Wheeler Smith leaves race

The herd is thinning:

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Democratic state Rep. Alma Wheeler Smith said Monday she is withdrawing from the race to become Michigan’s next governor.

Her departure leaves Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero and House Speaker Andy Dillon as the only Democrats on track for the Democratic primary ballot in August. Five candidates are expected on the Republican primary ballot.

Smith, a longtime state lawmaker from Salem Township in Washtenaw County, was perhaps the most liberal candidate in the race to replace term-limited Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm. She had been lagging behind Dillon, the most moderate of the Democratic candidates, and Bernero in polls.

"I love Michigan and believe that I can help this state in its time of crisis," Smith said in a statement. "But this race is about more than me. Democrats need to unify behind a candidate and I have come to believe that my continued candidacy would only serve to divide us further. … Like many people, I share the concern of splitting the progressive vote and ending up with a candidate that does not represent core Democratic values."

Smith, 68, was one of the first entrants in the governor’s race, launching her campaign last June.

Smith’s campaign said it had been "well on a path" to gathering the 15,000 signatures needed to make the governor’s ballot. The deadline for filing is Tuesday.

Smith can’t run for a seat in the Michigan House again because of the state’s term limits law.

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Early polls show GOP candidates lead Dems

Ask

I can’t imagine what the numbers look like vs. Cox, Snyder or Hoekstra.

… and ye shall receive.

The two leading Democratic candidates would lose to any of the three top Republican challengers if the election were held today, according to the poll by EPIC/MRA of Lansing released exclusively to the Free Press, WXYZ-TV (Channel 7) and three outstate TV stations.

Between the two Democratic candidates, Dillon leads … unless people actually know the differences between the candidates.

House Speaker Andy Dillon leads Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero for the Democratic primary — 22% to 15% — although Bernero shows signs of closing the gap. When voters were given brief descriptions of the candidates, Bernero jumped ahead of Dillon, 29% to 24%.

Interesting. People tend to say they support candidates that they think are going to win, even if they don’t know any differences on issues. Dillon is better known, so when two names are put out there, people say the one they’ve heard of.

Pete Hoekstra leads among GOP candidates …

Among Republicans, U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra of Holland has a lead of six percentage points over Attorney General Mike Cox.

Support for Cox and businessman Rick Snyder has leveled off since February.

"People are not jumping on the Rick Snyder bandwagon, even though he’s gained 12 points in name recognition" after a series of TV ads, Porn said.

… and presumably against everyone else.

Voters preferred Republicans Cox, Hoekstra or Snyder by significant margins when each was matched against either Dillon or Bernero.

‘None of the above’ leads Dem. governor race

According to a recent poll, Democrats are less than excited about the three horse Democratic governor race featuring Reps. Andy Dillon, Alma Wheeler-Smith and Lansing mayor Virg Bernero. [The Detroit News].

While ‘Undecided’ is far and away the leader of 53 percent, 17 percent of the people polled said ‘None Of The Above,’ while only 13 percent favored Dillon over Wheeler Smith (10 percent) and Bernero (8 percent).

A Rasmussen phone survey released Tuesday showed 53 percent of likely Democratic primary voters are undecided, while House Speaker Andy Dillon of Redford Township gets 12 percent, state Rep. Alma Wheeler Smith of Salem Township 10 percent and Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero 8 percent.

Seventeen percent said they preferred someone other than the three announced candidates.

I can’t imagine what the numbers look like vs. Cox, Snyder or Hoekstra.

Kildee drops out of governor race

Citing a desire to promote unity among progressives being forced to choose between Virg Bernero and him, Dale Kildee has dropped out of the Democratic gubernatorial primary race.

Associated Press has the story:

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Former Genesee County Treasurer Dan Kildee announced Friday that he’s dropping out of Michigan’s Democratic governor’s race, setting the stage for a likely bruising primary fight between House Speaker Andy Dillon and Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero.

"I certainly had hoped to be the candidate to unite the diverse interests that comprise the core of (the) Democratic Party," Kildee said in a statement. "It is now clear that the effort to unite progressive organizations and organized labor around a single candidate will not occur."

Bernero, son of a former General Motors Co. worker and a staunch advocate for autoworkers, has been saying he’ll get the endorsement of the United Auto Workers, a key constituency in the party. The union has not announced its pick.

Kildee, 51, will continue his work as president and CEO of the Center for Community Progress, a new national land use nonprofit organization that has offices in Flint and Washington.

The Democratic race has been in upheaval since early January, when Lt. Gov. John Cherry unexpectedly dropped out, leaving state Rep. Alma Wheeler Smith as the only candidate. Bernero, Kildee and Dillon quickly geared up for a run.

With Smith far behind in campaign contributions, Kildee’s withdrawal leaves the contest to Dillon and Bernero. The victor will face the winner of a five-way race for the Republican nomination and possibly an independent, former U.S. Rep. Joe Schwarz.

Bernero is seen as a traditional Democrat with an ability to reach out to blue-collar voters, but he is virtually unknown outside Lansing and has a brash personality that occasionally has led to conflicts with some of his constituents.

Dillon has better name recognition around the state but isn’t trusted by some Democrats because of his inability as House speaker to save state spending important to Democrats and his sponsorship of a plan that would place all public employees’ health care into one system. He opposes abortion and embryonic stem cell research, two stances that could put him at odds with much of the Democratic base.

Kildee had hoped to be seen as more in tune with party values than Dillon and more steady than Bernero. But the unified backing he hoped to lock in didn’t happen.

In his statement, Kildee warned indirectly that it’s likely traditional Democratic voters would have split their votes in a four-way race among him, Bernero and Smith, allowing Dillon to grab the nomination.

"The will of the majority of Democratic primary voters would likely give way to the plurality of a minority of voters and our party’s nominee will go down to defeat in November," he said. "This is unacceptable to me."

Michigan AFL-CIO President Mark Gaffney said last week that he had told his member unions that Kildee was a solid alternative to others in the race. Kildee spent 26 years as either a Genesee County commissioner or treasurer and oversaw many of the congressional campaigns of his uncle, U.S. Rep. Dale Kildee, during the past three decades.

"Maybe he doesn’t light the world on fire, but he’s this sort of Steady Eddie guy … the kind of Democrat that Michigan voters traditionally like," Gaffney said. "If you’re really worried about Dillon’s unpredictability and you’re really worried about Virgil, this is your alternative."

That message apparently didn’t resonate with some Democratic activists.

Kildee is the fifth potential Democratic candidate to decide against running.

The others are U.S. Rep. Bart Stupak, University of Michigan Regent Denise Ilitch, Major League Baseball executive Bob Bowman and Michigan State University Trustee George Perles.

State Sen. Hansen Clarke got in the race in January but then dropped out to concentrate on a congressional run.

Dillon says he’s in, immediately leads Dems race (for now)

At long last, one of the expected candidates for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination has said he’s in: Andy Dillon.

The Michigan house speaker formally announced his candidacy on Sunday. He’s the fourth candidate to declare, along with Lansing mayor Virg Bernero, fellow state representative Alma Wheeler Smith (Ann Arbor), and former Genesee County treasurer Dale Kildee.  [The Detroit News].

Dillon said his experience in business will help him create jobs in the state.

An attorney and former executive, Dillon was president at Detroit Steel Co. (formerly McLouth Steel) and was a vice president with GE Capital. He stressed he planned to join his personal vision of creating jobs with his business experience and the state’s engineering and automotive manufacturing expertise.

He lamented an exodus of nearly a quarter-million young people from Michigan over the past decade and partisan politics in Lansing that impede identifying solutions to Michigan’s many problems. He stressed Michigan must reinvent itself.

"We have to make Michigan a place where young people want to stay or even move to in order to pursue their dreams," he said. "… We must refocus on growth industries like hybrids and battery technology."

While Dillon enters the race as the favorite, Time says he still has some convincing to do:

The first challenge for Dillon, a lanky 48-year-old former investment banker, will be to win the confidence of the Democratic masses. To succeed, he must soothe the concerns of unions, a historically crucial Democratic constituency he has angered with proposals to restructure state employees’ health insurance plans. He is Catholic and opposes abortion, which may be problematic for liberals in his party. He has reportedly raised at least $1 million in recent weeks. But raising the kind of money necessary for a credible campaign will be tricky in the current financial environment. He lives in a Detroit suburb, but must quickly build a presence beyond the state’s largest media market.  It’s somewhat early to pay serious attention to polls, and the cast of prospective Democratic and Republican candidates is still broad. Nevertheless, so far, the numbers are in Dillon’s favor: 17% of respondents in a recent poll said they would vote for Dillon in the Democratic primary, scheduled for August. However, 45% of those respondents said they were essentially undecided about who they will support.

Democratic gubernatorial candidates continue to run… for the hills

Very few Democrats seem interested in running for governor in the wake of Jennifer Granholm’s reign.

First, the assumed frontrunner John Cherry announced he was out, just weeks after saying he’d be proud of running on Granholm’s record. Then Dennis Archer, Sen. Debbie Stabenow, Hanson Clarke and Bart Stupak.

Now, the wildcard, Denise Ilitch has announced she won’t run.

If State Rep. Andy Dillon decides he’s running, his competition appears to be only Rep. Alma Wheeler Smith and Lansing mayor Virg Bernero, two candidates with very little statewide profile. (On second thought, that might not be a bad thing for them).

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.