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.

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).

Granholm floats early retirement plan to help budget crisis

From the AP:

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Gov. Jennifer Granholm is proposing a plan to entice eligible state government workers and public school employees to retire. It’s part of an effort to save money for the cash-strapped state.

Granholm spoke about her plan Friday during a speech to the Lansing Rotary Club. It’s one of several priorities for the Democratic governor during her final year in office. She says it could save around $450 million in its first year.

Other changes include a consolidated health care plan open to all public employees.

Granholm will detail more proposals during her State of the State speech and her final budget proposal in early February.

Michigan faces a budget deficit of at least $1.6 billion for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1.

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.

HELP WANTED: Chief executive, must be miracle worker

With an unemployment rate of around 15 percent, you’d think that no job opening in Michigan would go unanswered.

But there’s one high profile job that will be available at the end of the year that no one seems to want to apply for: Democratic candidate for Governor of Michigan.

First Lt. Gov. John Cherry was forced to bow out of a race of which he was the front-runner because he couldn’t raise any money.

Next, former Detroit mayor and prominent attorney Dennis Archer declared that he wasn’t interested.

Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow have both said that they won’t run.  (It’s in there. Trust me.)

Now, Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano said he’s not running either.

While House Speaker Andy Dillon (D-Redford) seems like a logical candidate that is well-known statewide, but his popularity among the party rank-and-file is questionable in light of his support of consolidating the benefit plans of all state employees. Plus, he’s only just formed a committee to raise money for a potential bid. What if he runs into the same problem that Cherry did?

It’s getting so strange that some of the names being bandied about as great candidates either have no public affairs experience  (Denise Ilitch) or just don’t make sense (Joe Dumars).

Surely, someone will take the plunge. Mike Cox is the only Republican to win a statewide election since 1998. [UPDATE: An astute commenter reminded me that Terri Lynn Land also won two elections as Secretary of State as a Republican. Thanks for reminding me.] (Judicial elections don’t count as they technically aren’t affiliated with parties). The task of following up Governor Granholm can’t be that daunting, can it?

(On second thought, don’t answer that.)