Traverse City Record-Eagle

August 19, 2012

George Weeks: Hoekstra seeks six debated with Stabenaw

By George Weeks, Syndicated columnist

---- — Debates and daily TV ad attacks are yet to come, but sparring between Republican challenger Pete Hoekstra and Sen. Debbie Stabenow is well under way and escalated last week.

Ex-Congressman Hoekstra, winner of a spirited primary, called for six debates, saying "it is finally time for Senator Stabenow to answer for her record in public. We need to go beyond the talking points of President Obama and (Senate Majority Leader) Harry Reid and discuss the solutions we need to get Michigan families working again."

There undoubtedly will be the traditional debate before the Detroit Economic club, and Hoekstra said there are invitations from associations and news groups, including TV stations in Grand Rapids and Flint.

"It's surprising Hoekstra wants to debate at all given that he wants to take away people's right to elect their senators altogether," Stabenow spokesman Cullen Schwarz told The Detroit News in reference to Hoekstra's comments favoring return to having state legislatures choose U.S. senators. (The 17th amendment, ratified in 1913, allowed voters to elect senators directly.)

"In any case, we look forward to the candidates debating and as with every statewide race, the campaigns will need to sit down with each other and figure out when that can happen."

Stabenow, in a fund-raising pitch, dissed Hoekstra's congressional record and her campaign unleashed a barrage of criticisms.

Her campaign manager, Dan Farough, said that after Hoekstra's 18 years in Congress and then working for a Washington lobbying firm, "It is no wonder he wants to end Medicare as we know it, privatize Social Security and raise taxes on middle-class families — all in order to give even more tax breaks to millionaires, billionaires and special interests. The Milwaukee Sentinel-Journal, in a commentary last week, raised an interesting issue:

"Sound familiar? It should. It is the same plan championed by Rep. Hoekstra's buddy, Rep. Paul Ryan."--the congressman from neighboring Wisconsin who is the running mate choice of Republican presidential nominee-in-waiting Mitt Romney.

Great Lakes--a campaign issue?

The Milwaukee Sentinel-Journal, in a commentary last week, raised an interesting issue spurred by the Ryan selection:

"Now that both presidential campaigns have candidates from Great Lakes states — President Barack Obama of Illinois and U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin — we'd like to see, and we think voters would like to see, some meaty discussion on protecting the resource. The lakes face a host of threats and will require more federal funds to keep them healthy; lots of issues should be on the table and deserve discussion from both camps.

"But one issue on which we'd really like to hear the candidates' views is the threat posed by invasive species and, in particular, the Asian carp, now swimming its way through Illinois rivers to Lake Michigan. How do the candidates feel about implementing what many, including this Editorial Board, think is the only real solution to stopping the carp from establishing a population in the lakes — permanently closing the Illinois canal that artificially links the Great Lakes watershed and the Mississippi River watershed that's become the new home for the carp?"

Not mentioned in the commentary: Romney was born and raised in Michigan, greatest of the Great Lakes states.

Judicial northern journeys

Another Democratic candidate for the Michigan Supreme Court, while campaigning in northern Michigan, has called for reform in the method of selecting justices.

Wayne County Circuit Judge Connie Kelley, while in Traverse City last week on a swing that included the Upper Peninsula, was critical of the process of having parties nominate candidates who then run on the nonpartisan ballot.

Similar comments were made the previous week in Glen Arbor by Bridget Mary McCormack, a dean in the University of Michigan Law School.

In last week's column, noting that there are five women seeking high court slots on the nonpartisan ballot, I said it was possible the court could end up with its first female majority. In fact it happened twice before.

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.