TRAVERSE CITY — Traverse City Mayor Michael Estes has worn the hats of both major political parties during his career in public office, and largely crafted a reputation as a moderate on social issues who leans to the right on fiscal matters.
Estes recently created some political waves when he waded into a local state Senate primary race and endorsed a former television weatherman from Antrim County who’s frequently embraced extreme conservative positions, and in doing so snubbed the hometown establishment Republican.
Estes endorsed Rep. Greg MacMaster, R-Kewadin, a state House member who was elected in 2010, over term-limited Rep. Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City.
Estes, who worked with Schmidt for several years in the late ‘90s and early 2000s on the Great Lakes Community Health Board of Directors, said his endorsement wasn’t based on either candidate’s platform.
“I would say style and what I perceive as abilities to go get the job done. I don’t have any hard facts for one issue in particular I can point to,” Estes said. “I never felt that Rep. Schmidt, this is some time ago on the mental health board, I didn’t think he really took the issues seriously.”
Schmidt’s style could prove to be a challenge as he campaigns against MacMaster, whose face is familiar to many after his years-long stint on regional television.
The two hope to represent the 37th Senate district, which comprises counties in northwest Michigan, from Grand Traverse and north and east to Cheboygan, as well as three counties in the eastern upper peninsula.
They already fired several political salvos at each other. MacMaster trumpeted Estes’ endorsement, while Schmidt was quoted in a press release as referring to Estes as a “liberal” and contending MacMaster “is not the conservative he claims to be.”