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)

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 16

As the primary is only three weeks away, the candidates are fighting for an advantage against the other men seeking their respective party’s nomination. Peter Luke of MLive suggests that the thing they are fighting more than their opponents is voter frustration and apathy.

We start off this week with the Democrats. Andy Dillon picked up the endorsement of former Detroit mayor and Dickinson Wright chairman emeritus Dennis Archer. [The Detroit News].

In the meanwhile, Virg Bernero, appearing at a visit to Siena Heights University in Adrian, said that he’s a bulletproof candidate: [The Daily Telegram/Adrian].

“The two main candidates are largely unknown, Speaker of the House Andy Dillon and myself,” Bernero said, but he added that a new poll conducted for his campaign sampling 600 likely primary voters showed Dillon to be the more vulnerable candidate.
“The two Achilles’ heels that my opponent had — and I have no Achilles’ heels, really, we tried to test some — but he has two that are deadly,” Bernero said. “One is that he’s anti-choice (on abortion) and anti-stem cell research, and that is deadly in a Democratic primary, come to find out. And, two, his corporate raider, corporate boardroom experience of running people off and shipping jobs overseas. They’re almost equally negative and very toxic.”

I want to think that was a joke. Yeah, it had to be a joke, right?

About those Achilles’ heels, Laura Berman of The Detroit News agrees with Bernero that Dillon’s pro-life/anti-embryonic stem cell research stances will matter.

But when they will matter may be another issue. A poll released Tuesday has Dillon ahead of Bernero 35 percent to 15 percent, with 50 percent undecided. Of course, wait a day or two and those numbers will likely be closer. [Detroit Free Press].

The news was heavier on the GOP side this week. (That’s been the case more often lately. More candidates, closer race). The party is certainly confident that whomever wins its primary will be the next governor. Said State Republican Party chairman Ron Weiser:

“People are going to want a change. We saw that in 2008, and Obama took advantage of it,” Weiser told reporters in a conference call. “And certainly as Republicans we’re going to take advantage of the same thing.”

He added “I know there’s always the possibility that something strange can happen, but we certainly are overwhelming favorites now to take the governorship.”

The same poll mentioned earlier shows Pete Hoekstra, Rick Snyder and Mike Cox in a dead heat, all with 18 percent, while Mike Bouchard is a distant 9 percent and Dr. Tom George at one percent.

It should be said that polling numbers have been all over the place in this election, so, for both races, take them for what they are worth. It’s the score at the end of the third quarter. Might be the result, might not.

Bouchard’s people say the numbers are way off. His Minister of Information campaign manager Ted Prill said the campaigns internal polling shows Bouchard tied for the lead with 19 percent, with Cox and Snyder polling at 16 and 12 percent, respectively.

Bouchard has been more active in advocating the GOP dogma, coming out in support of both a Michigan equivalent to the controversial Arizona immigration law (again) and making Michigan a right-to-work state.

He will speak to a Tea Party forum next week about the Arizona immigration law. He wrote a newspaper op-ed and released a commercial about the right-to-work issue. Jeff Cranson of The Grand Rapids Press asks whether this is Bouchard’s Hail Mary pass.

Speaking of the Tea Party, the Livingston Daily says they have the GOP’s attention.

Michigan’s “tea party” groups could affect dozens of local races, as well as those for the state Legislature. Making an impact in Michigan’s gubernatorial race will be harder, but the enthusiasm of newly minted political activists could help pick a Republican nominee, and the field knows it.

Attorney General Mike Cox, U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra of Holland and Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard all have courted the “tea party” vote. Although Ann Arbor businessman Rick Snyder is seen by some as the most moderate of the group, his business success and his status as the only nonpolitician helps him, Ballenger said.

Pete Hoekstra was in Holland with President Barack Obama and Gov. Jennifer Granholm for the groundbreaking of a new battery plant.  He used the opportunity to criticize Obama and the stimulus bill, which at least in part will fund the the new LG Chem plant.

“If you take a look around, you will see companies that were built by individuals and families,” Hoekstra said in a YouTube video he posted on his campaign website. “They have never received a government stimulus package.”

Of course, the companies he’s speaking of weren’t offered one and who knows what they would have done if the money was on the table. (I’d like to see the company that says “We’d like to build a new plant in your state/district/city, but please, do not offer us any tax breaks or other economic incentives! Give that money back to the people!”)

Of course, Hoekstra has been attacked in ads from unnamed entities for supporting the stimulus bill, which he did not vote for. When he was criticized in the Democratic debate for not supporting the bill, he responded via Twitter:

Democrats blasting me for voting against stimulus package last year. At least THEY got the facts right that I voted no!

Except for his appearance in the GOP debate earlier this week, Mike Cox stayed out of the news, but for his official duties, in which he again slammed the Obama Administration for filing suit to block the aforementioned Arizona immigration bill. His office will file an amicus brief in support of the bill.

At a campaign appearance in Owosso, Rick Snyder said simply fixing Michigan isn’t enough. To compete, Michigan needs to reinvent itself. He also talked about the troubling trend of college graduates leaving the state to find work.

Finally, yes, four of the five GOP candidates debated yet again this week, with Snyder opting to hold a town meeting in Grand Rapids instead. [WOOD-TV Video].

The candidates that were there didn’t inspire confidence, said the Detroit Free Press:

Tuesday night, in the last debate before the August primary, voters got a better look at the distinctions among the candidates than they had before. But it’s also clear that some of the candidates still cling to unrealistic schemes for navigating Michigan’s way to long-term solvency.

Only state Sen. Tom George, for example, seems to understand that the tax cuts proposed by Attorney General Mike Cox and Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard will bankrupt the state. That won’t attract jobs any better than the current onerous business tax environment.

Cox also continues to indulge overly pollyannaish solutions to the gridlock in Lansing.

Cox — and nearly everyone else — fails to explain how [bipartisanship] could now be accomplished with term-limited, politically entrenched legislators who so far haven’t budged toward compromise.

In Supreme Court election news … there isn’t any. Today is the deadline for non-party affiliated (i.e. independent) candidates to submit their paperwork to be put on the ballot. As of 2pm, no one has, according to the Board of Elections. The remaining candidates will be nominated by parties at their political conventions in late August.

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