2011-08-20 / Columnists

Michigan Politics

GOP Senate Leader Touts Up North Agenda
By George Weeks

Of all the leaders of the three GOP-ruled branches that run state government, none lives farther from northern Michigan than Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville of Monroe, just above the Ohio border.

But he has become a stout promoter of focus on northern economic, environmental, agricultural, and other issues; last week discussed these issues at meetings in Traverse City; and is working with area senators to hold what he calls a “mini-retreat” in the Upper Peninsula for the GOP caucus this fall on northern issues.

The Senate’s northern GOP caucus consists of three former state representatives—Howard Walker of Traverse City, Darwin Booher of Evart, and Tom Casperson of Escanaba.

Richardville said about a third of the other Republican Senators likely might attend the retreat, which may be held in Escanaba.

Other points made by Richardville in a phone chat last week:

•Northern Michigan would get considerable economic benefit, including for firms engaged in Canadian trade, from construction of the second U.S-Canadian bridge being touted by Governor Rick Snyder and Canada.

•While Democrats may mount a legal challenge of the legislative and congressional redistricting passed by the Legislature signed by Snyder, Richardville said the Legislature “followed to the T” legal requirements.

•He’s proud—justifiably, in my view—that Michigan has avoided the deadlock stemming from partisan rancor and confrontation between Republicans and union and other interests in such states as Wisconsin and Minnesota.

He described the GOP approach in Lansing as “constructive… reasonable.” Snyder certainly is not as confrontational as some other GOP governors.

•He will play a key role in the 2012 presidential campaign in Michigan. He revealed that he has agreed to be a co-chair of the state campaign of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a Michigan native and son of 1963- 69 Gov. George Romney.

He said, however, that he considers 11th District U.S. Rep. Thaddeus McCotter of Livonia, a late and long shot entry in the GOP presidential primary, “a mentor of mine.”

Levin, Snyder Blitzes

Senator Carl Levin made numerous northwest Michigan stops last week, including one at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Saturday marking groundbreaking for a 27-mile trail in Leelanau County.

Governor Snyder scheduled a visit Saturday to Mackinaw City for a ceremony transferring ownership of the Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw from the federal government to the Icebreaker Mackinaw Maritime Museum.

This week, he scheduled events Monday in St. Ignace, Sault Ste Marie, Grand Marais, and Marquette, and Tuesday in Marquette and Houghton.

Senate Watch

Former Sen. Spencer Abraham and two others who also once chaired the Michigan GOP have urged Republicans to support Clark Durant, former president of the State Board of Education and now head of a charter school organization in Detroit, “to be Michigan’s new voice in the United States Senate” to replace Sen. Debbie Stabenow in 2012.

As of this writing, Durant had not declared as a candidate.

Saul Anuzis, Michigan’s current Republican National Committeeman, released an August 11 letter in which he, Abraham, and Betsy DeVos said “we strongly believe that the strongest candidate we can run for Senate and the person who would make the best Senator for Michigan in these difficult times is Clark Durant.”

Durant, who unsuccessfully sought the GOP Senate nomination in 1990 and also once made a failed bid for the Michigan Supreme Court, was a vice president of Hillsdale College and an appointee of President Ronald Reagan on the board of the Legal Services Corporation.

House Watch

In last week’s column, I said 11-term Rep. Dave Camp (RMidland), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, would be well suited to be appointed by House Speaker John Boehner as one of his three appointees on the 12-member bipartisan special joint committee on debt reduction—dubbed “Super Committee.”

Boehner subsequently not only named Camp but also appointed 13-term Rep. Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Michigan is the only state with two appointees.

Over years of rankings by the National Journal, Camp has had one of the most conservative voting records in the Michigan congressional delegation, while Upton has had one of the least conservative records among Republicans.

As a committee chairman, however, Upton has drawn the wrath from the left, and he and Camp both have signed the pledge, fashionable among Republicans, not to raise taxes.

Michigan has two pivotal warriors in Washington’s biggest battle.

George Weeks, a member of the Michigan Journalism Hall of fame, for 22 years was the political columnist for The Detroit News and previously with UPI as Lansing Bureau Chief and foreign editor in Washington. His weekly Michigan Politics column is syndicated by Superior Features.

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