2016-06-25 / Columnists

Michigan Politics

Family Ties Run Deep in Michigan Politics
By George Weeks

Much has been made in the media, and occasionally in this space, about family repeats among officeholders, and candidates for office, in presidential and congressional politics.

Notably: President George H.W. Bush and his son, President George W. Bush, whose brother Jeb was among 16 failed candidates for this year’s Republican presidential nomination.

Now, of course, former U.S. Senator and ex-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, wife of ex-President Bill Clinton, is the presumed Democratic nominee for president.

Currently in Congress are members of two Michigan families with notable longevity records: the Levins and the Dingells.

Democrat Carl Levin, Michigan’s longest-serving U.S. senator, recently retired. Still in Congress is his brother, 17-term U.S. Representative Sander Levin (D-Royal Oak), a former state senator who had narrow losses in 1970 and 1974 to 1969-1982 Governor William G. Milliken, Michigan’s longestserving governor. They subsequently became friends.

Milliken is a former 1960s state senator, who had a Traverse City area seat previously held by his father and grandfather.

Notable for longevity in Michigan politics are the Dingells. Retiring 30-term U.S. Representative John Dingell (D-Dearborn) was dean of the House when his wife, Debbie Dingell, was elected in 2014 to the seat once held by John Dingell’s father. The Dingell family has held the seat since 1933.

As noted by Inside Michigan Politics newsletter in an interesting item on family ties that may bind in legislative races, familiar surnames abound.

For example, Republican Julie Calley, wife of Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley, will be on the ballot for the open seat once held by her husband. In another downstate race, there’s Democrat Kevin Hertel, son of former House Speaker Curtis Hertel.

Up North, Daire Rendon, wife of term-limited 103rd District Representative Bruce Rendon (R-Lake City) seeks to succeed him.

Family dynasties are replete at all levels of politics.

Another Move for Open


Common Cause Michigan is a champion for government transparency. As such, it last week issued a call “to Lansing: It’s time to come clean” and “strengthen open records laws.”

It touted legislation crafted by a bipartisan group of lawmakers, led by Representatives Ed McBroom (R-Vulcan) and Jeremy Moss (D-Southfield) that makes the governor’s office and the Legislature subject to Michigan’s open-records law, as they are in 48 other states.

“Michigan’s government must become more transparent and accountable to discourage backroom decision-making and secrecy,” Dan Farough, spokesman for Common Cause Michigan, said of the organization’s newly launched online campaign to back action.

“The Flint water crisis tragically demonstrated what happens when citizens are denied information from their elected officials. We are now calling on the people of Michigan to hold their leaders accountable and demand action.”

It’s a welcome call.

State GOP Lawmakers

Split on Trump

Several of the nine Republicans among Michigan’s 14 members of the U.S. House of Representatives have endorsed presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, including Up North’s 1st District Representative Dan Benishek of Crystal Falls.

But not the senior member of the nine, 15-term 6th District Representative Fred Upton of St. Joseph, powerful chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, who said Trump has “gone off the track.”

Upton said last week on Holland radio station WHTC-AM of Trump and likely Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton: “There’s a lot of things that folks are not happy about with either of these two candidates… don’t look for me to endorse anyone in this race probably the rest of the year.”

This, and other developments, prompted this The Detroit News front-page headline: “Trump Split Grows in Mich. Delegation.” Four Republicans in the delegation have declined to endorse Trump.

The Detroit News also had this quote from former state House Speaker Rick Johnson (R-LeRoy), a longtime power in Lansing and a Trump state convention delegate: “I’m a street guy, and the everyday working person is supporting Trump, from teachers to farmers to the guy that works in the factory.”

Of politicians critical of Trump, Johnson said: “These politicians better get the hell out of their offices and get on the street.”

George Weeks, a member of the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame, for 22 years was 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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