Traverse City Record-Eagle

Opinion

January 9, 2010

Op-Ed: Cherry split opens entire governor race

Nine-term U.S. Rep. Bart Stupak would have a good shot at being the second Michigan governor from the Upper Peninsula if he were this year's Democratic nominee.

But that's such a huge if for the pro-life, pro-gun politician that he said Friday: "I just can't envision myself running for governor. ... My problem is the primary."

He also said he would "find it difficult at this late stage" to enter the race.

But Stupak, in a cell phone interview between appearances in the western U.P., said he would at least "hear out" supporters who have been urging him to run.

Before I talked to Stupak, his press secretary, Michelle Begnoche, said he was "humbled" by speculation about his running and "hopes to have an opportunity within the next several days to talk with voters, party officials and potential candidates to ensure that the strongest field of candidates possible is presented to the voters in the Democratic primary this August."

There's been renewed gubernatorial buzz about Stupak -- and other Democrats on Capitol Hill -- even about Detroit Pistons general manager and ex-guard Joe Dumars -- ever since last week's surprise dropout of Lt. Gov. John Cherry, who was the frontrunner for the nomination despite the albatross of being in the unpopular administration of Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

Also going against Cherry was history. Since statehood in 1837, only six lieutenant governors became governors. Just two were actually elected to the office -- Republican William G. Milliken in 1970, only after he had inherited the job in 1969 when Gov. George Romney resigned to join President Richard Nixon's cabinet, and Democrat John B. Swainson, elected in 1960.

Cherry's withdrawal came shortly after Stupak's wife Laurie sent a $250 campaign contribution to him, adding to earlier contributions. Stupak, in a call to Cherry to express regret about the dropout, joked about the untimely contribution.

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