2013-06-06 / Columns

Michigan Politics

Early Smooth Sailing for Peters, Schauer in Primary
By George Weeks

On occasion, Democrats have had spirited U.S. Senate and gubernatorial primaries for open seats and those held by Republicans. Not this time around.

U.S. Representative Peters of Oakland County—who campaigned last week in Traverse City, Alpena, Cheboygan, and Mackinac Island—has smooth sailing to 2014 nomination for the seat being vacated by Senator Carl Levin. Levin and Senator Debbie Stabenow have endorsed Peters, and the state party headquarters is among his cheerleaders.

Ex-U.S. Representative Mark Schauer of Battle Creek also has essentially been anointed by the party establishment in his bid for the nomination for likely challenge of GOP Governor Rick Snyder. He made a bit of a splash in press coverage of last week’s Detroit Chamber’s annual Mackinac Island Policy Conference. (“How Schauer plans to make a race of it,” headlined the Detroit Free Press.)

Over the years, Democratic congressmen have done well in Michigan’s contested statewide primaries. In 1982, seeking the party nomination to replace retiring Governor William G. Milliken, Representative James J. Blanchard bested six primary contestants, including some prominent ones, and then won the office.

In 1976, Represetative Don Riegle defeated three primary opponents, including veteran Secretary of State Richard Austin, to win the Democratic Senate nomination and then the office.

Peters on tour

Peters, the first 2014 Senate candidate to hit northern trails, used the occasion last week to tout Great Lakes issues, helping “middle class families,” and a number of ideas on jobs and the economy, especially giving “small business the tools” to compete.

In a phone chat about these issues after his first stop, the former state senator and lottery director said he was impressed by “the strength of downtown in Traverse City.”

In these days of extreme divisiveness on Capitol Hill, I have on occasion noted Michigan lawmakers who reach across aisles. For example: Representative Dave Camp (R-Midland), who works with Democrat Stabenow on Great Lakes issues and with Representative Sander Levin (D-Royal Oak) on the current IRS scandal.

Added to the list could be Peters’ working with Representative John Campbell (R-California) on mortgage reform. They also are co-chairs of the House Auto-Caucus.

Stabenow hit on the bipartisanship theme Friday during a Traverse City event, saying:

“Agriculture supports nearly one in four Michigan jobs and 16 million jobs nationwide. The 2013 Farm Bill will reform agriculture programs to save taxpayers billions of dollars while helping Michigan farmers and small businesses create jobs. I’m proud that the Agriculture Committee was once again able to work across the aisle to pass a bipartisan Farm Bill, and it’s time for Congress to do the same.”

Longevity watch

Levin, first elected in 1978, is Michigan’s longest-serving senator. 1969- 1982 Governor William G. Milliken is its longest-serving governor.

Michigan’s looming political whopper record nationally is that on June 7, Representatie John Dingell (D-Dearborn), 86, who already is the nation’s longest-serving U.S. House member (having been elected in 1955 to fill the seat of his deceased father), will become the longest-serving member of Congress of either chamber.

Dingell will overtake West Virginia Democrat Robert Byrd, who died in 2010 at age 92 after serving in the House and Senate from 1953 until his death.

In honoring Democrat Dingell at the Mackinac Island conference, Republican Snyder, as quoted by The Detroit News, said that while the milestone is “a special thing…even more special about him is what’s he’s accomplished and what he’s still accomplishing. He’s done tremendous things for the state of Michigan and for our nation in terms of his accomplishments.”

Divisiveness abounds these days in state and national politics. This column cites some Michigan politicians who on occasion work with, say nice things about, and reach out to, the other side.

George Weeks, a member of the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame, for 22 years was the political columnist for The Detroit News and previously with UPI as Lansing bureau chief and foreign editor in Washington. His weekly Michigan Politics column is syndicated by Superior Features.

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