Traverse City Record-Eagle

Opinion

June 8, 2014

Jack Lessenberry: Candidates seek to change divide in representation

For most of recent history, Michigan has sent Democrats to the U.S. Senate, and Republicans to the governor’s office in Lansing.

Republican Terri Lynn Land and Democrat Mark Schauer have one thing — maybe only one — in common: They are vowing to change that. But based on what happened at the state’s major annual leadership conference on Mackinac Island, that tradition seems likely to hold.

The Democratic candidate for governor looked weak and irrelevant, when anybody bothered to notice him at all.

And the GOP’s anointed candidate for the Senate’s appearance was such an appalling disaster, state party officials didn’t even attempt to defend her against scathing media criticism.

First, a little background. On paper, Schauer, the Democrats’ only candidate in the August gubernatorial primary, has the harder task. No Michigan governor has failed to win a second term since the current state constitution was adopted in 1963.

His campaign admits it will have far less money than incumbent Gov. Rick Snyder. Democrats face an uphill battle in most mid-term elections, since their voters have been historically less inclined to show up when there’s not a Presidential election.

Plus, polls show that Schauer, a former state legislator and one-term congressman from Battle Creek, is still not widely known.

Last year, Schauer did surprise some people by showing up at the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce’s annual conference at the island’s legendary Grand Hotel, an event attended by the state’s business elite, politicians and the media.

The Democrat pressed the flesh, made his case, and impressed a few people with his pluck. This year, however, he came to the island, but not to the hotel. Instead, he challenged the governor to a series of four debates, plus one between Lt. Gov. Brian Calley and the Democratic lieutenant governor candidate Lisa Brown.

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