Yes We Can. Today, tomorrow, forever.

"Nothing can stand in the way of the power of millions of voices calling for change," he told us. And he proved it.

As the sun sets on the last full day of the Obama era, I fondly recall the time spent at the Mt. Pleasant campaign office with some great staff and activists... watching the inauguration from my room in Kulhavi Hall... seeing him achieve landmark legislative success... seeing him announce the bin Laden mission... registering voters... celebrating his re-election... going to DC for an OFA anniversary celebration... marriage equality... and of course, meeting so many people who shared a passion for Obama and the movement he inspired.

But he alone didn't make his presidency possible, much less successful. It was all of us.

So to everyone who had anything to do with the success of the Obama campaigns and presidency - from the staff who crashed on supporters' couches to the local party leaders - thank you. It has been an honor to share the Obama era with you. And it is comforting to know that you will be around well into the future.

And the memories of Richard Holbrooke, Beau Biden, Alex Okrent, Jake Brewer, Jean Biden, Dorothy Scott, Dorothy Newman, Gary Conrad, Alice Corey, Brianne Hovey, Al Gaunt, and so many others will be there to inspire and guide us along the way.

But most of all, to Barack Hussein Obama... Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama... Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr.... Dr. Jill Tracy Jacobs Biden... and your families.... thank you. Thank you so much for leading, for serving, for inspiring.

That creed - "written into the founding documents... whispered by slaves and abolitionists... sung by immigrants... pioneers who pushed westward... workers who organized, women who reached for the ballot box, a President who chose the moon as our new frontier, and a King who took us to the mountaintop and pointed the way to the Promised Land" - is now ours to own.

Yes We Can!


Dianda poised to run for Michigan Senate

Really good news for Democrats: Rep. Scott Dianda (D) has filed paperwork for the 38th State Senate district, which includes all of the Upper Peninsula except for the eastern three counties. Current Senator Tom Casperson (R) is term-limited.

Dianda just won his third and final term in the House with 61% of the vote (similar to his 2014 result). By comparison, Clinton didn’t break 40% in any of the six whole counties in his district. So he has some crossover appeal.

No one has filed on the Republican side, although on paper, one would expect Rep. Ed McBroom (108th District) to do so.

Republicans have a 27-11 majority in the Senate (!), but all 11 Democratic seats are safe, so it’s all offense for us. To be clear, I have about as much chance of losing 50 pounds by 2018 as Democrats have of gaining the State Senate that year. But the 38th will be one of many chances for Democrats to make inroads. Other key districts will include, but not be limited to, the 34th (Muskegon, Newaygo, and Oceana Counties); 29th (Grand Rapids and some suburbs); 20th (Kalamazoo County); and 7th (western Wayne County). Of those, only the 20th will have an incumbent; the rest are term-limited.


Myths people need to stop believing about the Democratic primaries

1. "Turnout was lower in New Hampshire, so Democrats must be demoralized!" Actually, turnout in the New Hampshire primary was the second-highest ever - 250,983 votes going to the various candidates. That number was just slightly down from the 287,557 votes cast on the Democratic side in 2008. It was also 14.1% higher than 2004 - a year in which John Kerry won not only the primary, but New Hampshire's 4 electoral votes that fall - and 2/3 higher than 2000.

2. "Superdelegates are going to give Hillary the nomination even if Bernie wins the pledged delegate count!" First of all, it's going to be incredibly hard for Bernie to win the pledged delegate count. The contest is now shifting to states where Hillary is favored - and unless Bernie can do well on March 1, the pressure will be on for him to drop out.

Second, even though superdelegates technically could go against the will of the majority of Democrats, it would be politically crazy for them to do that.

Some Sanders supporters are convinced that the super delegates backing Hillary Clinton made some sort of corrupt deal with the Devil. They see it as evidence that the game is rigged. But people only become super delegates because they have a longstanding affinity for, and loyalty toward the Democratic Party. Some may be total hacks, but they’re party hacks, and that makes them unlikely candidates to completely rip apart the Democratic coalition for a generation or two, which would be the only possible result of these unelected delegates overturning the will of primary voters. They share a common sense of duty to the best interests of the institution.

It is no doubt true that many of them feel a sense of loyalty to the Clintons. But it doesn’t follow that they’d effectively become political suicide bombers because of that loyalty. They want to beat the Republican nominee in November, and those who hold elected office also want to be re-elected. The worst way to accomplish either goal would be to create a massive scandal within the Democratic Party just months before the election. The super delegates aren’t going to destroy the party from within just because they prefer one candidate over the other.

It’s also true that many of the super delegates who endorsed Clinton did so because they believe that she’s the better candidate for the general election. But that view isn’t set in stone. If the unlikely scenario in which Sanders comes into the convention with more bound delegates but not enough to secure the nomination came to pass, something significant will have happened to shift the nature of the race between now and then. And whatever that something might be, the fact that Sanders was ahead would mean that many of those super delegates would no longer be confident that Hillary is the superior candidate. They’re not crazy. They’re party activists.

3. "Clinton won the popular vote in the 2008 primaries!" This one is used by a few of my fellow Clinton supporters to justify the possibility of #2 above. The only way you can argue that Clinton got more votes than Obama is if you include votes Hillary got in Michigan while excluding (a) caucus-state voters and/or (b) the 40% of Democratic primary voters who voted Uncommitted in Michigan, many of whom (including myself) supported Obama but couldn't vote for him.


Pledged delegate counts after Iowa and New Hampshire

Democrats (68 of 4,051 pledged delegates claimed):

  • Sanders: 36
  • Clinton: 32

(Of course, Clinton has a commanding lead in superdelegates.)

Republicans (50 of 2,346 claimed):

  • Trump: 15
  • Cruz: 11
  • Rubio: 9
  • Kasich: 5
  • Bush: 4
  • Carson: 3
  • Fiorina: 1
  • Paul (out): 1
  • Huckabee (out): 1


MDP on record calling for Snyder to resign over Flint crisis

This happened:

The Michigan Democratic Party released the following statement, today, on behalf of Party Chair Brandon Dillon, regarding new information showing top officials within the Snyder administration were made aware of the possible connection between Flint's water supply and the increase in diagnosed cases of Legionnaires' Disease in the area. This news comes as Democrats have continued to demand accountability and transparency from Governor Snyder and the expansion of the Freedom of Information Act to cover the governor's office and the legislature:

“There is a limit to how many times you can play dumb when it comes to events and actions that take place on your watch," said Brandon Dillon, Chair of the Michigan Democratic Party. "Governor Snyder is attempting to employ this tactic again, claiming he wasn’t told of the connection, made almost a year before he informed the public, between Flint’s water and the legionella bacteria. This governor is either a victim of the culture of secrecy that he created or he’s lying. If he didn’t know, the incompetence is astounding. If he’s lying, the betrayal of trust is unforgiveable.”

“Either excuse – incompetence or purposeful deception – cannot be tolerated and are not the traits of someone that should be governor of Michigan. At this point, Governor Snyder can claim either excuse, but he should no longer be allowed to claim he is the governor of this state. It is time for him to resign.”

As I said last month, if Snyder resigns, Brian Calley becomes governor - and that normally would give Calley the advantage of incumbency, along with the possibility - the possibility, not a certainty - that he will bolster his image in the next 33 months.

That could happen, but the longer the Flint crisis drags on, the more it hurts everyone involved with the Snyder administration, including Calley. Brandon Dillon is a politically adept Chair, so I can't imagine he would call for Snyder's resignation (and Calley's ascension to the governor's chair) without thinking that Calley's ties to the governor would make it hard for him to win in 2018 either way.


Iowa takeaways - and what's next

Well, the Iowa caucuses are over, and...

A woman has won the Iowa caucuses!

That's a remarkable - and historic - achievement!

Delegate counts count

It's important to remember that a nomination isn't won by the person who gets the most primaries or caucuses, but by the one who gets the majority of delegates. Each party's delegate selection and allocation rules are different, but in either party you must get the majority of delegate votes at the Convention.

Iowa Republicans allocate their delegates proportionally based on the statewide vote. Based on the numbers, it appears that Cruz has 9 delegates, Rubio and Trump 8 each, Carson 3, and Paul 2. (Paul, by the way, underperformed his dad's 21% in 2012.)

On the Democratic side, the closeness of the race means that Clinton and Sanders split eight delegates in each of the 1st and 2nd congressional districts, as well as six delegates in the 4th district and 6 PLEO delegates. Clinton's victory statewide gives her a 5-4 win in at-large delegates, while she wins 4-3 in the 3rd District. That gives her a 23-21 lead in pledged delegates so far.

Michigan will matter!

In the name of getting more influence, Michigan lost its influence on the 2008 nominating process. That won't happen this time - not only because it's too late for any of that monkey business, but because both sides may well have a strong contest going on by the time Michigan votes on March 8.

Because Michigan will matter for both Democrats and Republicans, we are likely to see at least three outcomes: (1) Visits from many campaigns; (2) decent turnout on March 8; and (3) *lots* of good data on who's a Democrat and who's a Republican - as much data as you can get for a state that doesn't register voters by party. That data will prove valuable not only to the parties this year, but it will also help with GOTV in 2018 and beyond (not to mention targeting communications to voters in non-partisan elections).

In addition, the fact that Ohio and Illinois are just a week after Michigan could give many campaigns reason to make a Great Lakes tour of sorts, with at least a couple of stops in Michigan.

Iowa might not matter much longer

Iowa is credited with propelling Carter and Obama to the White House and Kerry to the nomination. But Iowa has as much a history of picking losers as it does winners. Past Iowa winners include:

  • Dick Gephardt, 1988 (Dukakis finished 3rd)
  • Tom Harkin, 1992 (Clinton finished 4th with 3%)
  • Bob Dole (1988 - Bush Sr., then the sitting VP, came in 3rd with just 19%)
  • Mike Huckabee (2008 - John McCain finished 4th)
It's possible that Clinton and Cruz will both be nominated. In fact, given that the demographics (after New Hampshire) favor her, Clinton is still likely to win the nomination, and conservatives are likely looking at Cruz as an alternative to Trump (with all the same views but more likability than The Donald). But Republican establishment folks are lining up behind Rubio, meaning that as other establishment candidates (think Bush and Christie) drop out in coming weeks, he might (might) do better elsewhere than his 3rd place finish in Iowa.

If Cruz doesn't win the Republican nomination, this would mark the third consecutive time that the winner of the Iowa Republican caucuses didn't win the nomination.

For Democrats, Iowa's reputation as a "must-win" may be in jeopardy for different reasons. Despite the lack of diversity, sparse population, and the general confusion over having Iowa and New Hampshire go first, DNC leadership has been reluctant to challenge their standing as the first contests in the nation. With Bernie's string performance in Iowa and expected win in New Hampshire, DNC officials (many of whom support Hillary) have reason to adjust the rules going into 2020 and 2024. A more diverse caucus state (I'm thinking Colorado, Nevada, or Washington) might be moved up to go ahead of Iowa, or at least New Hampshire (whose primary by state law must be held before any other state's primary).

Democrats may also opt to allow Iowa to go first with some conditions - perhaps that the state's delegates be allocated according to the "raw vote" in each precinct, or that coin flips no longer be used. Much of the criticism surrounding Iowa's first-in-the-nation status involves the complexity of their delegate selection process; the more simple it can be made, the better for Iowa and for the Party as a whole.

What's next?

Well, New Hampshire, of course. That's where Sanders (from neighboring Vermont) has been leading in the polls. Should his lead hold, look for him to win that state's PLEO delegates 2-1 and at-large delegates 3-2, which would tie him among pledged delegates. He may also win one or both districts by getting at least 56.25% of the Clinton-Sanders vote in that district; if he does that, he'd take a small lead in the pledged count. (Note: In the last 40 years, only one non-incumbent - Al Gore - has won every single state en route to the nomination, so a Clinton loss wouldn't hurt. )

A lot of establishment Iowa Republicans rallied around Rubio. In New Hampshire, the establishment is going to be more split, with Bush, Christie, and Kasich competing with Rubio for establishment support. That could help Cruz.

Beyond New Hampshire

Nevada (35 delegates) votes on February 23, and South Carolina (53 delegates) weighs in on the 27th. Clinton has double-digit leads in both states, so unless Sanders can really capitalize on New Hampshire, Clinton will likely go into March 1 with a lead among the 156 delegates that will have been claimed by then.

South Carolina will be an early test of the candidates' strength in the South. In addition, Rubio - whom many Republicans think can win Latino voters to their party - faces a key test in Nevada's Republican caucuses on February 23.

Then comes March 1. More on that in a later post.


Could Michigan elect its governor in presidential years?

Low turnout in midterm elections is leaving some to try to switch Michigan's gubernatorial elections from midterm to presidential elections.

Recent history suggests such a change could boost voter turnout in elections for statewide office by as much as 50% — a development that would likely make Democratic candidates more competitive in those elections.

And preliminary polling suggests the proposal could be a hit with Michigan voters. In a randomized telephone survey of 600 Michigan voters conducted last week by EPIC-MRA, 60% of those polled expressed tentative support for conducting presidential and statewide elections on the same day, while just 32% were opposed to or leaning against it.

The proposed change is also getting a warm reception from nonpartisan voter advocacy groups such as the League of Women Voters and Common Cause, whose leaders argue that representative government works most effectively when voter participation is most robust.

There are some who believe that turnout in gubernatorial elections is largely driven by the race for governor (as opposed to, say, races for Congress or local offices). To the extent that that's true, then this likely won't help Democrats when it comes to turnout in still-very-important midterm elections - especially in 2022, when there won't be a US Senate race on the ballot in Michigan. So while this may pay off for Democrats in terms of winning the governorship, this also brings with it the risk of making our midterm turnout problem worse

That being said, in 2014 turnout was only 1.1% higher in states with gubernatorial elections than in states without. It's hard to argue that turnout is substantially affected by the presence or absence of a gubernatorial race on the ballot.

As for the prospects of its passage... that's harder to tell.

For it to pass, voters need to (a) know what it's about and (b) like it. The proposal would likely be simple enough to understand, so the first threshold would be easy to meet.

But will voters like it? Opponents would surely spend a sizable amount of money and energy to convince people that this would somehow be bad. If supporters of this proposal can't effectively counter by making people feel like this proposal is worth it, then how will it pass?

At any rate, I have yet to see the details of an actual proposal, so I'm not yet ready to take a position on this. I would, however, be more supportive of moving State Senate elections to Presidential years. I would also be supportive of other efforts to boost turnout in midterm elections.


No LGBT-equality proposal on 2016 ballot

It wasn't meant to be this year.

Supporters of amending Michigan’s constitution to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender are suspending efforts to get the measure on the November ballot.

The Fair Michigan ballot committee was seeking to gather roughly 315,000 valid voter signatures by summer to put the initiative on the statewide ballot.

Dana Nessel, one of the lawyers who helped win a historic legal battle to strike down the state’s gay marriage ban, has been organizing the effort. She says during a taping of WKAR-TV’s “Off the Record” show that it’s “not the end of Fair Michigan.”

So many of us would like to see this proposal pass - and soon - but the problem was that to many groups, it didn't seem to have more than a snowball's chance in heck of passing.

What about 2020? One can hope...


Tesla could sell cars directly to Michigan buyers under ballot proposal

Automakers like Tesla may soon be able to sell cars directly to buyers without going through a dealer, under a proposal which may appear on Michigan's ballot this November.

The proposal is being backed by a group called Eliminate (i), named for the subsection of the Motor Vehicle Code which the proposal would repeal. The subsection states that an auto manufacturer may not:

Sell any new motor vehicle directly to a retail customer other than through franchised dealers, unless the retail customer is a nonprofit organization or a federal, state, or local government or agency. This subdivision does not prohibit a manufacturer from providing information to a consumer for the purpose of marketing or facilitating the sale of new motor vehicles or from establishing a program to sell or offer to sell new motor vehicles through franchised new motor vehicle dealers that sell and service new motor vehicles produced by the manufacturer.

The initiative would "allow manufacturers to sell any new motor vehicle directly to a retail customer without having to go through a franchised dealer." This would essentially reverse an "anti-Tesla" law signed by Governor Snyder in 2014. Tesla skipped this year's North American International Auto Show as a result of the law.

In the event that the proposal makes it to the ballot, expect opposition from dealers, the Big Three, and possibly unions. Tesla workers have yet to unionize.

The Board of State Canvassers is expected to vote this Thursday on whether to allow the bill to proceed to the circulation phase.

It was also announced that a number of recall petitions have been filed against governor Snyder as well as against State Sen. Darwin Booher. They will be considered for factual accuracy at Thursday's meeting.


Kent County Sheriff already facing two challengers

Kent County Sheriff Larry Stelma, 66, had planned to retire this year, but decided not to.

Now comes news that one of his detectives, Tim Lewis, is mounting a campaign.

"I honestly expected him not to run again," said Lewis, 48, who pulled his name from the ballot in 2012 when Stelma decided to run. "I don't think anybody expected him to run this time. I personally don't know why he's running because (at age 66) he should be enjoying life.

"We have a younger department and we need to have a younger leader that can relate more to the employees."

Lewis said he wasn't prepared to challenge in incumbent four years ago, but now he's ready to mount a campaign.

It's tempting to wonder if there's something going on in the Sheriff's Department, but in all likelihood, it's just a case of someone (Lewis) wanting a promotion.

At any rate, what makes this all fascinating is that Stelma was ready to retire in 2012 - meaning that if he's re-elected, he'll have to stay in office for eight years longer than he had planned.

Stelma is also facing a challenge from John Stedman, who previously challenged Stelma in the 2008 Republican primary and as an independent candidate in 2012.

As for other countywide races: Chris Becker is running to succeed Prosecutor William Forsyth.

While she hasn't announced yet, it's pretty clear that Lisa Lyons wants to succeed retiring Clerk Mary Hollinrake. Last month, Lyons sided with the Michigan Association of Municipal Clerks in opposing the ban on straight-ticket voting. This was likely done to prevent any current township clerk from running against Lyons in the Republican primary, although they might see through that, given that she did introuduce a bill that would make life more hectic for clerks.