durant says that will not impact his own decision which he promises by the middle of next month.
      He's doing all the things you do to run.  He wants twenty of his friends to raise $100,000 each and has ten in line right now.  He's got Bob Lutz of auto industry fame to be his finance chair if Durant gets in.
      His four kids and wife have signed off but she wants to make sure the Cornerstone school project is left in capable hands if hubby runs and she wants the money thing resolved.
      He's well on his way to getting there so look for those old Durant for U.S. Senate bumper stickers to be dusted off soon.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Randy Vs. Ricky

    The Hollywood film tax credit  has captured the imagination of common folks as it was used to bring tons of well-known stars into these environs and, given our preoccupation with celebrities, it was kind neat to see the likes of George, Clint and others showing up in our own back yards.
    Apparently the new governor is not celebrity struck.  After all he is a CPA and the only thing that lights his fire is balancing the numbers at the end of a spread sheet.
     Which explains why he was well on his way to eliminating the tax credit as just another lousy example of the state trying to pick winners and losers in ther market place.
      But the plot thickens with the entrance, stage right, of one Randy Richardville.  He is no Clint Eastwood or George Clooney but he is on his own mission to reinvent the Hollywood incentive to save the industry, not kill it.
      Oh, it should be mentioned that Mr. Richardville is the Senate GOP leader and one of the governor's top lieutenants, but not on this one.
      It's Republican leader vs. Republican governor and at this early read, it's unclear if this will be a  one or three act saga.
      Sen. Richardville, with relatives in the movie making business and a matinee idols look of his own, he wants to lower the credit from 42% to around 30% but producers could earn more if they worked Michigan employees and studios into the production.
      "We need a whole new framework," he explains after studying the situation for the last six months while the governor was moving to end the Hollywood bait.
       The Monroe Republican figures there is a "good economic return" if this new incentive is provided.
       Since Mr. Richardville has been carrying the water for the governor since the first of the year, it might be time for the governor to carry the bucket for his "partner."
       So far the governor has said nothing.  Maybe he's holding out for a part in a new movie:  The Nerd Goes to Lansing.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

First You Say You Won't and Then You Do

  What a difference four months makes.
   Last March Pete Hoekstra decided he would not run for the GOP U.S. Senate nomination.
   Now he has decided he will.
   Que Pasa?
   During the ensuing four months, the state Republican Party looked clumsy at best and inept at worst at fielding some legitimate candidate to take on Democratic incumbent Debbie Stabenow.
   All the would-be first tier candidates took a powder.  Even though the polling suggested Ms. S. was vulnerable, no big name gun-slinger stood up.
   Fast forward to the funeral last week in Grand Rapids for former First Lady Betty Ford.  The West Michigan former Congressman and former GOP candidate for governor was there and one prominent Republican after another came up to Mr. Hoekstra and urged him to end the party angst by getting in.
   There was a two hour family meeting.  The Hoekstra children voted no.  Having been through the grind of a statewide primary race for governor, they had had enough. Mrs. Hoekstra, who thought the decision made last March was in cement, was non-supportive but she was careful not to say no, per se.
    Mr. Hoesktra came out of the session ready to run but as Thursday morfed into Friday he began to have some doubts.  It was decided that he would notify Gov. Rick Snyder of his decision by Friday at 4:15 last week.
    The appointed time came and went.  Mr. Hoekstra was not going to run and delayed the phone call.
    His wife said, "What do you mean, no?"
    Surprised by her apparent change of heart, his answer moved back to yes.
    Look for the formal announcement soon.

Good Bye Charlie

       If you took a DNA sample from every political journalist in this state, it's a good bet that sensitivity to another person's feelings would not be a dominant gene, if you found one at all.
       Practitioners in this biz tend to be on the rough and tumble side and if they demonstrated any sympathy to the plight of another, they would have gone into social work instead.
       The passing of state capitol correspondent Charlie Cain has drawn many deserved praises about how he successfully plyed his talents as he informed the readers of the Detroit News for decades.
       What follows  never made the papers. It speaks to the kind of human being Mr. Cain really was.
       The Jennifer Granholm and Dick DeVos campaigns were engaged in some intense negoiations over the first 2006 debate between the incumbent and GOP challenger Mr. DeVos.
       The DeVos camp had made a tactical bundler. It agreed to a no rules televised debate with a single moderator.  The format clearly favored her.
       Unable to back out, the DeVos team sought to dilute the ability of the  moderator to bore in on both candidates with an endless series of questions and follow up questions.
       The DeVos negoiators demanded that a second correspondent be added to the program.  Unwilling to lose the debate altogether, the Granholm folks gave in and both agreed on Mr. Cain…a testimony to his stature in its own right.
       The lone moderator is a superior format in that the candidates can not duck answers by running the clock or hiding behind the rules cause there are none. Mr. Cain knew that the single moderator in this case had made a career out of doing those debates.
       Just after Mr. Cain was selected, the phone rang with an apology: I'm really sorry about this.  I had nothing to do with it and if I had my choice I would not do the debate," he revealed his unique DNA.
       "Charlie.  Thanks for the call, but the important thing here is the debate and not who is moderating it.  Let's make this work.  No hard feelings."
       Another, lesser person, would have skipped the phone call and would have been overjoyed with the chance to fire some questions at the two candidates on statewide Public TV with one million viewers.
       But Mr. Cain's first concern was not enhancing his own career, but worrying about the concerns of a long time colleague and friend.
       In the biz, we call that a class act which Mr. Cain certainly was.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Depends on Where You Sit

   Feeling better about Michigan's economy?
   If you look closely there are some reasons to answer yes.  Looks like the domestic car makers are making a come back of sorts.  The state treasury is collecting a tad more moola which means somebody is working and paying taxes. And Republicans like to smile when they claim the governor's Relentless Positive Action stchick is actually catching on.
     The senate GOP leader has caught it.
      Randy Richardville appeared on Michigan Public Radio the other day during a call in with his democratic counterpart.
     When the question of economic recovery came up, Sen. Gretchen Whitmer (D-East Lansing) was giving zero credit to the new Snyder administration.
     "I do respect her right to be wrong on occasion," the GOP leader observed.
      None of  Gov. Snyder's plans have taken effect i.e. the biz tax cut.  Yet Richardville feels a wave of optimism has over taken the land between Lake Michigan and Huron.
      Just after the election he says the business gurus took notice that the new governor would have a "conservative agenda and a better tax structure" and at that point, he asserts, they took another look at Michigan and "the confidence started to change."
      Hold the phone, Whitmer chimes in.
      She correctly notes that the whopping $1.7 billion tax windfall for business comes with no writen or, for that matter, unwritten guarantee that it will produce "a single job."
       Richardville had no pithy comeback for that harsh reality, but he along with Mr. Snyder continue to claim this will work.  Just trust them.
       You can count Ms. Whitmer as a doubting Gretchen who trusts neither on this one.
       If this stuff works, Mr. Snyder will be a champ, but if Ms. Whitmer is right, he could be a chump.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Close But No Cooperation

       They've been talking about joining political forces but when push came to shove on the first opportunity to do so, it was a bust.
        Hence the Michigan Education Association will go it alone and won't have the AARP at its side as the teacher's union tries to extricate some Republicans from their comfy legislative seats.
       Based on earlier reports the two entities have commenced discussions on how they might pool their resources to have a greater impact on politics in the capitol.  Both are smarting from a licking they took as the Snyder juggernaut ran rough shod over some of their core issues including a new pension tax on some seniors and hefty cuts to education and a redo of teacher tenure laws.
      The fact that AARP took a walk at getting even is indicative of how tough it can be for one group that leans right to hook up with one that leans left.
      "It was not their style," to get into recalls reports one insider familiar with the discussion about same.
       To be sure the discussion was serious as AARP went all the way up the food chain to its parent group in Washington and word came back, thanks but no thanks.
       Let's face it. Some of the conservative Republicans in the retiree group have conservative friends the MEA would like to oust.
       Having said that you can see AARP advising it members on who was naughty and nice, regardless of party affilaition, when the pension vote was taken but that is a far cry from trying to boot those Republicans out of office now.  The MEA will do the same thing; it's just not ready to sit around and do nothing until the election next November.
       This first failed attempt, however, should not be interpreted to mean the two groups won't find common ground on something else. But for now they are O for one.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Dancing on Tables

   Seems as though everybody has a Betty Ford story and when you blend them together you get a mosaic of a trail blazing women who was out of step with the conservative wing of her and her husband's political party but clearly in tune with her own persona and she remained thus until her untimely death last week.
    One recalls the day she showed up in Lansing in a phone bank boiler room where the state GOP was calling on folks to get out to vote.  She dutifully took her seat and began pawing over the list of names plopped in front of her.  First Ladies were expected to wave the flag from time to time.
     Apparently seeing no relatives on the list, she picked up the phone and dialed away while the cameras recorded the whole thing for the evening news. 
     Was it a news worthy event?
      If you stretch the definition far enough, you can, with your nose between your fingers, answer yes.
      It didn't last long.  In fact as soon as the news crews left, she was not far behind.  But you came away with a nice and warm feeling about her.
      First impressions are often wrong but this one was spot on.  She had none of the vitriolic anti-this or anti-that rhetoric that flows from the mouths of some current GOP women who are on the stump.
      Probably the worse thing was she had to use a rotary phone. (Yeah.  It was that long ago.)
      And then during one of those Public TV documentaries that nobody with a real life bothers to watch, there was a picture of the former dancer doing what else?  Dancing with her shoes off on the huge table that her hubby, the president, used in the stately cabinet room in the W.H.
     It was the classic and don't give a hoot Betty Ford at her charming best.  Now as she is placed along side her beloved husband in Grand Rapids, the unconventional First Family of the moderate Republican President and his wonderfully unique spouse will again be a team for all eternity.
     Dance on.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Blogging: Reader Beware

   Now you too can be a political writer.  Just get yourself a blog and off you go to become the next Bob Woodward or David Broder.
   Apparently it doesn't matter if anybody reads your stuff; the fact that you can just do it, to borrow a phrase from the shoe guys, is the salient point.
   Having said that, Gov. Rick Snyder, in his first comments ever about Internet "political" writers, says this does pose some "interesting challenges in our society."
   Boy. There's an understatement.
   The governor states the obvious:  "There are great bloggers and there are bloggers you wonder why anyone would ever read anything they write."
   Clearly there should be a "reader beware" disclaimer on lots of the Internet columns appearing under the heading of freedom of the press and speech.
   The governor figures in time, the really smart consumers will figure out what is worthy and what is not.  But what about the dumb ones?
    "As time passes you'll find some separation.  People over time will naturally find ways to separate what are really worthwhile bloggers vs. things that are just absolutely worthless that are not constructive at all in terms of the dialogue and discussion."
     Perhaps he's correct but what happens in the interim before the separating separates.  The fact is many readers assume, at their own peril, that because it is written down, it therefore must be true.
     There is opinion, which everyone has, and then there is informed opinion which does not come with a new P.C. set up in your basement.
     This vast access by anyone who wants to write is both good for the Democracy but has it's dangers, too.
      Many of the musings on the world wide web fail to apply one little standard that all "real" journalists practice..double checking your sources to come as close to the truth as possible.
      But as some Internet writers opine, don't let the facts get in the way of a good (and misleading) blog.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Atlanta Cheating Here?

The head of the secondary school principals association does not see the immediate need for new safeguards against teacher/student cheating on proficiency exams.
Jim Ballard says at the high school level the administration of the ACT exam is done under "extremely guarded" safeguards but in the wake of the scandal in Atlanta, G.A. allegedly involving more than 150 school personnel, Ballard says the Michigan situation should be monitored and if an Atlanta-type situation arose, "we would have to do something about it."
But for now he adds, "I don't think we need new laws at this time."
"Ethics is still an important part of being an educator," he reflects and everyone knows that "cheating is wrong." Having said that however, now the stakes are even higher in that instructors, starting next year, will be evaluated based on the improvement in test scores by their students.
Rep. Bill Rogers (R-Brighton) says he understands human nature and the temptation to cheat especially when your job is on the line. "This is a profession. The temptation is there, but I certainly hope" it does not occur. He asserts that lawmakers want to address the issue of "teaching to the test" and adds, "We want to get away from that," but as long as the federal program No Child Left Behind remains on the books with a demand for 100% proficiency by 2014 in all schools, this will be a challenge for everyone, he concludes.

Old Foks Populate Casinos-No Shocker There

     If you factor out Las Vegas and Atlantic City, Detroit is the number three most profitable casino market in the country following Chicago and Connecticut.
     Detroit even beats out Reno with has gross revenues of $684 million compared to Motown's $1.37 billion.
     In it's yearly report on the state of casino gaming in this country, the American Gaming Association uncovers all sorts of interesting tidbits about this lucrative and controversial business.
     Former Gov. John Engler, on whose watch the gaming industry took a foothold and mushroomed, warned he did not want to see Michigan turn into the Las Vegas of the mid-west.  Well if it was not for Minnesota with its 40 casinos, Michigan would be the leader with its 24.  Poor Illinois has only nine and Indiana 13. Ohio has none.  You know how wimpy those Buckeyes are.
     During these tough economic times, the casinos nationwide saw almost a one-percent growth after two years of declining profits. Would-be millionaires, about 55 million, pumped over $34 billion into the slots in hopes of striking it rich.
     Michigan's increase was a respectable 3 percent.
     And then there are the demographics on who these folks are.
     O.K. you know this one: 58% of the casino visitors are over the age of 50 and one out of every four is over 65.  Hence the little ole lady with a giant cup sitting at a slot machine is not too far off although they are out numbered by little ole men doing the same thing.
     30% of the visitors hold college degrees and 15% have post graduate degrees..maybe some of them are doing research?
     25% have household incomes between $35,000 and $60,000 a year while the truly rich make up only about 15% of the casino crowd.  Hey if you got, you don't need it.
     And among those who set a budget before they gamble, 40% set it at one hundred bucks while one out of five bring along more than $300.
     One question they did not ask.  How many smoke while you are losing your money?
      The number has to be huge. Apparently when you are losing, you get at least some gratification by smoking which is why the three Detroit casinos fought for and won an exemption from the ban on public smoking that applies everywhere else.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Thaddius Who is Running for What?

    It is easy and with some justification to dismiss the presidential boomlet of one Thaddius McCotter the GOP Michigan Congressman.  He has no name ID, has no personal wealth to siphoned off to launch such a bid, and virtually the whole political world knows he doesn't have a snow ball's chance of nailing down the GOP nomination for the White House.
    But didn't they once say, Barack O'-who?  Didn't they predict John Engler could not defeat Jim Blanchard?  And electing a "nerd"  to be governor?  Come on.
    Hence McCotter has a chance to do this.  He's no worse than all the other GOP wanna be presidents.
    While his climb is steeper than most, he and his band of merry supporters, believe he can win.  What pol doesn't as they launch a bid that seems to go against all odds?
    McCotter will get plenty of free media which he will need.  He has easy access to his party base via the Fox News Network where he appeared recently with Mike Hucakbee.
   McCotter showed his funny side when he dismissed a would-be note from Vice President Joe Biden as written in crayon.  But he uncharacterically shyed away from confrontation with Mr. H. when the ex-governor revealed he thought the auto bail out was wrong.  McCotter backed it but keep his mouth shut.
    Points off.
   McCotter has set up shop in Iowa, the first caucus state and is increasing his visibility in New Hampshire the first primary state.  He's got a travel schedule that will take him to New York, Florida, California, etc.
   So he is doing all the things you would do if you wanted a shot at this and until he implodes or decides it is not going to work, you can't automatically write him off although it is very tempting.
   In the interim he will be fun to have around and if this flops, he can always run for Congress again although he is likely to have some competition or he can pack his rock guitar and line up a gig at some bar in Livonia…he'd have no trouble doing that.

Friday, July 1, 2011

No Boom-Boom Again

     Let's see. It took over thirty years to reform school financing and the bikers have spent four decades trying to get rid of their brain buckets, so how long do you think it will take to legalize "real" firecrackers in this state?
     That's the question pondered by Rep. Harold Haugh (D-Roseville) who is on a one-person crusade to raise some badly needed cash for state coffers while ending the constant exodus of Michigan license plates into Ohio and Indiana to buy fireworks that actually make some noise.
     The affable Mr. Haugh has come close but no exploding cigar.
     "We tried hard but the Big Box stores" got in the way he reports.
      Those outlets want the law written so that they can automatically sell the explosives and if local communities don't want that, they would have to vote to stop it.
      The locals and Rep. Haugh wanted it the other way around i.e. local communities would have to give the green light first.
      "Local control has to be dominant," argues the former Roseville mayor.
      He stood his ground.  The Big Boxers stood their's and for the second 4th of July  in a row, Michigan does not have a law to legalize this stuff.
       He's not giving up, but it is frustrating because each time he gets close, someone else comes along with another last minute road block..
       The Department of Environmental Quality was the latest example.
       It wanted a piece of the financial action to store and destroy contraband fireworks that the state cops pick up.
       Mr. Haugh just told them, "No."
       So enjoy your sparklers this Holiday and remember if you have fireworks that go into the air, you are breaking the law. Mr. H. hopes next year to make all you"firecracker crooks" legal.