There’s been recent heightened national interest in Michigan’s U.S. Senate and gubernatorial races, and it will increase in coming weeks. Some observations on 2014 outlooks:
--With nationwide polls showing Democrats suffering from the botched rollout of Obamacare, assorted polls and media commentators have cited improved—but by no means assured—prospects that Republicans, who rule the House, could win the net six seats needed to take control of the Senate.
In the race between likely nominees Democratic Congressman Gary Peters of Oakland County and Republican ex-Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land of Kent County to replace retiring Democratic Sen. Carl Levin, some polling, but not all, has moved from “lean Democrat” to “toss up.”
At one point, the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, as part of a fund-raising pitch to party faithful about endangered states, said: “In Michigan we’ve slipped seven points this month.”
--Some December polling also gave Gov. Rick Snyder a slight lead over ex-Congressman Mark Schauer of Battle Creek, likely Democratic nominee.
Early December 2013 polls, although of interest to party and media types even long before campaigning gets underway, are not predictive of what will happen when it counts in early November 2014.
Nonetheless, there is increasing national focus on Snyder (yet to formally announce for reelection), one of 30 incumbent Republican governors. Beyond Michigan’s economic issues, there is the Snyder role in Detroit’s largest U.S. municipal bankruptcy.
Although not a focus of national coverage, an issue destined to become a hot issue in the 2014 election here in Michigan is Snyder’s signing last week of a controversial bill that protects the secrecy of issue ad contributors, quashing a commendable effort by Republican Secretary of State Ruth Johnson to increase transparency on such donors—a move that Snyder once advocated.
The bill has some positive provisions, including the Snyder-touted requirement of disclosure of sponsors of automated “robocalls” we all get on the phone. But Snyder should have used the veto pen.
--A somber economic projection on what Snyder faces in his re-election year comes from Bridge Magazine published by the Center for Michigan: “A scary look at our jobs outlook.”
The Center, a positive force whose supporters include some major business interests, said Michigan ranks 49th in projected job growth, beating out only Maine. It said, “Michigan has a bigger hole to climb out of than most states. It lost a higher percentage of jobs in the past decade than any other state.”
--In line with encouraging moves in Washington, there’ s hope that Lansing may renew the emphasis that it long ago abandoned on mental health.
Snyder, while mum on other aspects of his January State of the State Message, indicated in his year-end interview with the Associated Press that he would address mental health.
As I noted here last week, Sen. Debbie Stabenow’s leadership on the issue that includes her Excellence in Mental Health Act, was highlighted during her participation in a White House national media conference call on the Affordable Care Act.
Too many mental care facilities have been closed across the land, including Michigan. Politicians have paid too little attention to the issue.
Rankings of northern lawmakers
On balance, northern Michigan lawmakers had a good record this year of showing up to cast votes for the 665 issues in the state Senate and 534 in the House, according to an assessment by the Midland-based Mackinac Center for Public Policy.
Sen. Howard Walker, R-Traverse City, missed no votes and Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, missed three.
According to the tally, all northern House members had no missed votes, with the exeption of Reps. Scott Dianda, D-Calumet (1); John Kivela, D-Marquette (10); and Greg MacMaster, R-Kewadin (29).
Also of interest are the most recent liberal-conservative voting ratings of state senators by Inside Michigan Politics newsletter, based on its tally of 38 “litmus test” roll call votes during 2013.
Turns out that Michigan’s northernmost senators were relatively moderate among Republicans on the “liberal” scale used by IMP.
Only three Republicans had a more “liberal” record than Casperson (21.1 percent liberal on a 0-100 scale). The voting record of seven Republicans was more conservative than that of Walker (18.4 percent), and nine fell to the right of Darwin Booher of Evart (15.8 percent).
Sen. Joe Hune, R-Hamberg, had a tally of 2.6 percent, making him the chamber’s most conservative member, while Sen. Rebekah Warren, D-Ann Arbor, was its leading liberal, voting that way 97.4 percent of the time.
In short, the voting records of northern senators are not all that extreme.
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.