Traverse City Record-Eagle

May 5, 2013

George Weeks: Senate contender plans northern swing

By George Weeks
Syndicated columnist

---- — While several Republicans, including two congressmen, ponder seeking the seat to be vacated by retiring Sen. Carl Levin, three-term U.S. Rep. Gary Peters of Bloomfield Township is off to a good start in his bid for the 2014 Democratic nomination.

It’s a good launch for the clear front(and possibly only)runner for the nomination because of the extensive media buildup and coverage that his announcement received and because of the cheers that it drew from party headquarters.

While the headquarters avoids outright endorsements in such primaries, Democratic State Chairman Lon Johnson said in a “Dear Supporter” email minutes after the announcement by the Oakland County lawmaker who is the first declared Senate candidate:

“Gary Peters is a fighter. He has worked tirelessly to protect Michigan’s middle-class families, He’s led the fight to hold Wall Street accountable and invest in Michigan small businesses. He consistently defends a woman’s right to choose. He has always stood up to put Michigan first — no matter what. These are the common sense values that Peters has taken to Washington.”

What Johnson said about the middle class, small business and Wall Street essentially was an echo of Peters’ announcement. Johnson also said: “While one Republican hopeful after another is dropping out of the Senate race before it begins, the Michigan Democratic Party is proud to have candidates like Gary Peters stepping up for Michigan.”

Peters, 54, a former investment banker, state senator and state lottery commissioner, said: “Washington is a mess, but Michigan is on the verge of re-inventing itself with a new economy and a middle class that’s stronger than ever — and I want to be on the front lines of that fight.” (Re-inventing Michigan has been a theme of Gov. Rick Snyder.)

“…Set politics and party aside: if it’s not right for Michigan’s small business and middle class it’s never been right for me.”

Republican State Chairman Bobby Schostak said: “If we apply the same common sense solutions in Washington that Republicans have applied in Lansing, we can clean up the mess created by Peters and his Democratic colleagues.”

While a swarm of Republicans have considered but declined a 2014 Senate bid (including ex-Attorney General Mike Cox , who defeated Peters by a mere 5,200 votes in the 2002 AG contest), so have numerous Democrats, including longtime National Committeewoman Debbie Dingell, wife of U.S. Rep. John Dingell, D-Dearborn.

Among Republicans considering the race are Congressmen Mike Rogers of Howell and Justin Amash of Cascade Township in Kent County, former Michigan Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land, and former Republican State Chairman Saul Anuzis.

Recent polls on possible general election matchups had Peters, Rogers and Land each with percentage support in the 30s, with about a third of voters undecided and Peters slightly ahead of Rogers in one and slightly behind Land in another. Like most extremely early polls, they’re relatively meaningless, other than to indicate if there’s a commanding early favorite.

One thing is apparent with looming retirement of Michigan’s longest-serving senator, and the national media coverage of the resulting open seat, the state could be in top-tier play for control of the Senate, now ruled by Democrats.

After his announcement last week, Peters made a “listening tour” of downstate urban areas. He said, “I’ll be heading to Traverse City, Alpena and the Upper Peninsula soon”—probably late May depending on timing of congressional sessions.

In a phone chat with Peters Friday, we discussed Great Lakes and other issues of interest Up North. He said has been pushing for federal action “on the very critical issue” of blocking Asian Carp from entering the lakes, and that he is a major sponsor of efforts to protect Great Lakes Restoration Funds from budget cuts.

Peters emphasized that these are not limited to being regional issues but are “front and center” as critical to the state and national economy as well middle class families.

Great Lakes Watch

n Six-term U.S. Rep. Candice Miller, R-Macomb County, a former secretary of state who periodically has been mentioned as a possible Senate candidate, also has been a congressional champion on Great Lakes issues.

Among them: supporting New York state’s efforts to strengthen protections against non-native species introduced by ballast water discharges from foreign ships that enter the Great lakes via the St. Lawrence Seaway entered through New York waters.

Last week the National Wildlife Federation asked a federal judge to stop the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from implementing a rule that would prohibit New York ‘s efforts.

n Miller, co-chair of the House Great Lakes Task Force, recently asked Governor Snyder to re-evaluate a longtime pact allowing Illinois to divert 3,200 cubic feet per second of Lake Michigan water through waterways connecting with the Mississippi River.

She also asked the Army Corps of Engineers for updated information on how much water is being diverted. It’s a timely request considering that the Corps earlier this year reported the lowest water levels in recorded history for Lakes Michigan and Huron.

n While agenda and other details have not been announced, Snyder has set June 1-2 as the dates for the summit of Great Lakes governors and premiers he will host on Mackinac Island. So far, four U.S. governors and two Canadian provincial premiers have accepted invitations.

Adding to timeliness of the summit is the recent report from the U.S.-Canadian International Joint Commission on structures in the St. Clair River to help deal with water levels. A similar summit was hosted on the island in 1982 by Gov. William G. Milliken.

n Last month, Michigan came out well in an EPA report on the amounts of penalties incurred in 2012 by major facilities with air quality violations for each Great Lakes state along with the number of the facilities in each.

As reported by the Great Lakes Echo publication of the Michigan State University Knight Center for Environmental Journalism, Pennsylvania was atop the list of eight states with $3,646,379 in penalties to 591 major facilities. Michigan had the least amount of penalties — $118,500 to 387 major facilities.

George Weeks, a member of the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame, for 22 years was the political columnist for The Detroit News and previously with UPI as Lansing bureau chief and foreign editor in Washington. His weekly Michigan Politics column is syndicated by Superior Features.