2010-07-31 / Columnists

Michigan Politics

Moderates Push Back
By George Weeks

In Michigan and across the nation, including on Capitol Hill, moderate Republicans have long been in eclipse. Conservatives rule the GOP.

In closing days of August 3 primary campaigns there is, however dim, a flicker of moderate activity.

Governor William G. Milliken, who during his 1969- 82 tenure formed a national Moderate Action Group that no longer exists, last week endorsed Ann Arbor businessman Rick Snyder for governor, citing his positions on job creation, the cities, and the environment.

On the same day, Detroit Mayor Dave Bing endorsed House Speaker Andy Dillon, a centrist from Redford who works well with Republicans, for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination over Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero.

Most of the 2010 Republican gubernatorial primary has been fought on conservative battlefields.

Attorney General Mike Cox, a leader among Great Lakes governors waging legal battles to halt invasion of Asian carp into the lakes, trumpets his impressive endorsements of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, Right to Life, gun owners, and others who influence GOP primaries.

Nine-term U.S. Representative Pete Hoekstra of Holland, co-founder of the congressional Tea Party Caucus and a Hill leader on intelligence, labor (he's endorsed by the Michigan Teamsters), and other issues, has the most conservative voting record in the Michigan congressional delegation and has support of prominent national and state conservative leaders.

Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard, an effective ex-state lawmaker who has support of law enforcement and conservative groups (not to mention "Joe the Plumber" of 2008 presidential campaign fame), planned Friday to join a Michigan Tea Party Alliance rally at the State Capitol.

Snyder, the fourth GOP contender who also shows well in primary polling, has something going among GOP moderates.

Last week, Joe Schwarz of Battle Creek, a former state senator, congressman, and gubernatorial candidate, formed a "Common Sense for Michigan" Web site with information for independents and Democrats "to help sway voters who wouldn't otherwise vote in the Republican primary."

Then came the endorsement by Milliken, who called Snyder "a decision maker who has actually created jobs--Michigan's number one need." He also noted that Snyder was endorsed by Republicans for Environmental Protection and the Michigan League of Conservation Voters.

(This week, Milliken is also expected to endorse moderate Field Reichardt, a Grand Haven businessman who has strong support among environmentalists, in the crowded Republican primary for the highly conservative 2nd District seat being vacated by Hoekstra. It's Michigan's most Republican district.

(In the 6th District, 12-term Representative Fred Upton of St. Joseph, who has the most moderate voting record among state Republicans on Capitol Hill, has a primary challenge from archconservative Jack Hoogendyke of Portage, a former state representative who tallied a mere 34% of as the 2008 GOP nominee against Senator Carl Levin.)

The fifth Republican gubernatorial contender, underfunded state Senator Tom George of Kalamazoo, a physician, is hardly a blip in polls and is the longest of long shots--but he speaks a truth rarely heard on the trail:

"Michigan is in a fiscal crisis. It makes no sense to increase spending and cut taxes, as all my opponents propose." Coming: More TV ads near you

Most gubernatorial candidates have enough cash on hand for a closing TV ad blitz for the August 3 primary.

The Michigan Campaign Finance Network (MCFN), citing reports filed with the Bureau of Elections by the July 18 preprimary reporting deadline, said the five Republicans raised about $14 million, compared to $2.2 million for the two Democrats. Snyder led the field, with $7.3 million, nearly $6 million from his personal wealth.

Other Republicans: Cox, $2.9 million, Bouchard, $1.9 million, Hoekstra, $1.7 million, and George, $343,068.

In the Democratic primary, Dillon raised nearly twice as much as Bernero, $1.4 million to $743,000.

Cox, Bouchard, Bernero, and Dillon all made substantial transfers to their gubernatorial committees from their previous campaign accounts.

Hoekstra and Bouchard already have received public funds and are due to get more. MCFN said Cox, Bernero, and George "have applied for public financing that should be forthcoming.

"The figures cited here do not include late contributions that are being reported by the candidates almost daily."

Impressed with Snyder's $6 million self-financing? In 2006, Republican nominee Dick DeVos spent $42 million, $35 million of his own money, in losing to Governor Jennifer Granholm, who spent $14 million.

Legislative Watch

One of the most interesting legislative contests in the northland is the race to replace termlimited 37th District Senator Jason Allen (R-Alanson), a leading and well-credentialed contender for the Republican nomination to replace U.S. Representative Bart Stupak (DMenominee), who is not seeking a 10th term.

Of note is that the lone Democratic contender is Bob Carr of Mackinac Island (where he once was director of the island Chamber of Commerce and now is involved in historical preservation projects), who, as the 1996 Republican challenger of Stupak, won a grand total of 27% of the votes.

He also has lived in Traverse City and Petoskey, a handy background for running in a district that includes Mackinac, Chippewa, Antrim, Charlevoix, Cheboygan, Grand Traverse, and Presque Isle counties.

Inside Michigan Politics newsletter puts the district in the "Lean GOP" category. The leading Republican has been ex- Representative Howard Walker of Traverse City, a longtime advocate of protecting natural resources and promoting tourism.

He is opposed by Randy Bishop of Traverse City, who, as a self-described "Tea Party Republican" wants to eliminate state income taxes for individuals and most corporate and business taxes. This race should offer a test of strength of the Tea Party movement.

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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