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)

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Keeping Up With The Candidates

As the August primary election nears, the candidates for Michigan’s statewide offices are ratcheting up the mudslinging and accusations.

But first, in positive news, Mike Cox made news simply by releasing an ad that was, uh, not negative. [The Detroit News]

Attorney General Mike Cox plays up his service in the U.S. Marines in the third major TV ad of his campaign, which was launched today, and it’s the first spot that doesn’t attack one of his GOP opponents.

The ad shows the Republican gubernatorial candidate in his dress blues, and the voiceover says: "At 18 he enlisted in the Marines. He’s never backed down from a fight."

Cox served in the Marines in the United States and Korea from 1980-83. He was honorably discharged at the rank of corporal.

His background as a Wayne County assistant prosecutor is also highlighted with a scene showing Cox ducking under crime scene tape.

I notice this ad wasn’t paid for by “Eagle Strategies.”

That pretty much covers the positive news. The rest is mostly right-on-right crime. This week, ads his campaign had prepared for the inevitable Manoogian mansion party accusations were leaked on the internet. [MyFoxDetroit.com]

The Michigan gubernatorial campaign of Republican Attorney General Mike Cox says four of its unaired TV ads were stolen and posted on YouTube.

Campaign officials said Tuesday they were talking with attorneys to determine how to proceed and to identify who posted the commercials under the tag AnyOneButCox.

The ads feature people including former police officers defending Cox and his role in putting former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick behind bars.

Cox’s campaign was quick to blame his opponents for stealing the ads but without any proof. Kind of like the Manoogian mansion accusations of which he complains.

"None of us in law enforcement or the media found once person who could say they were there, or that a crime happened," Cox said. "What does it matter to running for governor?

"I’m not running (for governor) to talk about rumors from seven years ago."

In other GOP primary news, Pete Hoekstra picked up the endorsement of retiring Rep. Vern Ehlers. [MLive] He also criticized President Obama for not closing the Chicago locks to protect Lake Michigan from the onslaught of Asian carp after a carp was found six miles past the electronic barrier.

Earlier this year, Hoekstra sponsored a bill that would have given the Army Corps of Engineers the authority to close the locks, apply fish poisons and install new barriers.

"Closing the locks is not enough, and the Army Corps has acknowledged that they have no intention to do so," Hoekstra said.

I don’t know what good it would do to give the ACE the authority to close locks when the organization has fought the push to do so. It’s like giving me the authority to watch the Twilight movies. Thanks, but I’ll pass.

It seems Rick Snyder wasn’t really a nerd in high school. (In other words, there wasn’t much news from the Snyder camp this week.) He did pick up a co-endorsement (along with Mike Bouchard) from the Detroit Regional Chamber. The Chamber also endorsed Andy Dillon on the Democrat side. [MLive]

Despite trailing Cox, Snyder and Hoekstra in pretty much all statewide polls, Bouchard is the leader in metro Detroit. [MLive] Then again, these polls are fluctuating so much from day-to-day that I’m trying to avoid references to them. This is interesting because metro Detroit is obviously has a large effect in Michigan elections

The GOP candidates will all be in Grand Rapids tonight for a debate on WOOD-TV. As with the Democratic debate earlier this week, eastsiders should be able to follow the debate online here.

With only two candidates, the Democrats are so much easier to follow, and not at all less exciting.

Dillon and Virg Bernero hurled verbal bombs at each other during a debate on June 21.

Dillon called Bernero a career politician seeking his "sixth office" in 20 years and who was exaggerating his record as mayor. But it contained little of the bite and specificity Bernero aimed at a large swath of a Democratic primary electorate that hasn’t yet made up its mind.

Bernero criticized Dillon for an FY 2010 budget crafted with Senate Republicans that relies on all cuts and no revenues. Casualties have been cities that have lost revenue sharing and college students who lost their $4,000 Michigan Promise scholarship.

Post-budget attempts by Dillon to raise revenue to soften the cuts went nowhere.

"People were looking to the speaker for leadership, looking for him to stand up for those scholarship funds," Bernero said. After Dillon said he’d work to restore the university aid, Bernero said Dillon "now wants to be elected governor to fix so many of the mistakes he made."

Dillon responded that Bernero offered no solutions of his own and that during his tenure in the Legislature, helped create the current structural budget deficit. "The mayor constantly bashes me (for budget cuts) but I don’t hear him calling for a tax increase to fund these programs."

Bernero was profiled at length by the Detroit Free Press. It’s the beginning of a series of profiles. Dillon’s will appear on Friday.

Bernero is also getting a push by the AFL-CIO.

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Was the Michigan GOP’s attorney behind anti-Hoekstra ads?

Remember Eagle Strategies, the double secret group that purchased negative campaign ads against Michigan GOP gubernatorial hopeful Pete Hoekstra, saying he’s not conservative enough?

At long last, we may have an answer as to who was behind the group: GOP attorney Eric Doster. [Associated Press]

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — A policy committee for the Michigan Republican Party has asked the party’s legal counsel to step down until a complaint over a radio ad targeting GOP gubernatorial candidate Pete Hoekstra is resolved.

At issue is whether attorney Eric Doster had any ties to the group that ran the ads, Eagle Strategies, and whether he should have disclosed any possible ties to party Chairman Ron Weiser.

A message left at Doster’s law office in Lansing seeking comment was not returned Wednesday.

"It is unfortunate that the resolution passed by the policy committee contains factual errors that unfairly characterize Mr. Doster," Weiser said in a statement Wednesday. "Eric Doster is a widely respected Republican Party activist."

The matter will be discussed by the full Michigan Republican State Committee on Saturday, Weiser said.

After the anti-Hoekstra ad aired in February in southeast Michigan, the congressman’s campaign sent a letter asking Attorney General Mike Cox, also a GOP gubernatorial candidate, to investigate the legality of a group called Eagle Strategies.

Hoekstra campaign lawyer Charles Spies complained that no public information was available on Eagle Strategies or who was behind it. The attorney for GOP gubernatorial candidate Rick Snyder then asked the secretary of state’s office to determine if Eagle Strategies broke campaign finance laws.

The organization appeared tied to a group called Peace and Prosperity, which had filed an assumed name certificate for the name "Eagle Strategies" a week after the anti-Hoekstra ad aired, Snyder attorney Daniel Carlson wrote in his complaint letter.

Doster was listed as the resident agent for Peace and Prosperity.

Neither the secretary of state nor the attorney general has issued any findings regarding the complaints.

The Republican gubernatorial contest has already seen several spates of negative ads this year. Along with the anti-Hoekstra ads, there have been automated calls, a billboard, radio ads and negative websites launched against Snyder and another GOP candidate, Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard. An independent group called the Michigan Civic Educational Fund was behind those efforts.

The infighting apparently is starting to be noted by party leaders.

In asking Doster to temporarily recuse himself, the GOP policy committee said it was Doster’s responsibility as legal counsel "to keep the party chairman informed of potential conflicts of interest in representing multiple clients."

Its resolution urged Doster to step down "until the Michigan Secretary of State’s Election Division has concluded their investigation into his involvement as resident agent for Eagle Strategies Project."

Snyder’s campaign spokesman, Jake Suski, said the policy committee took the right step.

"The party should do everything within its power to protect its impartiality, which includes asking the legal counsel to step aside when he’s the registered agent for an organization that’s under investigation for an attack against a Republican gubernatorial candidate," Suski said.

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