By George Weeks
---- — "We are all Detroiters today …"
— Senate Democratic Leader Gretchen Whitmer
Gov. Rick Snyder, who campaigned as “one tough nerd,” faces mighty tough times politically from both the left and the right in the last half of his first term.
The National Journal pictured a grim, tight-lipped Snyder to illustrate its July 13 article headlined: “GOP governors in critical swing states are seeing their reelection chances jeopardized by more-radical elements within their own party.”
Snyder also now is under fire from union leaders, community activists and others for authorizing Kevyn Orr, his appointed emergency manager for Detroit, on Thursday to file the largest municipal bankruptcy case in U.S. history.
“Now is our opportunity to stop 60 years of decline,” Snyder said at a Detroit press conference Friday.
(Snyder on Sunday was scheduled to be on NBC’s “Meet the Press” and CBS’s “Face the Nation.”)
In the swirl of media coverage, including stories on national TV, of the Detroit bankruptcy, I was particularly struck by reasoned comments Friday by state Senate Democratic Leader Gretchen Whitmer of East Lansing—who would have been a strong contender for the 2014 Democratic gubernatorial nomination had she not declined to run for apparent family reasons. In declining to join the chorus of Snyder criticism, she said:
“As disappointing as it was to see the news of Detroit’s bankruptcy filing, now is not the time for despair, nor is it a time to point fingers. Instead, it should be a time of hope and a time to look forward for all of Michigan as we come together in support of our largest city and the economic hub of our state.”
Whitmer, a former three-term state representative, said:
“Bankruptcy isn’t the option anyone hoped for, but now that it is a reality we must work together to ensure it succeeds so that the recovery taking place within the city will not only continue, but accelerate.
“We are all Detroiters today, and together, we can make sure that we not only endure this latest challenge, but overcome it and show the world that the city and our state’s greatest successes have yet to come.”
Well before Detroit’s bankruptcy issue, the National Journal cited Snyder among GOP governors facing skirmishes over union rights and other issues “that are applauded by Republican donors and base voters, but they don’t project the moderation that may be needed to win in states such as Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.”
The magazine said Snyder was “nudged into a difficult position” by the GOP-ruled legislature to support on a right-to-work law that for three years he said was “not on my agenda.”
It said: “In a state often called the birthplace of the modern labor movement, his approval rating plummeted and has not recovered.”
It also noted that Bill Ballenger, publisher of the Inside Michigan Politics newsletter often quoted here, contends Snyder was “pressured to go along by legislative leaders, important fund-raisers, and ‘potentates’ of the Republican Party. He says Snyder’s approval rating dropped for two reasons: ‘He seems to have flip-flopped,’ and his carefully cultivated “one tough nerd” image as a moderate took a hit when he signed into law “one of the articles of faith of conservatism”’—the right-to-work bill.
The tough nerd thing never clicked with me. But Snyder on many an issue has been a gutsy governor.
Sierra Club Endorses Peters
It comes as no surprise, but last week’s Sierra Club very early endorsement of Gary Peters underscores the environmental card that the third-term Oakland County congressman will be playing as the virtually-assured 2014 Democratic nominee to replace retiring Sen. Carl Levin.
Anne Woiwode, director of Sierra Club’s Michigan chapter and longtime player in state elections, said Peters “has made protection of our Great Lakes a priority every step of the way. Throughout his public service, Gary has led efforts to ban drilling for gas and oil in the Great Lakes, urged lawmakers to take immediate action against invasive Asian carp, and fought to keep the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funded.”
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.