Michigan’s 2024 U.S. Senate Election; Tax Relief; and Immediate Effect
Last week, U.S. Rep. Elissa SLOTKIN (D-MI 7) made it official. She announced she will run to fill the seat of U.S. Sen. Debbie STABENOW (D-Lansing), who will retire at the end of 2024.
Slotkin, who won a third term in the House last November, has been signaling this announcement since Stabenow first said she wouldn’t run for a fifth term. Slotkin is no stranger to Washington D.C., having worked for the National Security Council, and the U.S. Departments of State and Defense during the administrations of George W. BUSH and Barack OBAMA.
Question 1): What are Slotkin’s chances? Is she really the candidate who would give the Democrats their best chance to keep Stabenow’s seat? If not, who might be better?
The Republicans would have to come up with some charismatic, out-of-the-box figure like former seven-term Congressman Mike Rogers, who is thought to be toying with the idea of running for the Senate or even President, even though he hasn’t been elected to anything in a decade. Interestingly, when MSU Trustee Dennis Denno’s “Friday Morning Podcast” was on the air back in 2017, he had Slotkin on as a guest when she first announced she would run against Bishop. Slotkin professed on air to be a great admirer of Mike Rogers and said she would never contemplate running for Congress against him, but Bishop was another matter. The only downside for Democrats in Slotkin’s running will be recruiting an equally strong candidate to hold her Congressional seat. There are already a half a dozen aspirants contemplating a campaign to become the Dem nominee next year, including former state Senator Curtis Hertel, Jr., state Rep. Angela Witwer (D-Delta Twp), Lansing Mayor Andy Schor, and Ingham Co. Clerk Barbara Byrum. Former state Senator Tom Barrett (R-Charlotte), whom Slotkin defeated in a hard-fought race last year, has said he will take a second crack at flipping the seat to the GOP.
Question 2). Regarding a potential Republican U.S. Senate nominee against Slotkin or any other Democrat, does the GOP even have a chance?
Answer 2): Probably not, since the Michigan Republican Party is weaker now than at any point in the past in the past 70 years, during which time the GOP has won Senate elections only three times (Robert P. Griffin twice, E. Spencer Abraham once). However, sometimes a candidate may appear out of nowhere, perhaps with a lot of personal wealth, who can surprise everybody and prove to be an electable nominee. U.S. Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin comes to mind. However, this hardly ever happens in Michigan. When it does, it usually takes some major help from the top of the ticket, like someone of the same party who is popular and is running for President or Governor. Democrat Prentiss Brown came out of nowhere in 1936 to be elected U.S. Senator on FDR’s coattails. Republican Charlie Potter of Alpena pulled a big upset win in 1952 when Ike was first elected President in a blowout. That’s how rare this phenomenon is.
Question 3): Are the Republicans more likely to emerge as political winners or losers now that they have refused to help majority state Senate Democrats get Immediate Effect for Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s massive tax plan, thereby preventing her from sending $180 checks to Michigan tax filers?
Answer 3): Republicans clearly think they should emerge as winners, and common sense logic is on their side. It’s hard to imagine the electorate being infuriated by being denied a laughably measly $180 stipend when voters know the state is sitting on a $9 billion surplus. Also, Republicans are pointing out they have already passed a law (back in 2015) that would give the public a much bigger tax break that a vote for Immediate Effect would have destroyed. GOP lawmakers also observe, with truth, that Whitmer and the Democrats wanted to deny taxpayers a looming tax break worth potentially billions over time. Even worse, the GOP argues, Democrats instead want to scuttle that tax break by giving it to a handful of large corporations favored by Whitmer. How could the GOP be wrong on this one? By losing the ‘messaging’ game, with major help from the news media. Senate Minority Leader Aric Nesbitt (R-Lawton) and House Minority Leader Matt Hall (R-Emmett Twp) are trying to make sure that doesn’t occur, but it’s happened before.
Question 4): Last week, minority Republicans in the state Senate blocked majority Democrats from getting Immediate Effect on Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s massive tax plan designed to stop a rollback in Michigan’s income levy from 4.25% to 4.05%. The GOP stonewall kept Whitmer from sending out $180 ‘relief’ checks to all of the state’s tax filers. Does this ‘obstruction’ hurt Michigan Republicans? Or does this hurt Democrats for making them look like weak, inept losers who can’t get their signature tax policy proposal enacted even when they have control of all of government, as a pliable news media keeps telling us?
Answer 4): Neither party is likely to suffer any damage, at least for now, mainly because Immediate Effect (I.E.) is an extraneous oddity. Debate over rules governing I.E. are not understood by most of the news media and the general public. The I.E. controversy is ‘inside baseball’ that few comprehend or care about. That doesn’t mean it isn’t important, however. It is, and it may come into play again later in the legislative session. In this instance, however, Senate Republicans realized that the idea that the public is panting for a pathetic $180 check is preposterous. $180 ‘relief’ checks won’t be the central issue; the prospective cut in the state income tax is what the voters will be keeping their eyes on. If Democrats are perceived as the party trying to take away a permanent income tax cut that would deliver far more than a single $180 check in order to give corporate welfare to China, they may have problems defending that next year in Macomb County and Downriver.
As for I.E. and its future, longtime Lansing attorney and gubernatorial adviser Richard McLellan has some thoughts that he has posted in the “Comments” section of The Ballenger Report:
“I have another suggestion; change the I.E. requirement in the Michigan Constitution.
“A public act under the present Constitution does not become law until (a) 90 days after adjournment sine die of the Legislature, or (b) With a 2/3 vote on I.E. in both chambers
“Back in the day, the 90 days after sine die made sense in the pre-Internet era. Michigan was an agrarian state, and it often concluded business in the early summer when there were deadlines. Thus, the bills enacted would take effect before the end of the year. Immediate effect was used only for urgent matters where 2/3 of the members of both the House and Senate would agree.
“But when the Democrats took over (both chambers, in 1965), then-Speakers Joe Kowalski and Bill Ryan hated the deadlines. Ryan said he could accept being beaten if he did not have the votes, but “didn’t want to be defeated by the clock.” Ryan started the process of keeping the Legislature in session until late December so he would have more time to enact his bills.
“This led to the consequence that most public acts (without I.E.) would not take effect until 90 days into the next year. The legislators then started voting I.E. on most bills, undermining the very purpose of the provision. Here is what a bipartisan constitutional amendment could look like: (1) Provide that every public bill enacted will take effect in 90 days after the governor signs it unless (a) It is given a later effective date [sometimes there is a reason, e.g, to make the law effective on, say, Jan.1], or (b) With immediate effect after a 2/3 vote on a roll call vote.”
Of course, to change the Michigan Constitution would require a 2/3 vote of each chamber to put it on the ballot and approval of the state’s electorate in a general election.
Realistically, only John James could pull off a win for the GOP in the 2024 Michigan U.S. Senate race – however he will try to get re-elected to his U.S. Congress seat instead.
Lena Epstein and Nasser Beydoun are two potential candidates who could seek the nomination on the Republican side to oppose Slotkin. Beydoun has set up an exploratory committee and Epstein once declared her candidacy in 2018 for a U.S. Senate seat before withdrawing.
Haley Stevens would be a candidate who could beat Slotkin – but likely will not try.
On the issue of the Michigan GOP – many believe it has now in its best shape ever that it is a populist movement who now controls – rather than the rich insiders who tried to control politics in Michigan in earlier years and failed. These populist movements are taking over GOP state party organizations around the nation – Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming to name a few.
John Mondro says
Realistically, John James lost two statewide elections, and barely won a congressional race in Macomb County. Realistically, it does not make sense for him to run for the senate so soon, and he announced he is not.
Cheryl L. Krapf-Haddock says
Great Report tonight. Lots of unexpected and unpredictable politics going on.
Q1; On the US Senate, Slotkin will be the most likely winner. With this said, she’s using her same message but did what has she truly accomplished for the ppl in her district?
I was very disappointed Slotkin went on attack mode right after State Senator Barrett said he would run for Congress again. I think Barrett is a likely win for the seat.
Still…,,, who knows how this will play out?
Best Cheyl Krapf-Haddock
Chuck Moss says
Nobody does it better.
Bob Bishop says
Well done Bill,
Sadly, MI voters have lost the ability to choose / elect political new bloods by the sheer number of career politicians chomping to climb the next rung on the power ladder, amid endless exploratory committee announcements and gray-water fundraisers. Your list of wannabes for the 7th Cong district seat is exhibit #1: “…former state Senator Curtis Hertel, Jr., state Rep. Angela Witwer (D-Delta Twp.), Lansing Mayor Andy Schor, and Ingham Co. Clerk Barbara Byrum. Former state Senator Tom Barrett (R-Charlotte),…”. Shor didn’t have the common sense or capacity to be embarrassed after forcing his Napoleonic frame to the speakers’ lineup at the first MSU shooter press conference that was otherwise populated by law enforcement including the regional FBI agent. The intuitive MSU Police chief introduced all but the Lansing mayor, who was not allowed to speak. How would Andy fare if he suddenly had to a find a job that was not related to active politics, non-profit or lobbying? Voters should give him that opportunity.
GT Long says
I agree Slotkin is the favorite on the Democratic side. However, it’s still early. What happens if a qualified, well financed black candidate ran against her in a primary? Slotkin is well known in Democratic party circles, but I doubt her name recognition is all that high among voters.
Regardless, ALL candidates should read “A DISTANT RUMBLE” my book on Grassroots politics if they want to win.
Tim Sullivan says
Nice article, Bill, as usual.
I agree Slotkin is the front runner for the Senate seat. Benson and even Gilchrist are possibilities. Both would like to Governor, so I suspect neither will run.
As for Mike Rogers, who knows. If he is serious, Karamo should give her nod. Rogers most likely will not win if he runs, but her endorsing him tosses the “establishment” a bone – which might just ease some tensions and help with fundraising. And if the fundraising isn’t helped, it diminishes the “establishment” wing. And when the election is over, she can credibly say she tried to work with them.
I seriously doubt there is a wealthy Republican willing to dump the millions needed to challenge Slotkin, Benson, Gilchrist or whomever the Democrats nominate.
As for the tax issue, I agree with you. How the issue is framed by the media will determine who wins this issue. If the media comes out on Whitmer’s side, every Republican who goes on any news show, e.g. Off the Record; WDIV’s Flashpoint and other, will have to go on the offensive and challenge the media – face to face – to be honest.
Richard McLellan has a good idea. It would be a permanent solution which is why it will not see the light of day. Neither party wants to give up something they feel they can use against the other side.
Mr. Richard D. McLellan Esq. says
Whitmer’s $180 rebate check sort of reminds me of Blanchard’s “nickel a week” tax cut that Engler used effectively against him.
Robin K. says
The Michigan GOP is not weaker at any time now than in the last 70 years. It is improving by leaps and bounds due to fresh leadership.
Deputy MIGOP chair Malinda Pego just inaugurated a social networking platform for delegates to communicate with the state GOP and with each each other. Something the prior administration never did.
In the 14 years since 2009 that Ron Weiser and Bobby Schostak served as chairs, delegates were told by GOP leaders that they had to elect these two candidates or else the state party would face calamitous financial consequences as these leaders had an uncanny knack in fundraising.
Weiser and Schostak did in fact have a stellar history of raising funds for the party at the state level.
Kristina Karamo and Ms. Pego intend to make the state party “user-friendly”. Morale of delegates has been elevated and positive changes are being made.
Ms.Karamo and Ms.Pego deserve kudos for their efforts thus far in restoring dignity and efficiency to the MIGOP oragnization.