Traverse City Record-Eagle

Opinion

September 22, 2013

Lively GOP state Senate primary looms

The parties have already pretty much settled on likely nominees for the 2014 race to replace retiring Democrat Carl Levin, Michigan’s longest-serving U.S. senator.

But there’s a lively GOP primary in prospect in the only state Senate district — the 37th — that spans both peninsulas. The two Republican contenders, both influential state representatives and savvy in getting media attention, are three-term Rep. Wayne Schmidt, 46, of Traverse City, and two-term Rep. Greg MacMaster, 51, of Kewadin

The 37th District, now represented by retiring Howard Walker, R-Traverse City, is dubbed by Inside Michigan Politics newsletter as going “likely GOP” next year in its three counties of the Eastern Upper Peninsula and five below the bridge. Highly likely GOP is more like it.

In IMP’s evaluation of the Democratic base of all legislative districts, based on down-the-ticket votes and other factors, the 37th’s base is 41.1 percent, in contrast to 53.2 percent in the 38th District, where Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, represents 12 counties in the central and western Upper Peninsula.

The newsletter’s Sept. 16 study on House members’ voting records gave a relatively moderate rating to Schmidt, putting him with a dozen Republicans (including Rep. Frank Foster of Petoskey) who voted “liberal” 11.5 percent of the time so far this year.

MacMaster, whose liberal voting rating was a mere 4.2 percent (Rep. Ray Franz, R-Onekama, and four others tallied 0.0 percent), stressed his conservative voting record when he announced for the Senate.

MacMaster, a disabled military veteran and former meteorologist for numerous northern Michigan radio and TV stations, is a promoter of underwater tourism, and recently helping organize Gov. Rick Snyder’s recent dive on a shipwreck in Lake Huron.

Schmidt, a former retailer and five-term Grand Traverse County commissioner, is chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, playing a key role in Snyder’s push for improving Michigan’s deteriorating roads. He touts himself as champion of “additional, stable funding for the extremely successful Pure Michigan campaign, which has vastly benefited business in northern Michigan.”

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