Question: Will Michigan’s share of the national COVID-19 relief money make it easier or harder for the Michigan Legislature and the administration of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to reach agreements?
Answer: Hey, those people in the state capital couldn’t blow this one, could they? Could it be possible that continued wrangling between Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Republican-controlled Legislature could actually cost Michigan hundreds of millions of “free dollars” designed by Congress to get our state back on its feet? After all, this $10.2 BILLION windfall is FEDERAL largess, not state money (even though Michigan taxpayers are of course part of the federal system). Unfortunately, yes, it’s going to be hard for this governor and this legislature to agree on just about anything going forward, particularly as we near the 2022 election. This federal windfall is so massive that it may be a little easier to reach agreement on the FY 2021-22 budget that is supposed to be finalized by July 1, but it’s likely to be increasingly difficult as time goes on. These federal dollars will continue far into the future, and disagreements are likely to build. If past experience is any index of what will happen, Whitmer already views this pot of federal gold as hers to use as she sees fit, and she is probably working hard right now to figure out how to spend it without submitting to any strictures placed on her by the Legislature. It will take some court to once and for all declare that every democratic Constitution that has ever existed gives the power to appropriate to the legislative branch, not the executive. Otherwise, look out!
Q: When it comes to issues, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is known for her record on COVID-19 and her initial promise to ‘fix the damn roads.’ Will she need to pivot to some other issues in order to get reelected in 2022, assuming she runs again?
A: No. She’ll be able to cruise to re-election with little difficulty as long as the Republicans don’t have a ticket to ride, and right now they don’t. It’s often better to be lucky than good, and Whitmer will be bailed out on “Fix the damn roads” by the $10.2 billion cascade of dollars pouring into Michigan from Joe Biden and the Democratic Congress, at least some of which can be spent on infrastructure repairs. As for Coronavirus, Whitmer has made a ton of bitter enemies with the way she’s handled it, but polls show Democrats are still solidly behind her, and a substantial number of independents have cut her enormous slack because they sympathize with the bad hand she and other governors were dealt having to deal with the pandemic. They feel she’s been focused and energetic in her response to the virus even though she’s made mistakes and her strategy has been flawed.
Q: Will President Joe BIDEN’s Covid-19 ‘rescue plan’ be an automatic 2022 political winner for Democrats?
A: Not automatic, but it will help unless the economy unexpectedly craters, which nobody is predicting. Few care anymore about debt, after Donald Trump and GOP Congresses abandoned the “fiscal integrity” which was historically part of the GOP brand. The Republicans are now trying to reclaim the idea of balanced budgets, but it’s too late. No one believes them.
Q: – State Rep. Steve CARRA (R-Three Rivers) has announced that he’s running for Congress in what is now the 6th Congressional District, and his likely GOP primary opponent would be Michigan’s senior federal lawmaker, U.S. Rep. Fred UPTON (R-St. Joseph). Upton has prevailed over challenges from his political right more than once in the past. How worried should Upton be about Carra?
A: All this speculation about the 2022 election is largely premature and even irrelevant, especially with regards to Congress because Michigan will be losing a seat, dropping from 14 in the U.S. House to 13. That, and the fact that for the first time in history we have an independent redistricting commission whose final work product nobody can predict. What will Upton’s 6th District look like? Nobody knows. Will it even exist? If so, will Carra live in it? That said, under the right circumstances Carra has shown by his successful campaign for the state House last year that he could turn into a genuine threat to Upton in a Republican primary.
Q: Last week, Attorney General Dana NESSEL described Holland restaurant owner Marlena PAVLOS-HACKNEY as having committed “a dangerous act” because Hackney flouted anti-COVID regulations by not requiring masks to be worn in her restaurant, much less social distancing. Hackney was briefly jailed after refusing to pay a whopping fine. She has now become a cause-celebre among Michigan Republicans and has reportedly raised over a quarter of a million dollars online. Did Nessel needlessly invite trouble by weighing in on this controversy?
A: This one is vintage Nessel, who embarrassingly lost a court and public relations battle to Owosso barber Karl Manke a year ago when she and Gretchen Whitmer ganged up on him. The fate of the Holland restaurateur is not good optics for Nessel, particularly with her refusal to take seriously Macomb Co. prosecutor Pete Lucido’s efforts to uncover COVID-19 nursing home atrocities in his bailiwick. But the Republicans can’t count on this ugly controversy costing Nessel much disfavor for very long, because most of the news media will cover for the Attorney General, as they do for Whitmer, until she weathers the storm.