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.

Republicans unlikely to beat Winnie Brinks; candidates lining up in the 72nd

In 2012, then-State House Speaker Jase Bolger admitted that had Roy Schmidt remained a Democrat, Republicans wouldn't have beaten him.

In 2016, with a more popular Winnie Brinks running for re-election in Schmidt's old seat, it's clear that they've given up once again.

Grand Rapids - which elects its city comptroller - saw two former comptrollers run to try to replace Brinks. Donijo Dejonge won the primary but only got 44% of the vote in the general election. Thus far this cycle, Republicans have failed to find a candidate willing to run against Brinks... except for Casey O'Neill, who lost two landslide elections to County Commissioner Carol Hennessy.

Meanwhile, Kentwood might be home to a state representative for the first time in many years.

The race to replace my state representative, the term-limited Ken Yonker (against whom I ran in 2012), has thus far drawn three candidates:

  • Bob Coughlin, recently-re-elected to the Kentwood City Commission
  • Ryan Gallogly, a teacher who used to coach East Kentwood's football team
  • Tony Noto, a Kentwood resident and banquet hall owner

Gallogly, of Gaines Township, is the only one who doesn't live in Kentwood. He stepped down from coaching East Kentwood's football team to spend more time with his family. Given the demands of a campaign - and given the name recognition of the other two candidates - Gallogly doesn't yet come across as the kind of candidate who might have much chance of winning.

Kentwood - which has roughly 56% of the population of 72nd District - hasn't been the hometown of a state representative in a long time. Previous representatives of the district - Yonker, Justin A., Glenn Steil, Jr., and Mark Jansen - have hailed from surrounding townships. During that time, one other Kentwood resident - Bill Hardiman - served as a state senator.

The filing deadline is April 19.


The problem with calling for Snyder's resignation

The Flint water crisis - and the Snyder administration's mishandling of it - has shocked many people around the world. People are angry - as they should be.

But many people aren't just angry. A growing number of people - including activists, lawmakers, and even a presidential candidate - are calling for Governor Snyder's resignation.

There's a problem with that:

That guy on the left is Brian Calley, banker-turned-politician and Lieutenant Governor. Calley, who turns 39 in March, would take over the governorship in the event that Snyder resigns.

If Calley becomes governor, he will have nearly three years to polish his reputation, distance himself from Snyder, and tour the state as an incumbent governor going into the all-important 2018 election.

Careful what you wish for.


Kent County's election season gets even more interesting

The beginning of an election year is typically chock-full of campaign announcements. This week was no different, with the news that two long-time countywide officials here in Kent County will be retiring.

First, longtime Prosecutor Bill Forsyth announced on Tuesday that he would step aside.

Forsyth, 66, has spent more than 40 years as a prosecutor, the last 30 acting in an administrative capacity.


"Nothing will ever match or replace the joy, the pride and the heartache I have experienced as a prosecutor," Forsyth said in a prepared statement on Tuesday, Jan. 5.

Assistant Prosecutor Chris Becker is said to be weighing a run, although no announcements have been made.

The next day, County Clerk Mary Hollinrake announced her decision to step aside.

"It's hold the position for one more year (through the end of my current term) or five more years," Hollinrake said.


Hollinrake last year was urged by The Grand Rapids Press editorial board to come up with funding to put campaign finance reports online, a step that Hollinrake agreed "we need to move forward post haste."

(She still hasn't, by the way.)

Hollinrake succeeded Terri Lynn Land in 2000 - yes, that Terri Lynn Land. Term-limited state representative Lisa "pigs get fat and hogs get slaughtered" Lyons is said to be eyeing that job.

These retirements are just the latest developments in what is turning out to be an interesting election season here in Michigan. As mentioned recently, two circuit judgeships will be filled by voters this year - and depending on how many people run, we might have a primary. In addition, three lawmakers - Ken Yonker, Tom Hooker, and Lyons - are term-limited out of office. (The real action in those red seats will be in the primary.)


Republians' new strategy: be the anti-partisans

MLive interviewed Governor Snyder and state legislative leaders to learn what they felt were the biggest disappointments of 2015.

Snyder and Senate Democratic Leader Jim Ananich said that the Flint water tragedy disappointed them. Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof referred to the Courser-Gamrat scandal.

House Speaker Kevin Cotter? Well...

The biggest disappointment, I would say overall, has been partisanship on a number of issues. For me, I think this really started, or at least it reared it's head during another disappointing process or development, which was the expulsion hearings (of Courser and Gamrat). That became very partisan. It was a situation where there was unanimous support on the Republican side to expel two of our members, and unfortunately we went until the wee hours of the morning to get the 2/3 votes we needed because there was political gamesmanship going on that then continued into other areas — third-grade reading — it then continued to the bills we just passed (in December) regarding the data centers. It is something that is very prevalent, and it is disappointing. I certainly understand that we're going to have differences on policy, and that is to be expected, but to the extent that it is holding up things. Take the third-grade reading, for example. Take the expulsion vote. That wasn't about the subject matter of the vote, but rather that was how do we clobber each other. In this case, how do we clobber Republicans and try to take back control of the chamber.

Cry me the Grand River, Mr. Speaker. For the last five years, Republicans - including Cotter - have pushed partisan bill after partisan bill after partisan bill. Yet Cotter lacks the guts and sense of responsibility to step up and own the House that he leads. Instead he whines about Democrats - who have fewer seats in the Legislature than at any time in 60 years - for partisan rancor in a state whose government is completely controlled by Cotter's party (and has been for five years now).

But there seems to be a larger strategy at play here.

For the last seven years, while Democrats have been working on common-sense solutions that actually benefit Americans, Republicans have dug in and staked out ideological and partisan positions - doing everything they can to stop our President's agenda.

Now, they are trying to position themselves as the party that will rise up above the partisan rancor for which they're largely responsible.

We saw it with the debate over the highly partisan attempt to gut straight-ticket voting.

We even saw it with Tony Noto's announcement that he will run for State House in the 72nd District (my home district):

"I get upset that things have to be one party or the other," Noto said. "Wouldn't you like to have consensus from everybody when you make a decision instead of a complete rebuttal? We have to develop a sense of respect for one another so people aren't bashing."

Now, in fairness to Noto, I do agree with what he said - if a Republican has a good idea, I can support it just as if it came from a Democrat. I also think Noto may be sincere in this belief. But it certainly isn't lost on me that he's far from the first Republican to denounce partisanship at a time when his party has ramped up as partisanship to a fever pitch.


2015 was good to me - let's see what 2016 brings!

2014 was rough.

Luckily, 2015 was better.

Just a few of the good things that happened to me in 2015:

  • Two of my city commissioners - Steve Redmond and Bob Coughlin - successfully defended their seats.
  • I was elected 2nd Vice Chair - then Chair - of the Michigan 2nd District Democratic Party. I was also appointed National Rules Secretary for the Young Democrats of America.
  • I got to see a number of sites here in Michigan that I had either never seen before or hadn't seen in years, from Ludington to Port Huron.
  • Most importantly, my brother, Dereck, married Erin! Their wedding in Lyons, Colorado, also gave me a chance to spend a couple weeks with my aunt in the Denver area.

Here's to an even better 2016 - with new adventures, success, and Democratic victories up and down the ballot!