2009-06-13 / Columnists

Michigan Politics

Michigan Lawmen Now Seek To Marshal Votes
By George Weeks

Attorneys general and other law folks have had considerable success getting elected governor in Michigan.

Among the ex-AGs, there's Democratic Governor Jennifer Granholm, and elected in the 20th century: Republican Governors Alexander Groesbeck (1921-26) and Wilber M. Brucker (1931-32).

Among prosecutors elected governor in the last century were 1937-38 Democratic Governor Frank Murphy, previously a judge and, after failing to be reelected, named by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as U.S. attorney general and to the Supreme Court; 1943-46 Republican Governor Harry F. Kelly; and 1947-48 Republican Governor Kim Sigler, who as a colorful special prosecutor (known as "Hollywood Kim") paved his way to the statehouse with an investigation of legislative corruption involving payoffs from lobbyists.

This year, an earlier-thanusual build up for a gubernatorial campaign includes two lawmen in what shapes up as the most competitive Republican primary since 1986, when Wayne County Executive Bill Lucas, a former sheriff, defeated three opponents and became the unsuccessful nominee against Governor Jim Blanchard.

Last week, Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard, who unsuccessfully challenged U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow in 2006, announced for the 2010 Republican nomination to succeed term-limited Granholm.

Against Stabenow, he won 41% of the vote, while she got 57% and carried 65 of 83 counties.

Bouchard joins a primary field that includes announced candidates Attorney General Mike Cox and U.S. Representative Pete Hoekstra of Holland, as well as potential candidates Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land, state Senator Tom George of the Kalamazoo area, Ann Arbor businessmen Rick Snyder and, just maybe, David Brandon.

Lieutenant Governor John Cherry is widely viewed as the leading Democratic candidate, although there are stirrings among others, including Wayne County Executive and former sheriff Robert Ficano, House Speaker Andy Dillon of Redford Township, state Representative and ex-Senator Alma Wheeler Smith of South Lyon, ex-Representative John Freeman of Madison Heights, Flint Mayor Don Williamson, and Michigan State University Trustee and ex-football coach George Perles.

They may be lawmen, but Cox and Bouchard on the trail are stressing economic recovery more than law and order.

"We have a huge out-of-control spending problem," said Bouchard, a former state senator and majority floor leader. "Michigan is spending $2 billion more than it takes in. The state is broken. I want to get in and start fighting. My main priority will be to get the economy moving so we can keep and create jobs."

Cox zapped Granholm on a public safety issue last week. Seizing upon the decision of the U.S. Justice Department to give a grant to Detroit for adding 100 new police officers, a Cox press release said it was "especially important" because Granholm "recently cut 100 Michigan State Police troopers at a time when the State of Michigan is giving an early release to thousands of prisoners."

Cox called the early releases "misguided." I'm not so sure that's the case, considering that some of Michigan's mandatory sentence guidelines are excessive. But Granholm's trooper layoffs certainly are misguided.

Invasive (Caller) Species

Cheers to the state House Ethics and Elections Committee last week for unanimously clearing a bill to crack down on automated "robocalls," requiring telephone and electronic campaign communications to add a disclaimer at the beginning of the call to identify who is behind the communications.

It further restricts the time when calls can be made to between the hours of 9 a.m. and 8 p.m.

"We need to do more to increase transparency in the election process," says Representative Dan Scripps (DLeland), a member of the committee. "Most of us have probably received shadowy calls bashing some candidate or cause at some ridiculous hour of the night, and we have no idea who is responsible for the call. By closing this loophole and ending this practice, we can ensure that voters know exactly who is contacting them."

Scripps, in a comment that applies as well to the many other stealth practices in politics, said: "For too long, these callers have hid behind their anonymity as they spread misinformation and lies."

It's far too much to expect elimination of misinformation and lies in politics.

But good for Scripps and his committee colleagues for trying to chip away at the practice.

George Weeks retired in 2006 after 22 years as political columnist for The Detroit News. His weekly Michigan Politics column is syndicated by Superior Features.

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