2017-05-20 / Columnists

Michigan Politics

Geoffrey Fieger Roars Back on Political Scene
By George Weeks

Last week was a big one for early maneuvering on who will be the 2018 Democratic nominee for governor.

Controversial Southfield attorney Geoffrey Fieger, who lost 62% to 38% 20 years ago as the Democratic challenger of Republican Governor John Engler, said he is “darned serious” but in no hurry about possibly running again next year, and maybe later for president.

During taping of WKAR-TV’s Tim Skubic “Off the Record” show, he said: “If I do run for governor, I’m not going to promise not to run for president. … And if I became the governor, I’d be thinking long and hard, because what I’m seeing on the national scene is even more frightening than Michigan right now.”

As for Michigan, Fieger, who advertises his legal firm heavily on television, said:

“I’ve watched this state deteriorate at the point where we can’t travel our roads, our schools are a disaster, we’re not paying workers what they should be paid, we’re engaging in a war on teachers, and, frankly, I honestly believe we have had a dearth, meaning an absence, of leadership in Michigan for so many years.”

He said term-limited Republican Governor Rick Snyder “was not, and is not, up to being governor.”

(The Fieger interview prompts me to note that over many years, “Off the Record” guests have been frequent factors in my columns. The program, which features reporters who cover state politics, is to Michigan what “Meet the Press” is to the nation.”)

Media coverage of high-profile Fieger eclipsed the decision of third-term 5th District U.S. Representative Dan Kildee (D-Flint Township) to not run for governor. Kildee, whose uncle, Dale Kildee, had the congressional seat for 36 years, left ex-Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer of East Lansing as the widely seen frontrunner for the Democratic nomination.

Last week, she got her biggest union endorsement so far, from the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights.

Clearly, Whitmer is an insider favorite and early frontrunner. Fieger would be a clear outsider, and relish the role.

Fieger said of a run for governor: “I’d pull everyone in. As Donald Trump showed in this state, the identity of Republicans and Democrats isn’t as important as what they feel you are speaking to. This state, for all intents and purposes, should be a Democratic state, but nobody has ever spoken to them the way we need to be spoken to again.”

(Fieger obviously is not aware of how Michigan 1949-1960 Democrat Governor G. Mennen Williams spoke in much the way Fieger does today.)

Also last week, University of Michigan Regent Mark Bernstein, a prominent Ann Arbor attorney often seen statewide on his father’s family law firm “Call Sam” television ads, said he’s “very seriously” considering a bid for governor.

His brother, Richard Bernstein, who also used to be in the family television ads, is on the Michigan Supreme Court.

The early Democratic field includes ex-chief of the Detroit Health Department Abdul El- Sayed, retired Xerox executive William Cobbs of Farmington Hills, emergency medical services driver Kentiel White of Southfield, Justin Giroux of Wayland, and Ann Arbor businessman Shri Thandear.

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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