Traverse City Record-Eagle

Opinion

April 13, 2014

Jack Lessenberry: Roster almost set for both sides

Remarkably, seven months before the November elections, both Michigan Democrats and Republicans have the main candidates on their statewide tickets virtually all in place.

But not quite.

Republicans are running a full slate of incumbents for the top jobs: Gov. Rick Snyder and Lt. Gov. Brian Calley; Secretary of State Ruth Johnson and Attorney General Bill Schuette.

Democrats have known for a year that their candidate for governor would be former congressman Mark Schauer, of Battle Creek. Last week, in what may have been something of a coup for his campaign, he added feisty and popular Oakland County Clerk Lisa Brown as his candidate for lieutenant governor.

Mark Totten, an attorney from Kalamazoo, has a clear path to the nomination for attorney general. (In an odd twist of the Michigan Constitution, major party nominees for attorney general and secretary of state are chosen, not in primaries, but by delegates to state party conventions, usually just before Labor Day.)

However, Democrats as yet have no announced candidates for secretary of state. There are any number of reasons for this. First, incumbents seldom lose. Twenty years ago, Secretary of State Richard Austin, a Democrat, did lose his seat — but only after he seemed to be intellectually faltering in a highly publicized debate.

Even then, he might not have lost if 1994 hadn’t been one of the most devastating GOP landslides in many years.

Today, even mounting a major challenge for the office would require at least a million dollars, probably more. Democrats are likely to need every dollar they can chase down for the governor’s race — not to mention what is expected to be a tight race for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by longtime incumbent Carl Levin.

There is also another big difficulty here.

Democrats wouldn’t use these words, and might deny this altogether — but when it comes to putting together a statewide ticket, the party has long maintained an informal, but very real, system of racial, gender, and geographic quotas.

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