Keeping Up With The Candidates: Rocky v. Peters

I’ve got to admit: Keeping Up With The Candidates is more fun when the candidates hate each other.

Which is why the race for governor has been rather lackluster? Rick Snyder and Virg Bernero have been so darn affable that Bernero can show up at a Snyder event and rather than being chased out by a torch and pitchfork wielding posse, he’s invited up on stage to address the group.

Even their TV ad campaigns are only lowering themselves to claims like “Virg Bernero spends too much on pencils.” Or something. Really? Where are the questions of someone’s citizenship? Or whether some distant relative is gay or Muslim or received a Christmas card from Nancy Pelosi? What have you done with our election process?!

And with Bernero so far back in the polls and seemingly not gaining much ground, the contest itself is starting to resemble a Lions road game.

But fear not, while the Snyder/Bernero race has turned into a buddy comedy starting John Travolta and Michael Keaton, other races, most notably the Congressional ones, feature the mudslinging and name-calling we’ve come to expect out of these things.

Most notably, the race for U.S. Congressman Gary Peters’s seat. Peters and his opponent, Andrew “Rocky” Raczkowski, are like two bad sports talk radio partners: they simply disagree on everything, no matter what the issue. (Unless that issue is immigration, a hot button issue in which pandering to either side can seriously jeopardize your campaign. The latest way of explaining your position? Heighten protection on the border! [Appeal to Tea Party]. Crack down on employers who hire illegals! [Appeal to Hispanics]Peters and Raczkowski seem to agree on that.).

The two candidates have become cartoon caricatures of their respective parties. Peters gets painted as a flaming liberal who kowtows to the “socialist” liberal agenda and Raczkowski is deemed a tin-foil hat wearing ultra right-wing lunatic.

Case in point: this Freep summation of their positions on the only four issues in this election:

On the issues

Health care reform

Peters: Supported

Raczkowski: Wants to repeal

Gays in the military

Peters: Repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy

Raczkowski: Keep the policy

Federal enforcement of medical marijuana laws

Peters: Wants Michigan voters’ legalization of medical marijuana implemented without federal interference

Raczkowski: Wants no further expansion of medical marijuana law

Immigration

Both candidates want the federal government to be more aggressive in protecting the borders, and they want penalties enforced for employers who hire illegal immigrants.

Peters has released an ad detailing a South Dakota court case involving Raszkowski’s company, Star Tickets. The company is being sued by a concert promoter for allegedly “grossly underestimated the number of tickets sold to a concert,” causing $6 million in damages.

In response, Raszkowski has accused Peters of being Gary Peters.

He’s also filed a defamation lawsuit concerning the ad. (The suit seems awfully frivolous since the ad reports of a court case that exists.)

This week, the two met for a debate in front of the Oakland County Commissioners, among other guests. Needless to say, the meetin’ was acrimonious. You can watch the whole thing via the Oakland Press here if you are so inclined.

In the MyFox2 video embedded in the Mlive.com link, one of the Oakland County commissioners was asked if it was getting ugly. She replied “It’s not cute.”

And not even beer goggles are going to make it any prettier.

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Keeping Up With The Candidates, Sept. 10

When we last checked in on our heroes, Virg Bernero and Rick Snyder had both pulled off come-from-behind victories over more established candidates to win their respective parties’ nominations for governor.

By the results alone, it seemed that Bernero would have to pull off the same feat to actually win in November, but he had three long months of campaigning to get over the hill.

One month later, and the hill is looking more and more like a mountain. [The Detroit News].

Lansing — Republican Rick Snyder has maintained the lead he built after the August primaries with a 20.3 percentage point cushion over Democratic opponent Virg Bernero and a shrinking pool of undecided voters.

Snyder is ahead of the Lansing mayor 56.2 percent to 35.9 percent among likely November general election voters, according to a Detroit News/Local 4 WDIV poll released Thursday.

The Ann Arbor businessman’s margin is roughly the same as he had in a Detroit News/Local 4 WDIV poll taken just days after the primary. Voters seem to be making up their minds early as the number of undecideds has fallen from 17.8 percent in August to 7.5 percent today.

"I think (Bernero) is in increasingly bad shape — I was shocked to find only 7.5 percent undecided," said Richard Czuba, president of Glengariff Group Inc., which conducted telephone interviews of 600 people statewide Tuesday and Wednesday. The poll’s margin of error is plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Where the primaries were loaded with people who were either undecided, or being asked about the wrong side of where they were voting (as close to a week before the primary, as many as 35 percent were undecided), the ‘undecideds’ are decidedly decided now, and they seem to like Snyder.

Perhaps more disturbing for Bernero and his supporters as that, even at this stage, many people still don’t even know who he is. And I don’t mean that in a figurative sense in that they don’t know his stance on taxes.

According to the poll, 23.7 percent of people don’t know who he is. That’s higher than the percentage of people who said they have a favorable opinion of him (22.5 percent).

Bill Ballenger suggested to the News that Bernero is going to have to get his hands dirty.

"There’s still two months to go, and the Democrats just launched their big attack ads against Snyder this week," Ballenger said of a TV advertisement launched Thursday by the Michigan Democratic Party that focuses on charges of outsourcing by Snyder during his time at Gateway computers.

"The important thing is they’ve got to tear Snyder down," Ballenger said. "Nobody laid a glove on Snyder in the primary — they didn’t really go after him on outsourcing, and if they did, it was very light.

"Everybody’s waiting to see if this is a replay of 2006 where (Gov. Jennifer) Granholm just tore into (Republican gubernatorial nominee Dick) DeVos over outsourcing jobs, and it worked."

According to another News article, this has already begun.

Michigan Democrats aired a 30-second ad accusing Snyder of mismanagement, sending jobs overseas and profiting from stock options before the company’s shares tanked.

Michigan Democratic Party chairman Mark Brewer said the ad is intended to show voters the truth about Snyder’s record.

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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Keeping Up With The Candidates, Primary Edition

Just five days to go until Tuesday’s primary, and things have not settled.

Not that anything happened, like one of the perceived leaders of the GOP race being accused of being present and participating in the “legend”ary Manoogian mansion party by someone willing to put his name on it. Mike Cox still denies there ever was a party, and has attacked the affiant, a biker who said he was working security for the affair, by saying he has a rap sheet. (A biker with a rap sheet?! What’s this world coming to!!*) Then he questioned the timing of it. Then he compared himself to Shaquille O’Neal. Each time, the defense gets bolder. The tin hats may have switched sides.

* Sons of Anarchy on FX! Best show on TV not involving the 1960s advertising industry!

As for the campaigns, for weeks now, polling has been so scattershot that many weeks, I’ve opted to not even link to it. The one thing that had been consistent, for the most part, was Andy Dillon’s lead in the Democratic race. Note I said “was.”

This week, the Detroit Free Press and four TV stations commissioned a poll that showed that Lansing mayor Virg Bernero has not only pulled ahead, but may be pulling away. Things seem somewhat bleak for Dillon’s campaign, as Michigan political guru Bill Ballanger of Inside Michigan Politics told Frank Beckman on WJR-AM Bernero will win unless Dillon makes a dramatic push. Considering Bernaro’s campaign appears to be low on cash, it’s not an impossible scenario.

The latest poll shows Bernero with an eight point lead over Dillon, 40-28, with 32 percent undecided. Of course, two weeks ago, polling showed Dillon with a 20 point lead, so perhaps we should just wait and see what happens on Tuesday.

MLive asked both candidates for ideas on fixing Michigan’s economy/tax system. Bernero said he wants to create a state bank of Michigan that will loan money to small businesses. Dillon wants to create a coalition of business, labor, teachers and health care industry leaders to create a better tax policy.

On the GOP side, all of the candidates are making their final appeals to potential voters, who appear to not really care that much. Secretary of State and Mike Bouchard running mate Terri Lynn Land expects that only about 1.7 people will actually go to the polls on Tuesday, or, about 23 percent of registered voters. Cox expects only about 700,000 people to vote in the GOP primary.

As the final ads roll out, Pete Hoekstra is fed up with what he calls “factually incorrect attack ads”:

“Attorney General Mike Cox and his special-interest allies will stop at nothing to mislead voters and falsely attack Pete Hoekstra’s record,” said spokesman John Truscott. “Mike Cox should immediately call on these shadowy third-party groups to end these false attack ads and start being honest with the voters of Michigan.”

In May, he successfully convinced three west Michigan stations to drop ads run by “Americans With Job Security” after he showed the ads made false claims. The most recent ad, run by Michigan Business United, said Hoekstra is “absent on right to life” among other things. Not surprisingly, Cox spokesman Nick DeLeeuw denied the campaign’s involvement.

New endorsements this week go to Rick Snyder, who won the public support of Ford board chairman Bill Ford Jr., Hoekstra and Andy Dillon. The latter two were endorsed by The Grand Rapids Press.

Finally, both Detroit papers are pumping out informational stories designed to help We, The Voters, decide based on the issues. (Ha! Like any election is ever won on the issues!) If something doesn’t appear for one candidate but does for the other, it’s either because the Freep hasn’t run the Democratic analyses yet, or I couldn’t find Pete Hoekstra’s Detroit News Q&A through the paper’s awful search function which doesn’t rank articles in chronological order.

Andy Dillon: Positions (Freep)/ Q&A (News)

Virg Bernero: Positions (Freep)/ Q&A (News)

Rick Snyder: Positions (Freep)/ Q&A (News)/Analysis (Freep)

Mike Cox: Positions (Freep)/ Q&A (News)/ Analysis (Freep)

Pete Hoekstra: Positions (Freep)/ Analysis (Freep)

Mike Bouchard: Positions (Freep)/ Q&A (News)/ Analysis (Freep)

Dr. Tom George: Positions (Freep)/ Q&A (News)/ Analysis (Freep)

Keeping Up With The Candidates, July 23

We’re about a week and a half from the primaries, which means that you won’t get through an episode of “Wheel of Fortune” without seeing an ad supporting/attacking somebody.

As I mentioned last week, the polls this primary season have fluctuated so much throughout the campaign that it’s hard to put much stock into them, even this close to the election. Just last week, House Speaker and Democratic candidate Andy Dillon was sporting a 20 point lead. In a poll done this week by the Detroit News and WDIV-TV, Dillon only leads 34.3 percent to 25.1 percent over Lansing mayor Virg Bernero. Dillon actually lost .7 of a point while Bernero gained 10 points. With 40 percent still undecided, the race could go either way.

On the GOP side, the same poll still shows a close race, but not the three-way 18 percent deadlock we saw last week. The poll shows Attorney General Mike Cox leading Congressman Pete Hoekstra by less than a point (26.4 percent to 25.6 percent) with Ann Arbor businessman Rick Snyder about six points back (20.2 percent). The poll shows Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard with 11 percent. Dr. Tom George’s campaign appears to be on life support with only 1.8 percent. 14.4 percent of those polled are still undecided. While he leads now, Cox’s campaign has to be concerned that 1/4 of the Republicans polled have an unfavorable view of him.

However, there is major variable that could greatly affect the final result: Michigan’s primary election system, which allows any voter to choose which party’s election he wants to vote in, regardless of that voter’s party preference or lack thereof. Dillon may have a 10 point lead among “likely Democratic primary voters” but there’s no guarantee those people will choose between Dillon or Bernero. For whatever reason, a hypothetical moderate Democrat may opt to instead to choose among the Republican candidates, which would preclude them from voting Democratic, opening the door for the more liberal Bernero, who enjoys a plethora of support from unions.

Rick Snyder is actively pursuing the hypothetical voter I described. As the GOP base seems split east and west side by Cox and Hoekstra (they should settle it with a rap battle), who are attacking each other, Snyder sees the independent and Democratic refugees as the key to a victory. He picked up the endorsement of former moderate GOP Congressman Joe Schwarz. He was also endorsed by former Governor Bill Milliken.

The rest of the lead GOP candidates are seemingly in a race to see who can go the furthest right. Last week, we talked about Mike Bouchard’s support of the Arizona immigration law and making Michigan a right-to-work state. This week, Cox, Bouchard and Hoekstra are fighting over who loves the Tea Party more.

Pete Hoekstra took the first step by joining Fox News fixture and GOP Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann’s Tea Party caucus. Cox’s spokesman Nick DeLeeuw responded by saying “First!” …

“Mike Cox has been traveling with the tea party and attending tea party events from the very beginning,” DeLeeuw said. “Mike Cox has been leading that fight, while Pete Hoekstra has been voting against the tea party interests.”

… to which Hoekstra rebutted with, essentially, I was tea party before tea party was cool.

“I was the tea party movement before the tea party,” Hoekstra said.

Pete Hoekstra was the Mad Hatter, and don’t forget it.

Not wanting to be left out of the Tea Party party, Bouchard picked up the key Tea Party endorsement of Joe The Plumber. So he’s got that going for him … which is nice.

In other endorsement news this week, Cox and Dillon picked up the endorsement of The Detroit News. Dillon also picked up the endorsement of Detroit mayor Dave Bing. Bernero picked up a new slew of union endorsements. Hoekstra received the Michigan Teamsters endorsement for the GOP primary, anyway (Why wasn’t this one posted on his website?)

Finally, like the Detroit Free Press did last month, The Detroit News has published feature articles on each one of the gubernatorial candidates, with videos. [Bernero, Dillon, Cox, Hoekstra, Snyder, Bouchard, George. Don’t know when/if the Democratic profiles are coming, but I assume the are.] Some are more interesting than others, like Dr. Tom George’s profile, in which he discusses how all of the tax break talk, without more, will bankrupt the state. Dr. George, when has honesty ever won an election?

Keeping Up With The Candidates, July 9

Less than a month before the primary, all of the candidates are ratcheting up the war machine, which means, of course, you are about to be bombarded with commercials. (It would be a good idea to invest in a digital video recorder if you don’t already have one.) At least they waited this long to ramp up the ads. According to Dawson Bell of the Detroit Free Press, the combined candidate spending on ads doesn’t approach anywhere near what Dick Devos spent by this point in 2006.

Not surprisingly, Mike Cox and Rick Snyder have spent the most on this campaign with varying levels of success. Cox entered the race as the leader and Snyder a relative unknown. Depending on what day of the week it is and who is doing the poll, Cox, Snyder and Pete Hoekstra are all relatively close in the GOP race, with Hoekstra usually leading but barely.

Hoekstra’s campaign has been famously hamstrung by taking public funds, thus limiting his ability to buy ads statewide. (Not that he needs to run them on the west side of the state.) But he has run an ad in selected markets titled “Get Out Of The Way” that is noteworthy for its lack of mudslinging. What it is not noteworthy for is any type of specific idea that he has that sets him apart from any of the other Republican candidates. It’s similar to the “One Tough Nerd” ad Snyder used to introduce himself, except that was in January.

Mike Bouchard, who distantly trails the other three in the polls, announced a plan for the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office to share info with Immigrations & Customs Enforcement to try to identify illegal immigrants in Michigan jails or facing charges. Not exactly the Arizona immigration law but some parties have argued it’s promoting racial/ethnic profiling, to which Bouchard responded on WJR [Audio link on the bottom of page.]:

What you’re talking about is someone who is an alien in this country and is arrested for something completely unrelated to status — rather they’re illegal or legal. And people don’t even want us to do that?  That tells you how stunning the disconnect between today’s realities are and the people that oppose that.

Now, I would never accuse a politician of trying to capitalize on an issue that is hot elsewhere but not so much here, except that I think I just did.

Kym Worthy called for parents who fail to appear for parent-teacher conferences to be jailed. The Michigan Messenger contacted all of the candidates for comment. As of Wednesday, only Hoekstra and Andy Dillon responded (TMM has no update on the post). Both expressed support for the idea that parents need to take an active role in their children’s education. However, Dillon questioned both the enforcement and effectiveness of such a policy.

The Speaker supports increased parental involvement in schools throughout the state, but does have some concerns about the implementation and enforcement of the authority requested by the Wayne County Prosecutor. In some cases, a parent who cannot attend a P/T conference does not always mean they aren’t engaged. The real question for parental involvement ultimately becomes more than just a single meeting – emphasis must be placed on maintaining parental involvement throughout the year on a more consistent basis.

After the debates of the last couple week, there wasn’t much news from the Democrats this week. The Livingston Daily did a fact check on claims of both Dillon and Virg Bernero and found, of course, both the truth and exaggerations have been told on both sides.

Bernero did get the endorsement of Planned Parenthood of Michigan and Michigan National Organization for Women.

Kathleen Gray of the Detroit Free Press wrote a piece on the difficulty that U.S. Rep Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick is having running in the shadow of the scandals engulfing her husband and son. (Do I really need to link them?) In addition to representing sections of Detroit, she also represents several Downriver communities like Wyandotte, where she marched in an Independence Day parade.

The piece discusses the difficulty she’s having with her family’s public problems and discusses the five people running to unseat her in the primary.  The fact that she has five opponents could be her saving grace:

But this year could be different, said Detroit political consultant Eric Foster.

“She’s got a very, very narrow margin for success,” he said. “She has a base of about 38% of support in the district. As long as one of the candidates can show themselves as a credible alternative to her, she could have a problem.”

He thinks voters in Detroit may be suffering from election fatigue after four mayoral elections in the last year, and that could help a non-Detroiter.

“A hard 70% outside of the city will break overwhelmingly to whoever is the credible alternative to Kilpatrick,” Foster said. “Right now, Hansen is the person to do that, but if Broad can get up on TV and radio, then it could break toward him.”

“Hansen” is state Senator Hansen Clarke and “Broad” is Grosse Pointe businessman John Broad, whom, the piece says, might have the largest war chest. (Wyandotte and Grosse Pointe? How large is this district?)

The others are pastor Glenn Plummer (not that Glenn Plummer), who has GOP ties (gave money to Bush’s campaign in 2003), former GOP Detroit mayorial and city council candidate Stephen Hume, and Vincent Brown of Garden City, who the piece says “worked in the auto industry for eight years and for the group Clean Water Action for two years.” (Grosse Pointe, Wyandotte and Garden City?!)