Federal judge speaks to Wayne grads; Stupak joins D.C. firm

Here’s a roundup of upcoming legal events and people of note:

• The Hon. Avern Cohn of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan will speak at Wayne State University Law School’s annual commencement ceremony.

Cohn also will receive an honorary doctor of laws degree at the ceremony, which takes place 5 p.m. May 16 at the Max M. Fisher Music Center in Detroit.

“I am deeply honored to join the past recipients of an honorary degree from the Law School, to wit: Eugene Driker, Dennis Archer, Maura D. Corrigan, Marilyn Kelly and Harold Koh,” Cohn said.

Admission to the commencement is by ticket only. For more information, contact the Law School’s Dean of Students Office at (313) 577-3997 or lawdso@wayne.edu.

• Former nine-term Congressman Bart Stupak, D-Michigan, who played a lead role in passage of the landmark health care legislation of 2010, has joined Venable LLP as a Legislative and Government Affairs partner in the firm’s Washington office.

Stupak was a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and Chairman of its subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.

A former police officer and Michigan state trooper, Stupak became one of the leading congressional voices on law enforcement issues: in 1994 he created the first law enforcement caucus in Congress and went on to help write and pass substantial legislation to support law enforcement professionals.

Stupak also is serving as a Fellow at Harvard University’s Institute of Politics and will be leading a study group on government investigations at the Kennedy School of Government entitled “Investigate or Irritate: Changing Corporate and Government Behavior.”

• A ribbon-cutting ceremony to open the Crime Victims Rights Exhibit at the Michigan Supreme Court Learning Center in Lansing is this coming Wednesday, April 13, at 3 p.m.

Chief Justice Robert P. Young Jr., Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, former state legislator Senator Bill Van Regenmorter (author and proponent of Michigan’s Crime Victims Rights Act), and Attorney General Bill Schuette are scheduled to speak.

The Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan is co-sponsoring the event.

The educational exhibit is a tribute to crime victims and those who advocate for them. It will feature four panels, the exhibit educates the viewer about the act, and its meaning for crime victims, through interactive educational games.

• Know a great young attorney who has made great strides in his or her career? Then the Young Lawyers Section of the State Bar of Michigan wants to know more.

The section is now accepting nominations for the 2011 Regeana Myrick Outstanding Young Lawyer Award.

All nominations must be received by May 6. The recipient of the award will be chosen by the SBM-YLS Outstanding Young Lawyer Award Subcommittee, and will notified by May 13. The award will be presented during the Fourth Annual YLS Summit on Saturday, May 21, at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel in Grand Rapids.

In 1997, the Young Lawyers Section renamed its Outstanding Young Lawyer Award in honor of Regeana Myrick, an executive council member of the section who passed away in August of that year.

For more information, contact Brandy Y. Robinson at byrobinson@gmail.com.

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Keeping Up With The Candidates, Auf Wiedersehen Edition*

* My wife is a Project Runway junkie, which means that on Thursday nights, I get to fall asleep to the sound of Heidi Klum playing off the most recent loser with a soft “auf wiedersehen.” There are worse ways to fade off into dreamland.

At long last, the herd has been thinned and we now know from which two candidates we will select our next governor: Will it be Ann Arbor businessman Rick Snyder or Lansing mayor Virg Bernero?

Both men began the campaign as underdogs. Snyder distanced himself any impression that he’s another Dick DeVos “android” candidate by showing he has a personality in a Super Bowl ad proudly declaring he’s a nerd. Bernero was the scrappy unknown who made a late surge by appealing to the unions, as his opponent, Andy Dillon, appealed to the moderates with pro-life beliefs and . Both men trailed in polls as recently as a week ago.

So what happened? It turned out that Dillon was not really running against Bernero and Snyder was not really running against Pete Hoekstra or Mike Cox. Dillon and Snyder were running against each other, and Snyder won, as independents and moderate Democrats flocked to Snyder, leaving Dillon without the people he counted on. By simply holding onto the true blue Democratic rank & file, Bernero breezed to a comfortable victory. [Dillon didn’t win Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Ingham, Kent, Midland, Kalamazoo, Calhoun, Saginaw or Genesee counties].

For Snyder, he did pretty well even in places he wasn’t expected to do so. In Kent County, which was expected to be the key to a Hoekstra win, Snyder finished only about 10,000 votes behind Hoekstra. Snyder beat Hoekstra in Wayne and Oakland Counties by 20,000 votes each. Hoekstra finished third in both Wayne and Oakland to Mike Cox and Mike Bouchard, respectively. Also, Snyder about doubled everybody in Macomb County. [All counts via Michigan Secretary of State].

So we say ‘auf wiedersehen’ to the campaigns for Pete Hoekstra, Mike Cox, Mike Bouchard, Dr. Tom George, and Andy Dillon.  It will be interesting to see where they wind up. Bouchard is still the Oakland County Sheriff and will be into the future. But Hoekstra gave up his congressional gig and George, Dillon and Cox were term limited. But fear not for these gentlemen. I doubt they’ll be calling MARVIN for long.

But not all of the races are decided. In the race to replace U.S. Rep. Bart Stupak, who is stepping down, GOP challengers Dan Benishek beat Jason Allen by 1 vote. (We finally have our example to show anyone who says their vote won’t matter!) The results won’t be certified until August 23, when, obviously, a recount will be required. The recount could drag on for weeks, which could potentially hurt the GOP’s chances to win in a race that the national party has undoubtedly targeted as an opportunity to pick up a seat in Congress. The question is whether the Republican National Committee will step in and offer either Allen or Benishek a lovely parting gift, such as a sweet job somewhere. If Bush were still president, I’d expect Allen would be named Assistant to the Undersecretary of the Interior next week. But he’s not, so who knows if that’s even an attractive option.

And with that, Keeping Up With The Candidates will be taking a hiatus for a month or so.

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AP – Stupak to retire

From the Associated Press:

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — Rep. Bart Stupak, an anti-abortion Democrat targeted for defeat by tea party activists for his crucial role in securing House approval of the health care overhaul, said Friday he would retire from Congress this year.

The nine-term congressman told The Associated Press he could have won re-election and insisted he wasn’t being chased from the race by the Tea Party Express, which is holding rallies this week in his northern Michigan district calling for his ouster. Instead, Stupak said he was tired after 18 years in office and wanted to spend more time with his family.

"The tea party did not run me out," he said in a telephone interview. "If you know me and my personality, I would welcome the challenge."

Three little-known hopefuls are seeking the GOP nomination, and Stupak faced a primary challenge from a Democrat who supports abortion rights.

Stupak, 58, said he had considered retirement for years but was persuaded to stay in Congress because of the prospect of serving with a Democratic majority and helping win approval of the health care overhaul, which he described as his top legislative priority.

"I’ve fought my whole career for health care and thanks to Barack Obama and my colleagues, we’ve gotten it done," he said.

A political moderate, Stupak is known for an independent streak that sometimes put him at odds with his party’s leadership. He voted against the North American Free Trade Agreement and an assault weapons ban in the 1990s, despite appeals from then-President Bill Clinton.

During the health care debate, Stupak emerged as spokesman and chief negotiator for Democrats who withheld support from Obama’s plan because they feared it would allow public funding of abortions.

At one point, Texas Republican Rep. Randy Neugebauer shouted out "baby killer" during a floor speech by Stupak.

Just hours before the vote, Stupak reached an agreement with the White House under which President Barack Obama would issue an executive order confirming that the legislation would not allow federal funding of abortion. With that, Stupak and other anti-abortion Democrats voted for the bill, sealing its passage.

Since then, Stupak has become a symbol for critics of the overhaul. The Tea Party Express labeled him its No. 2 target for defeat after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada.

The group kicked off a $250,000 television and radio blitz in Stupak’s district Wednesday, ahead of rallies that began Thursday night and were continuing through the weekend.

"The surprising announcement that Congressman Bart Stupak is abandoning his campaign for re-election shows the power of the tea party movement," said a statement posted Friday on its Web site.

Stupak was the first "casualty" of the health care overhaul vote, Michigan Republican Party Chairman Ron Weiser said in a statement.

Michigan’s 1st District is notoriously difficult turf for anyone trying to unseat the incumbent. Measuring 600 miles wide, it encompasses about half the state’s land mass — including the entire Upper Peninsula — and has no major media market. The largest city, Marquette, where Stupak was planning to officially announce his retirement later Friday, has about 20,000 residents.

Stupak has routinely won re-election by wide margins, defeating former state Rep. Tom Casperson with 65 percent of the vote in 2008, and said he was confident of prevailing again.

He acknowledged the criticism he received over the health care overhaul — including telephone threats to his office — had taken a toll, but said he had thrived during the debate. What wore him down, he said, was the grind of constant travel across his sprawling district.

"When I come home I can’t stay home," he said. "I’m there 12 hours and take off. That has gotten hard."

Rich Brown, clerk of the Michigan House and a former Democratic state representative from Bessemer in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, said Stupak made himself visible in the district.

"It is such a grueling job, with how large the district is and the travel," he said.

Other factors could have played a role, too.

"I gotta believe that the ugly messages he was getting and the hate mail and all that stuff — it’s got to wear on you," Brown said. "And Bart’s been there for 18 years. Maybe he just said that enough is enough."

Stupak said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer had urged him to seek re-election. Republicans represented his rural, blue-collar district for nearly three decades before he won in 1992, and his departure will create a strong opportunity for the GOP.

He said a moderate Democrat would have a good chance.

"There are a lot of great Democratic elected officials and activists throughout the entire district. I’m confident we’ll have a very strong candidate," said Mark Brewer, chairman of Michigan Democratic Party.

Democrat Connie Saltonstall, an ex-teacher and ex-Charlevoix County commissioner, was endorsed last month by the National Organization for Women in her bid to win the 1st District seat.

"This retirement presents Republicans with a very promising opportunity heading into the November elections," said Tom Erickson, spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee. They’re certainly going to have a tough time trying to hold on to this seat."

Stupak said he reached his decision this week after talking with his family and was making a quick announcement to give other Democratic hopefuls time to organize and get their names on the primary election ballot before the May 11 filing deadline.

Stupak said he reached his decision this week after talking with his family and was making a quick announcement to give other Democratic hopefuls time to organize and get their names on the primary election ballot.

"I feel like I can finally step away," Stupak said. "I can be home more often with my wife. I’m young enough to start a new career. I’m at peace and very comfortable with my decision."

Stupak, Out

First it was John Cherry. Then it was Hansen Clark. Now, Bart Stupak wants no part of a gubernatorial run.

U.S. Rep. Bart Stupak said Tuesday he won’t seek the Democratic nomination for Michigan governor this year and instead will run for re-election to Congress, where he holds powerful committee assignments and has been a significant voice in the health care debate.

"It is difficult for me to commit to pursuing a statewide gubernatorial campaign at this critical time," the nine-term congressman from Menominee, Mich., said in a written statement. "The compressed time frame and fundraising requirements necessary to secure the Democratic nomination for governor would be very difficult for me to achieve without sacrificing some of my responsibilities in Washington, D.C."

Lt. Gov. John Cherry, the presumptive Democratic front-runner, withdrew his name earlier this month, opening up the race and drawing the attention of Democrats such as Stupak, state House Speaker Andy Dillon, businesswoman and University of Michigan Regent Denise Ilitch, Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero, former Genesee County Treasurer Dan Kildee and former state treasurer Robert Bowman.

But Stupak said Tuesday he believes he "can best serve the people of Michigan in the U.S. Congress."

The 57-year-old sits on the Energy and Commerce Committee and serves as chairman of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee. The former state trooper and a gun-rights advocate has been deeply involved in negotiations over the federal health care overhaul bill and language restricting how abortions are covered by insurance.

He said he plans to begin circulating nominating petitions within the next week to qualify as a candidate for re-election to the 1st congressional district seat he has held since 1993. Thirty-one counties make up the sprawling 1st District. It contains the entire Upper Peninsula as well as the northern part of the Lower Peninsula and is one of the largest congressional districts in the nation.

Stupak’s decision not to run doesn’t do much to clear up what still is an unsettled field in the race for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm can’t run again because of Michigan’s term limits law, and half a dozen Republicans already are in the race.

So far, state Rep. Alma Wheeler Smith is the only Democrat to formally announce that she is running for governor, and her candidacy has not generated much excitement.

Emphasis added.

So it’s Alma Wheeler Smith, maybe Virg Bernero — whose greatest attribute might be that few outside of Lansing knows who he is – or a non-politician like Denise Ilitch. To me, non-politicians are often tough to gauge. The things that make non-politicians exciting possibilities (not a career politician, successful business person, no ties to the current mess, different way of thinking about problems, etc.), also makes them scary (Can they operate when they aren’t the boss?  They can’t fire the legislature for subverting their plans. They have to be able to build consensus with people that can be predisposed to not cooperate.)

Surely someone will rise up and run. The question will be how far.

Another Democratic Candidate Bites The Dust

And yet another Democratic gubernatorial candidate has opted against running this year. This time, it’s a guy who just entered the fray:

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — State Sen. Hansen Clarke of Detroit was the first Democrat to jump in after Lt. Gov. John Cherry withdrew from the Democratic race for governor. But now Clarke is dropping out as well.

Clarke said Friday in a status update on his Facebook page that he won’t be a candidate for governor this year.

A message was left with his campaign office seeking comment.

The complete list of declared gubernatorial candidates in both parties, per the AP:

REPUBLICANS IN THE RACE:

—Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard of Birmingham

—Attorney General Mike Cox of Livonia

—State Sen. Tom George of Kalamazoo County’s Texas Township

—U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra of Holland

—Venture capitalist Rick Snyder of Ann Arbor

___

DEMOCRATS IN THE RACE:

State Sen. Hansen Clarke of Detroit

—State Rep. Alma Wheeler Smith of Washtenaw County’s Salem Township

The lack of candidates is probably a good thing for the higher profile prospective candidates as they explore whether they can actually raise the money needed to run their options. This AP article discusses these undeclared Democratic candidates.

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The surprising withdrawal of Lt. Gov. John Cherry from the Michigan governor’s race presented a golden opportunity to other Democrats who thought they’d have to wait years to run.

But they don’t have much time to decide if they’re in or out.

Some of the five Republicans in the race are poised to begin running ads in February, giving them the chance to make the first favorable impression on voters. And whichever of the uncommitted Democrats jumps into race first could grab the biggest share of donations and endorsements, leaving latecomers with crumbs.

"You can buy a little bit more time as long as everybody else is still up in the air on this," political strategist Tom Shields of Marketing Resources Group said Thursday. "But when those campaign committees start forming, and people start raising money and getting commitments, that’s when you need to either fish or cut bait."

U.S. Rep. Bart Stupak hears the clock ticking. Although he has a safe congressional seat and powerful committee assignments, the Democrat from Menominee is considering running for governor.

"This isn’t something that presents itself very often," Stupak told The Associated Press. "You have to take a look at it."

He’s heading to Detroit on Friday to meet with party activists and get a better feel for whether he wants to run. At the same time, he is deeply involved in negotiations over the federal health care overhaul bill and language restricting how abortions are covered by insurance.

A run for governor "is appealing, but from a practical point of view, can you do it with this compressed time line we have? Health care compresses it even more," Stupak said. He noted that GOP gubernatorial candidate and fellow congressman Pete Hoekstra faces some of the same constraints, "but he’s at least been out there another year."

Stupak knows his opposition to abortion could prove a hurdle to getting the nomination. The former state trooper also is a gun-rights advocate. But he has spoken with former U.S. Rep. David Bonior, an abortion opponent who ran in the 2002 Democratic governor’s race, and said he’s encouraged so far.

Among the others eyeing the race, University of Michigan Regent Denise Ilitch spent Wednesday evening introducing herself at a Democratic mixer in Grand Rapids after discussing a possible run with White House and Democratic Governors Association officials in Washington the night before.

Although she won a statewide race in 2008 as regent, the lawyer from Bingham Farms isn’t well-known in Democratic circles, despite her family owning sports teams, casinos and the Little Caesar’s pizza chain. She’s working to change that, but could be hampered by a pattern of donating to Republicans as well as Democrats.

The nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics reports Ilitch gave $2,000 to former President George W. Bush in 2003, the same year she gave $1,000 to Republican U.S. Rep. Candice Miller. Former President George H.W. Bush got $1,000 in 1992 from Ilitch, who gave the Michigan Republican State Committee $1,000 in 2000.

Ilitch also donated $3,300 to 2008 Democratic presidential candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton and at least $7,500 over the years to Democrats such as Sens. Debbie Stabenow, Carl Levin and the late Ted Kennedy. The Michigan Democratic State Central Committee received $3,000 between 2005 and 2009.

She did not immediately return a call for comment Thursday to her law office.

Other Democrats considering a run are also on record as donating to Republicans. House Speaker Andy Dillon, who has formed an exploratory committee, gave $1,000 to the Michigan Republican State Committee in 1994, records show.

"We’re going to chalk it up to a youthful indiscretion," Dillon spokesman Dan Mahoney said Thursday.

State Sen. Hansen Clarke of Detroit was the first Democrat to jump in after Cherry dropped out, and Rep. Alma Wheeler Smith has been in the race since last summer. Others looking at getting in are Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero, former Genesee County Treasurer Dan Kildee and Michigan State University Trustee George Perles.

One other potential candidate is Robert Bowman, CEO of Major League Baseball’s Internet operations and state treasurer in the 1980s under then-Gov. James Blanchard. Okemos public relations consultant Bob Kolt said Blanchard and others are talking to Bowman about getting into the race.

Bowman, who has a summer home in Harbor Springs and works in New York City, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.