2017-06-15 / Columns

Potential Primary Battles Loom

With term-limited Republican Governor Rick Snyder sidelined, early stirrings by gubernatorial hopefuls, including intriguing ones in recent weeks, indicate there possibly could be some competitive primary battles not previously anticipated earlier for 2018.

Former state Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer of East Lansing has been seen as the frontrunner to be the Democratic nominee since declaring in January, especially after the dropout of U.S. Representative Dan Kildee of Flint Township, who said he instead would seek reelection.

Two potential primary challengers against Whitmer, who already has raised $1 million for a campaign, have emerged from law firms that advertise heavily on television and have expressed interest.

The most prominent is Geoffrey Fieger, who lost 62% to 38%, while spending $6 million of his own money against Republican John Engler in 1998. Mark Bernstein, a son and manager in the “Call Sam” family attorney television ad chairs the University of Michigan Board of Regents, and, according to the Detroit Free Press, is considering “looking for an alternative Democrat to back.”

(His brother, Richard Bernstein, is an elected member of the Michigan Supreme Court.)

Another prominent Democrat name to surface is that of Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel. The Detroit Free Press said: “Hackel, who has made a habit of working with Republicans, including Governor Rick Snyder and Macomb County Director of Public Works Candice Miller, said it is better than a 50% bet that he’s also looking to get into the race.

“Looking at the other candidates, the question becomes: ‘Is there someone you’ve got a strong identification with and that you’re willing to support?’ I’m not there yet. And so there is always that likelihood that I might want to consider it myself.

“There’s more than a 50% chance of thinking about it. But there’s a strong likelihood that I’ll run again for county executive.”

My view is that it would be good, in these days of extremes in national and local politics, to have some candidates with records of working with both parties. It’s far too rare these days.

Other Democrats currently seeking the nomination include former Xerox executive Bill Cobbs of Farmington Hills and Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, former director of the Detroit Health Department, who, according to a quote in The Detroit News, is “taking up the Bernie Sanders far-left mantel.”

Late last week, Shri Thanedar, an Indian immigrant and founder of Avomeen Analytical Services of Ann Arbor, kicked off his campaign with an announcement speech declaring, “Michigan cannot afford another four years of Snyderism.”

The Republican gubernatorial focus has long been on Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley and Attorney General Bill Schuette. Saginaw physician Jim Haynes has been campaigning against them.

Recently, state Senator Patrick Colbeck of Wayne County’s Canton Township announced for the GOP nomination with a vow to “clean up Lansing.” He asserted: “Michigan deserves principled solutions that prioritize the best interests of all of our citizens, not an influential few.”

The Detroit Free Press calls Colbeck “one of the most conservative members of the Legislature.”

Other Republicans who have filed as candidates with the Secretary of State are insurance agent Joseph Derose of Williamson, Grand Rapids businessman Evan Space, obstetrician Jim Hines of Saginaw, and private investigator Mark McFarlin of Pinconning.

It’s a big field. But the big names remain in Democrat Whitmer and Republicans Schuette and Calley.

Granholm Continuous on the Tube

Seldom has a Michigan governor gone on to a stretch as a national television panelist to the extent of ex-Democratic Governor Jennifer Granholm. She has been a regular on NBC and others.

Recently, she was one of the CNN commentators against President Trump’s stance on climate change rejecting the Paris accords.

George Weeks, a member of the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame, for 22 years was 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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