Snyder says two open COA judgeships won’t be filled

If you were waiting by the phone in anticipation of Governor Rick Snyder’s call to congratulate you on being appointed to the Court of Appeals, you can go about your business.

According to the Detroit News, Snyder has decided not to fill court’s two open seats, which were created by Richard Bandstra’s retirement and Brian Zahra’s appointment to the Supreme Court.

Lansing — Gov. Rick Snyder will not fill two Michigan Court of Appeals vacancies and will ask for legislation to reduce the number of appeals judges to 26 from 28, a spokeswoman said Wednesday.

“This decision to not fill these two posts reflects the governor’s desire to match and align the number of judgeships with a significantly reduced caseload at the court,” said Sara Wurfel, Snyder’s press secretary.

The appeals court reductions account for two of the six judicial reductions Snyder announced in his Feb. 17 budget presentation. Having six fewer judges is projected to save close to $942,100 in the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1. Wurfel said cutting two appeals court judgeships will save about $343,000.

According to the story, four more judgeships are expected to be eliminated from the state’s circuit and district courts.

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Zahra to Supreme Court

Michigan Court of Appeals judge Brian Zahra was appointed by Governor Rick Snyder to replace Maura Corrigan on the Michigan Supreme Court.

In a statement, Chief Justice Robert P. Young Jr. said Zahra is an excellent choice.

“I have known Justice Zahra almost since he began practicing law.  He has had a remarkable career as a lawyer and as a judge; he is widely recognized as one of the state’s top jurists,” Young said. “I believe that this Court has adopted more of his decisions than those of any other sitting lower court judge.

“Justice Zahra will bring not only his considerable intellect but also his experience as a judge at all levels of our system.  As a jurist committed to following the rule of law, he is a worthy successor to my dear friend Justice Corrigan, who is departing to take on the challenge of protecting Michigan’s abused and neglected children.”

Snyder’s pick follows through on a promise the new governor made to select a “rule of law” justice to replace Corrigan, said Robert S. LaBrant, senior vice president of political action and general counsel for Michigan Chamber of Commerce.

“His record as a Michigan Court of Appeals judge shows that he is a rule of law judge,” LaBrant said. LaBrant added that Zahra’s track record of winning elections – twice since his appointment to Court of Appeals in 1999 – makes him a “solid appointment” who can win when he has to run for re-election in 2012 and 2014.

Snyder didn’t name Zahra’s successor in the Court of Appeals at the press conference.

 

Carol Lundberg and Brian Frasier collaborated on this post.

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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.

It’s soon time to change our way of speaking

As some of us in the news business know, each publication has its own rules in terms of the style used. It can vary from whether a township designation is used on first reference only, to whether a car company’s “corporation” or “company” status is used at all.

Well, it looks like the next governor will lay down his own rule in terms of what we’re called around here, as the Detroit Free Press reports:  

Republican gubernatorial nominee Rick Snyder likes to think of himself as someone who will give Michigan the kind of leadership “where all Michiganders can win together.”

In his 10-minute victory speech Tuesday, Snyder referred to “Michiganders” coming together or working together or winning together four times.

In fact, he uses Michigander in almost every stump speech, in answers to questions, on his Web site.

But many fellow citizens think they’re Michiganians.

Those include Gov. Jennifer Granholm and at least her two immediate predecessors: John Engler and Jim Blanchard.

Virg Bernero, the Democrat running for governor, hasn’t used either term noticeably.

We asked his preference.

“Michigander” was the one-word response from his spokesman.

So, kumbaya, brothers and sisters: Whoever wins, we’ll soon all be Michiganders.

Take a breeze through the “Comments” section of the online version of the story, and you’ll find one reader who has a suggestion: “I’d prefer to be called EMPLOYED!”

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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)