2006-07-15 / Columnists

U.S. Senate Candidates Say 'Hands Off' Great Lakes Oil

By George Weeks

In their bids for the GOP nomination to oppose Senator Debbie Stabenow, Republicans Mike Bouchard and Keith Butler tout energy policies that include drilling for oil in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and more drilling off Gulf and other mainland coasts.

But not off Michigan's Great Lakes shoreline - a rare position they share with Stabenow.

"She's on the right side of that (Great Lakes) issue," says Oakland County Sheriff Bouchard, who insists that as a 1990s state senator he had "a green side" he would carry to the U.S. Senate.

(Stabenow, looking out on Grand Traverse Bay from a Holiday Inn patio at a Democratic rally Saturday here before the final National Cherry Festival parade, said: "When we look out here, this is Michigan. This is what we fight for every day.")

Butler, a former Detroit councilman and longtime conservative GOP activist who is pastor of a big church in Southfield, said the Great Lakes, having a fifth of the world's fresh water and unique environmental and tourism issues, is "one place to error" on the side of caution on drilling.

I chatted with Bouchard and Butler before their participation in a pre-parade GOP rally at Traverse City's Park Place Hotel about their hardline positions on immigration, an issue that is deadlocked in Congress and may not be resolved until next year, when one of them conceivably could have a vote.

Butler and Bouchard have differences with the Senatepassed bill, and with President George W. Bush. For one thing, they say there is not enough emphasis on securing the borders along Canada and Mexico.

"I'm closer to the House version than the Senate's," says Butler, who earlier told the Detroit Free Press: "You must secure your borders at all costs, period. Both north and south. This is absolute lunacy that we have not dealt with this question."

Bouchard calls the Senate bill "dramatically wrong." To

him, immigration is a homeland security issue, and overlooking northern border concerns would be "a fatal mistake." He told me he would rather see no bill than the Senate version.

As a member of the FBI's task force on terrorism, Bouchard says he would be "the only (anti-terrorism) practitioner in the U.S. Senate."

Other festival political nuggets:

+ DeVos/Milliken Huddle:

On the eve of the festival's final day, Dick DeVos, Republican gubernatorial nominee in-waiting, met for about 90 minutes with ex-Governor Bill Milliken at Milliken's home on Grand Traverse Bay to discuss education, environmental, urban, and other issues.

Moderate Milliken and conservative DeVos differ on abortion and other issues but Milliken concluded, "there is no question he is a very formidable candidate, a real rival" to Governor Jennifer Granholm (who earlier had visited the Milliken abode.)

Milliken found DeVos to be "a rather appealing fellow - a very good listener (and) pretty well armed on issues." The exguv has made no endorsement.

As a non-incumbent, DeVos was not allowed to be in the parade but walked the route before the parade.

+ Late Arrival: Because she was downstate getting an endorsement from the International Union of Operating Engineers, Granholm was not here for the start of the parade but arrived about 40 minutes later and was inserted into the order of march by Festival Director Tom Menzel. After the parade, Granholm attended Democratic events in Antrim and Benzie counties.

+ Baghdad to Fishtown: As ranking Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee and often his party's point man on network TV shows dealing with Iraq, Senator Carl Levin travels the globe. As a politician who is Michigan's longest-serving senator ever, he also spans the state and deals with issues of less national import.

So it was Friday when he made several Traverse City area appearances, including a visit to historic Fishtown in Leland, which he called "one of the few remaining commercial fishing complexes on the Great Lakes."

It's one of many sites in conservancy-minded Leelanau County where funds are sought to preserve treasured bits of the past. Levin said he would help preservationists in their pitches to foundations for grant money.

+ Cox Calling Cards: Underscoring the power of incumbency in an election year, Attorney General Mike Cox's office issued a press release Friday proclaiming: "Cox Donates $50,000 in Phone Cards to Northern Michigan Domestic Abuse Shelters."

They're not really his cards. But Cox, touting his commendable effort to pass on consumer protection settlements to consumers, announced the donations as part of a $150,000 settlement with Talk America for failing to maintain and repair phone service at an assisted living complex in Kalamazoo.

The bulk of the money went to the Women's Resource Center of Grand Traverse, with smaller donations going to centers serving Alpena, Cheboygan, Gaylord, Marquette, and Petoskey.

Cox was able to walk in the Saturday parade. Amos Williams, a Detroit trial lawyer and former police officer who seeks the Democratic nomination to oppose Cox, was in town, but had to be content with being introduced at the pre-parade party gathering.

George Weeks recently retired after 22 years as political columnist for The Detroit News. His weekly Michigan Politics column is syndicated by Superior Features.

Return to top

Click here for digital edition
2006-07-15 digital edition