Long before the 2014 election, there are now interesting stirrings in the only two districts of the Legislature that include counties in both of Michigan’s peninsulas.
They are spurred by the surprise decision of Sen. Howard Walker, R-Traverse City, to not seek reelection in the strongly Republican 37th District that includes Luce, Chippewa and Mackinac in the Upper Peninsula and Emmet, Cheboygan, Charlevoix, Antrim and Grand Traverse below the bridge.
(The district has a Democratic base of only 41.1 percent, according to Inside Michigan Politics newsletter.)
Rep. Greg McMaster, R-Kewadin, of the 105th District (Charlevoix, Antrim, Otsego, Montmorency and Oscoda) has declared for the Walker Senate seat.
Among those pondering seeking Walker’s seat is state Rep. Frank Foster, R-Pellston, whose 107th District counties includes Chippewa, Mackinac, Emmet and part of Cheboygan.
Also considering is term-limited 104th Rep. Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City, who represents Grand Traverse County.
In the 104th District to replace Schmidt, there already have been two declared Republican candidates — longtime Grand Traverse County commissioner Larry Inman and former commissioner Rob Hentschel.
Beyond the legislative contenders, there has been considerable late summer trans-peninsula political traffic. Gov. Rick Snyder spent several days last week in the U.P., as did earlier his Democratic challenger, former 7th District U.S. Rep. Mark Schauer of Battle Creek.
1st District U.S. Rep. Dan. Benishek, R-Crystal Falls, plans an Aug. 23 town meeting in Traverse City starting at 1 p.m. at the American Legion Hall.
Latest on U.S. Senate race
Two of the most influential Republicans on Capitol Hill have declined to seek next year’s nomination to replace retiring Democratic Sen. Carl Levin, Michigan’s longest-serving senator.
Last week, 12-term 4th District Rep. Dave Camp of Midland, chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, declined, as has seven-term 8th District Rep. Mike Rogers of Brighton, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Both are leaders on front burner issues of the day and had strong encouragement from party leaders to run for the Senate.
Either would have been a high-profile credible opponent of three-term 9th District U. S. Rep. Gary Peters of Oakland County’s Bloomfield Township, a former state senator and Michigan Lottery Commissioner who essentially is the party-backed Democratic nominee-in-waiting and has a strong record on Great Lakes and other issues.
Much earlier, six-term 10th District U.S. Rep. Candice Miller of Macomb County’s Harrison Township, former secretary of state, also declined the 2014 Senate race.
Not to be ignored amid the recent national media focus on congressmen Peters, Rogers and Camp is the fact that Republicans have a credible announced candidate in former Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land, who in her two elections led the GOP ticket in votes.
In noting Camp declining to run, Land praised “his critical efforts to pass tax reform,” and said he “would have made a very formidable candidate”—as he would have been even more than in the previous years that he declined to run.
According to Michigan Democratic spokesman Joshua Pugh, Camp’s decision harms GOP prospects. He said, “Republicans have suffered another spectacular recruitment failure and irreparably damaged their only candidate in the race for now.”
Among Republicans still considering the race are second-term 3rd District U.S. Rep. Justin Amash of Kent County’s Cascade Township, and Holland Mayor Kurt Dykstra.
Land said, “I will be working very hard over the next few days to unite our party behind a message that is both conservative and electable. We won by historic margins in 2002 and 2006 with strong support from the grassroots and a record of efficient and effective leadership. It is going to take a unified effort in order to win a contested US Senate seat for the first time in a long time but we are on track for success.”
Thirty times on Mackinac
Every two years over many decades, the Michigan GOP has held a Leadership Conference that not only fires up local troops but attracts Republican presidential hopefuls, sometimes as many as a half dozen or so.
So far this year, the 30th Biennial Mackinac Leadership Conference to be held starting Sept. 21 has attracted Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana.
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 is syndicated by Superior Features.