Traverse City Record-Eagle

August 12, 2012

Snyder rallies automobile states

By GEROGE WEEKS, Syndicated columnist
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---- — Once again, a Michigan governor his stepped forward to rally states on behalf of the auto industry.

In the 1970s, Democratic U.S. Rep. James J. Blanchard of Oakland County, later elected governor in 1982, wrote the Chrysler Loan Guarantee Act and was otherwise instrumental in winning adoption of the federal portion of a financial rescue plan for the ailing automaker.

At that time, Republican Gov. William G. Milliken rallied auto state governors, at a meeting in Missouri, to support the act, also supported by then-Sen. Don Riegle, D-Mich.

"They paid off for the states and the economy," Milliken said Friday of that effort and the more recent auto industry rescue efforts of the administrations of Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. (Both Blanchard and Milliken had stints on the Chrysler board after leaving office.)

Now comes Republican Gov. Rick Snyder with announcement of creation of the bipartisan National Governors Auto Caucus to promote "robust auto manufacturing." The other founding governors are Democrat Jay Nixon of Missouri and Republican Bill Haslam of Tennessee.

Snyder's announcement came at a Traverse City meeting of a group of community and industry leaders at the 2012 Center for Automotive Research seminars.

He said: "Since August 2010, Michigan has added more than 23,000 automotive manufacturing jobs, an increase of 20 percent and the auto industry will produce two times the number of cars it did three years ago.

"Working together, we can further build a future of economic strength and security for families across our entire state and region." Snyder also used his Traverse City visit to tout the New International Trade Crossing agreement which he signed in June with Canadian partners for a second bridge between Canada and Michigan--sought by Canada to ease congestion in Windsor.

The project is opposed by owners of the Detroit-Windsor Ambassador Bridge, whose extensive and widely discredited broadcast ad program against the proposed project is one of the most deceptive pitches I have seen or heard on the airways.

Spirited Supreme Court races loom

All of the Michigan Supreme Court contenders in both parties to be candidates for the open seat or to challenge the two incumbents on the ballot are women.

Republicans on the ballot will be Justices Stephen Markman and Brian Zahra.

The third slot will be that of Democratic Justice Marilyn Kelly, who can't run again because of age.

Seeking nomination to that slot on the ballot, to be selected by the GOP state convention, are Court of Appeals Judge Jane Markey of Grand Rapids and Oakland Circuit Judge Margaret O'Brien.

Slotting for the three positions on the seven-member Supreme Court will be decided by the Democratic convention among Wayne County Circuit Judge Connie Kelley, Oakland County Judge Sheilia Johnson and Bridget Mary McCormack, a dean in the University of Michigan Law School.

McCormack, who visited the Traverse City area last week and plans a late August trip to the Upper Peninsula, is the first of these court challengers that I have encountered.

Based on her impressive appearance two weeks ago on Public TV's "Off the Record" show, and my impression during our chat over tea, I suspect she'd be a formidable candidate, although the only contender not currently a judge.

It's interesting that McCormack shares some of the calls for reform of the Michigan Supreme Court selection process advocated by former Chief Justice Betty Weaver, a Republican with whom she met last week in Glen Arbor.

Judge Kelley scheduled Up North stops this week, starting Sunday in Suttons Bay, followed by Traverse City and St. Ignace Monday, Sault Ste. Marie and Newberry on Tuesday, Marquette and Escanaba on Wednesday, Antrim County and Cheboygan Petoskey and Alpena on Friday, and Lovells on Saturday.

If women win two of the three slots that will be on the ballot, they will join Republican Mary Beth Kelly and Democrat Diane Hathaway in the first female majority on Michigan's highest court since statehood.

After 84 male justices, it was not until 1973 that the court had its first female member--Mary Stallings Coleman of Battle Creek.

There have been seven since then.

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