Traverse City Record-Eagle

Opinion

June 30, 2013

Jack Lessenberry: Ex-lawmaker sets out for governor

A while ago Mark Schauer, the Democratic Party’s all-but-certain nominee for governor of Michigan next year, went on a rescue mission with logistical problems.

His brother-in-law, a miner in the western Upper Peninsula, had a buddy who died, leaving a large German Shepherd. The future looked bleak for the dog. The former congressman, who lives in Battle Creek, looked at his wife Christine … “OK, let’s go see the dog.”

So they took off for the U.P. in their tiny Saturn sedan. When they got there, they decided to adopt him. Talk about a crowded car … especially since the Schauers also tend to take Sheila, their slightly arthritic Australian Shepherd, everywhere with them.

Somehow, they all made it back. Next year, the congressman wants to make it back to government, by becoming the first Michigander in half a century to defeat an incumbent governor running for a second term.

“Rick Snyder’s policies aren’t good for most people in Michigan,” he says. “That’s why I think we can win.”

True, as of today, the candidate is not a household word. Polls show most Michiganders have not yet heard of the often soft-spoken, 51-year-old former community organizer. But remarkably, as of today, many would vote for him anyway.

Since Republican Gov. Rick Snyder changed his mind and helped make Michigan a right-to-work state last December, his popularity has plummeted. A Public Policy Poll earlier this month showed him trailing Schauer, 42 percent to 38 percent.

The challenger knows it is early, and knows “we are going be heavily outspent.” He notes, however, that GOP candidate Dick DeVos outspent his Democratic opponent almost three-to-one eight years ago, and yet lost overwhelmingly.

“Multi-millions of dollars.” Schauer said, making a face, when asked how much it will take to beat the incumbent. “But I think 2014 is going to be a very blue year.” That would fly in the face of historic trends that show an incumbent president’s party usually does poorly in his second mid-term elections.

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