Question 1): MIRS newsletter reports that Gov. Gretchen WHITMER has a massive campaign war-chest and Michigan government boasts a record-breaking amount of money that she and the Legislature can spend on “the people of Michigan.” Barring an unforeseen calamity occurring, does this give her an advantage that makes her just about as much of a shoo-in to win re-election in 2022 as a governor could be?
Answer 1): Based on her record in office so far, she doesn’t deserve to be re-elected, but she’s caught a couple of huge breaks — not just all the money, public and private, but the nature of her potential Republican opposition next year. With the possible exceptions of untested former Detroit Police Chief James Craig and a multi-millionaire Metro Detroit auto dealer named Kevin Rinke who has some personal “issues” he’ll have to sort out, the rest of the possible field of challengers are zeros on the name ID scorecard and have scant financial resources. There is no George Romney or John Engler or even Rick Snyder in sight in this group. And no incumbent governor in Michigan history, of either major party, has EVER been defeated when seeking election to a second four-year term. Yes, after Kim Sigler lost in 1948, Democrat John Swainson was ousted by Romney in 1962, but those were in the days of two-year terms. Yes, Democrat Jim Blanchard lost in 1990 to Engler, but Blanchard had already WON a second four-year term. Bill Milliken and Engler won all three times they ran for four-year terms. In fact, their first re-elections were by bigger margins than their initial wins. Ditto Jennifer Granholm. Snyder also won re-election in 2014, before he was term-limited.
Q 2): How would you advise a GOP gubernatorial candidate to respond when asked “Did Joe Biden really win Michigan in the 2020 election?”
A 2): Such a candidate ought to say, “I think there were some questionable things that happened in the 2020 election, but it’s too late to obsess about it. We need to make sure whatever happened that can be fixed, IS fixed, and move forward. The official Biden victory margin has been certified, and nothing anyone tries to do now is going to change that. He’s president, he’s in the White House. Why waste time fighting a rear guard action against the past when there is so much that needs to be done in the future to reverse last year’s results? The issues are moving in our direction, and we’ve got a terrible, vulnerable governor who can and should be defeated. Let’s get it done!”
- Q 3): Which will be the more important number to watch for in the 2022 election — the percentage of Detroiters who vote for the Republican gubernatorial candidate, or just the percentage of Detroiters who vote, period?
A 3): By a hair, the percentage of registered voters in Detroit who cast ballots. But the important thing to understand is that the Detroit vote just doesn’t matter that much anymore. Even if a candidate like James Craig could quadruple the GOP percentage of the vote in Motown, it wouldn’t make a difference if he’s not doing well in the suburbs and outstate, where 95% of the electorate lives. This is not 1950, when Detroit represented nearly a third of the statewide vote. It’s now down to a miniscule 6%. In an ideal turnout for the Democrats, Detroit would ratchet that up to 7 or 8% (or even double digits!) while the rest of the state turnout stayed flat or receded, but that’s not going to happen. Next year’s elections will depend on the suburbs, and whether Republicans can claw back the voters, many of them independents, who deserted them in 2018 and 2020. If they do, they’ve got a chance to win it all.Q 4): The Shiawassee County Board of Commissioners, all Republicans, voted 6-0 (one absent) on July 15 to award some 250 county employees, including themselves, roughly $557,000 in “hazard pay” for dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. The payments, ranging from $5,000 to $25,000 apiece, were scuttled at least in part due to a lawsuit charging that the commissioners violated Michigan’s open meetings law when they went into closed session to discuss the payments. On Monday, a judge ordered any payments above $5,000 to be returned. Then the Commissioners reversed themselves and rescinded the whole deal. But if public outrage over the initial action should spark calls for the officials to be removed from office, could Governor Gretchen Whitmer remove them all by herself? Should she try?A 4): Retired attorney Bob LaBrant points out that Article VI, Section 10, of the 1963 Michigan Constitution allows the Governor to remove public officials for corrupt conduct or malfeasance or misfeasance in office.Article VI, Section 11, allows the Governor to make appointments to fill those vacancies caused by the Governor’s removal of those county commissioners.Yes, Governor Gretchen Whitmer could remove six Republican Commissioners who may have violated the open meetings act or the Michigan Constitutional provision in Article XI, Section 3, which prohibits extra compensation for any public officer or contractor for services already rendered.The Ballenger Report published a story last year on how Governor Alex J. Groesbeck, in 1926, removed one Thomas Johnson as State Superintendent of Public Instruction (elected statewide as a Republican) for accepting federal funds compensating him for administering vocational education in addition to receiving his state salary as State Superintendent of Public Instruction. Governor Groesbeck appointed Wilford Coffey to fill the Johnson vacancy caused by the Governor’s removal.
As mentioned above, the Shiawassee County Commissioners agreed to rescind the COVID-19 bonuses once the media reported the body voted to approve such payouts, so there is no need for Whitmer to act. Still, the stench lingers, so Shiawassee Co. voters will have to decide among themselves how to mete out “punishment,” if any.