2006-10-07 / Columnists

Michigan Politics

Governor Enjoys Pasty Meal With Tourism Talk
By George Weeks

Michigan, after sadly lagging in its tourist promotion budget in recent years, tripled efforts this year to $20 million. Governor Jennifer Granholm says another $10 million is needed.

Whenever I encounter governors and their challengers on northern trails, I ask about such economic matters. So it was last week in joining Granholm at Cousin Jenny's Gourmet Cornish Pasties in Traverse City. (Governor Jenny is a pasty fan but has no tie to the establishment, founded 27 years ago by Jerilyn DeBoer of Iron Mountain.)

It was, in fact, on a northern trip last year that Granholm revealed that she was shuffling funds to boost tourist promotion funds in order to advertise in southern Ontario, Milwaukee, and Cincinnati beyond existing Midwest efforts. She said last week:

"We have $15 million from the 21st Century Fund, and another $5 million from our general fund. It really should be about $30 million. We should (have) a nationwide investment. We just need to broaden the appeal."

With just about a month to go before the election, Granholm and challenger Dick DeVos are spending most of their campaign time in downstate population centers.

But their unprecedented TV advertising is statewide, already totaling nearly $26 million, including nearly $3 million in northern Michigan.

According to figures compiled by the nonpartisan Michigan Campaign Finance Network, DeVos has spent $1,432,080 on stations covering the northern Lower Peninsula and the eastern Upper Peninsula, and $465,086 in the western U.P. Totals in the two markets for combined spending by Granholm and the Michigan Democratic Party are $629,025 and $332,851.

Debate Agreements

Granholm and DeVos agreed last week to three live, primetime TV debates in October as well as the traditional joint luncheon appearance before the Detroit Economic Club. But as of this writing, a public TV prime time appearance at a date to be determined was the only televised debate agreed upon by Senator Debbie Stabenow and challenger Mike Bouchard.

Stabenow and Bouchard, Oakland County sheriff, also will do an Economic Club forum. Before their agreement for a WGVU-TV debate in Grand Rapids, there was some fowl play.

Bouchard's camp called Stabenow "chicken" in a letter delivered by someone dressed as one. Also, GOP State Chairman Saul Anuzis appeared at Stabenow's headquarters with a live duck.

Stunts aside, there should be more than one televised debate in a race that so far has had little media attention.

Fly-In for Bouchard

Could it be the biggest twoday airlift of U.S. Senators in Michigan campaign history? Eight of them are scheduled to campaign this month for Bouchard's uphill challenge of Stabenow.

Senator John McCain of Arizona, who won Michigan's 2000 Republican presidential primary and is gearing for a possible White House bid in 2008, plans an October 10 fundraiser in Grand Rapids for Bouchard, as well as events for state House Republicans and for Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land.

On October 11, seven freshmen senators are to campaign with Bouchard: Senators Mel Martinez of Florida, Johnny Isakson of Georgia, David Vitter of Louisiana, Richard Burr of North Carolina, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, Jim DeMint of South Carolina, and John Thune of South Dakota.

McCain, meanwhile, has announced that 10 Republican state senators have signed on to help run his Straight Talk America political action committee in Michigan. Among them are Jason Allen of Traverse City and Michelle McManus of Lake Leelanau.

Timber Industry Gets Help

Granholm last week signed six GOP-sponsored bills that she said "will continue the state's efforts to modernize management policies for the state's forestland, help create jobs in the timber industry, and protect and keep access available to the state's natural resources enjoyed by hunters, fishermen, and outdoor enthusiasts."

Among the sponsors were Senators Allen of Traverse City and Tony Stamas of Midland, and Representative Kevin Elsenheimer of Bellaire. A driving force behind the package was Representative Tom Casperson of Escanaba, who had long prodded the Granholm Administration on timber issues and called the package "a victory."

Casperson, who met with Department of Natural Resources Director Rebecca Humphries, said the DNR "has certainly made strides" toward helping the industry. As an "olive branch," he withdrew legislation that would have mandated some actions now being taken.

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

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