This week started off with a powder keg issue for Michigan politicians: Congress’s failure to extend jobless benefits.
With Michigan’s (somewhat) improved unemployment rate still hovering somewhere over 13 percent, all gubernatorial candidates are stuck between, on one hand, trying to play up fiscal responsibility for a state that is broke,* and on the other hand, showing the proper amount of compassion for the thousands who were first laid off from their livelihoods, and now are uncomfortably close to suffering the ultimate indignity: being laid off from unemployment.
* Yes, I know the Congress is the one not extending benefits, but the candidate’s comments will undoubtedly be twisted to show they are in favor of some kind of welfare state.
Jackie Headapohl of the Grand Rapids Press called all of the candidates to find out their thoughts on the issue, with predictable results:
The offices of Republicans Tom George, Pete Hoekstra and Mike Cox, as well as the office of Democratic candidate and Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero did not return calls or e-mails yesterday, but Bouchard, Snyder and Democratic candidate Andy Dillon offered statements through their spokespeople.
GOP candidate Michael Bouchard is apparently against an extention. At least that’s what it seems, based on the statement released by his spokesperson,
Marie Antoinette Ted Prall:
A spokeswoman for Bouchard said, "Mike Bouchard believes that the best way to combat unemployment is to make Michigan the place to do business again. As a Senator, Mike was a leader in crafting legislation that gave people a hand up, not a hand out. That’s the same kind of governor he will be."
Fellow GOP candidate Rick Snyder and Democratic candidate Andy Dillon favor extending the benefits:
According to his communication director, Rick Snyder "doesn’t support increasing the national debt and raising taxes. He does believe that federal unemployment benefits should be extended to help put food on the table by cutting spending to offset the costs."
Democratic candidate and State House Speaker Andy Dillon is a proponent of extending federal unemployment benefits according to a campaign spokesman. "Far too many people are out of work and need the help," he said.
Elsewhere, Dillon and Virg Bernero debated again on Monday, and civility again took a back seat to one liners. Such is life in politics.
Bernero repeatedly referred to Dillon as "speaker of the mess" and said it’s too late for him to lay out ideas he should have implemented in the last four years as the leader of the state House.
"You can’t handle the job you got and you want a promotion?" Bernero asked during the taping of the debate at WTVS public television studios in Wixom.
Dillon shot back that unemployment has soared in Lansing during Bernero’s administration, auto manufacturing employment has dwindled from 28,000 to 16,000 and the city’s credit rating has been lowered.
"In your term as mayor your budget has gone up every year except this one," Dillon said.
He touted his experience as a private investor and legislative leader, saying the combination gives him the background needed to lead the state out of its economic morass.
"My opponent is a 20-year career politician now running for his sixth office," the speaker said.
Bernero charged that Dillon "screwed up" the Michigan Business Tax and the Promise grants for college students. "Now he wants to circle back" and fix those problems, he said. He also said Dillon is on record opposing national health care reform legislation.
Dillon replied he never opposed the federal health care bill. He fired back that Bernero was labeled an ineffective legislator in a survey of his peers and that he was in the Legislature when the state’s structural deficit took root.
According to the Michigan Messenger, both Democrats will be firing up the ad wars after the Fourth of July. In other ad news, remember Mike Cox’s allegedly stolen and internet leaked ads defending him against potential Manoogian Mansion attacks? Cox is running them in Detroit.
Asked whether the commercials are being run because of persistent questions about Cox’s investigation, campaign manager Stu Sandler said: "No. We wanted to introduce Mike’s background as a prosecutor."
Also the Detroit Free Press has done a series of profiles on all of the primary candidates: Bernero, Dillon, Cox, Snyder, Pete Hoekstra, Bouchard and Dr. Tom George. (Incidentally, please take no offense, Tom George supporters, at the lack of news in these posts about your candidate. I’ve not found any stories about him in the major papers, or I would have posted it.)
Supreme Court candidates still have a couple weeks to officially enter the race, but this we know: Justice Robert P. Young Jr. is in (you can follow his campaign on Facebook here if you are so inclined), and Justice Elizabeth A. Weaver is as well … as an independent (no Facebook page found). So a new GOP candidate will probably run against Weaver for the MSC (and when I say “probably” I mean “definitely.”)
But will the Democrats put anyone up against her? And will any of the new candidates have a Facebook page for you to follow/spam? See you next week.