Question 1): Gov. Gretchen Whitmer delivered her fourth State of the State message last Wednesday. For the second straight year, she scaled things back by speaking not in the state capitol but in a remote location, this time the factory floor of Detroit Diesel. How did she do?
Answer 1): The headline on this speech should be: “State of the State: Whitmer is buoyant and optimistic about Michigan’s future.” Amazingly, some journalists, post-speech, said they were frustrated that she didn’t mention COVID, and she didn’t get very specific about much of anything except boosting the Earned Income Tax Credit and scuttling the so-called ‘pension tax.’ Are you kidding? The beleaguered Whitmer was not going to talk about COVID. She wants everybody to forget what happened in the last two years and how she handled it, which has been controversial and largely negative. And no past governors have gotten too specific in what they propose in a State of the State. There is plenty of time for that when she releases her proposed budget for the next fiscal year. In sum, the governor is running for re-election, and she is racing towards the middle. She wants to show all those independent ticket-splitters out there that she wants to work with Republicans to get things done on kitchen table issues that voters really care about. How many times did you hear her use the word ‘bipartisan?’ Seven. This is a governor who relished trading barbs with majority Republicans in the Legislature during her first three years in office. Now, all of a sudden, she is saying she wants to be bipartisan. Let’s see if she walks the walk. Achieving true bipartisanship is going to be her big challenge going forward. With the huge revenue windfall that’s sitting in the state Treasury, everybody, including Whitmer, is scrambling to figure out the best way to spend it, or — more importantly — to cut taxes. The question is in what way, shape, or form will taxes be cut? Republicans are already readying bills they’ll send to her to slash levies, while Whitmer has her own ideas. Let’s see if they can play, ‘Let’s Make a Deal.’
Question 2): There’s still another Republican getting ready to formally announce his candidacy for governor next month — one Perry Johnson. That brings the total back to a dozen (one earlier announced candidate has already dropped out). Who is Perry Johnson and will his candidacy make a difference leading up to the primary election August 2?
Answer 2): Johnson has the potential to make a big difference. He’s a multi-millionaire business consultant, motivational speaker (see him on YouTube) and author. He’s the 2022 version of a hitherto unknown wealthy businessman a dozen years ago named Rick Snyder, only Johnson has a lot more sizzle and plenty more money. Snyder ran his famous early February 2010 Super Bowl ad touting his credentials as “One Tough Nerd,” outspent his four primary opponents and waltzed to a relatively easy 10 percent victory margin over his nearest rival in the GOP primary, followed by a rout of his Democratic opponent, Virgil Bernero, in the general election. Johnson, who lives in Bloomfield Hills but whose business — Perry Johnson Registrars, Inc. (PJR) — is based in Troy, is flamboyant, and his early rhetoric belittling Whitmer takes the Kevin Rinke “Yugo” ad to a whole ‘nother level. PJR is a company that certifies whether businesses meet industrial standards. It’s got clients in 80 cities and in seven languages and as many countries. The Democratic Governors Association must be worried — it immediately labeled Johnson an “unknown, out-of touch billionaire” (that’s the Dems’ fallback slur against any REPUBLICAN running for anything, ignoring the Dems’ own well-heeled nabobs like New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who must not be ‘out-of-touch’ simply because they’re Democrats). It remains to be seen how Johnson will perform as a candidate. He’s already scared conservative columnist Nolan Finley of The Detroit News, but the ‘quality guru’ has landed John Yob as a political consultant. Yob was Snyder’s ‘main man,’ and Yob started out this election cycle running the campaign of former Detroit Police Chief James Craig. Craig, however, has proved to be a flop so far, so Yob deserted him late last year. Johnson appears to have a full head of home-grown hair, but it appears to be ‘tinted’, which may remind some voters of the “Bad Orange Man” who recently occupied the White House. That may not be a problem in a Republican primary, but being the newest version of BOM and Johnson’s bombastic oratorical style could be a liability in the general election. Anyway you cut it, the gubernatorial election just got a whole lot more interesting.
Question 3): Last week’s TBR article asked the question, “Is Michigan’s Auditor General a Political Hack?” The piece that followed indicated the answer was “No,” based on the recent controversy involving differing reports about COVID-related nursing home deaths. Just because Doug Ringler’s count of nursing home deaths differed from the Whitmer administration’s doesn’t mean the AG was ‘cooking the numbers’ for partisan purposes. He just used different methodology to arrive at his figures. However, TBR’s short essay didn’t delve into Ringler’s personal voting history or how he has participated in political campaigns over the years. Is there any evidence, and, if so, does that mean that the response to last week’s headline should be revised?
Answer 3): According to Michigan’s longtime leading political list broker, Mark Grebner of East Lansing, the answer is a firm “No and No.” Ingham Co. Commissioner (and lifelong Democrat) Grebner says this: “Looking through Michigan’s voting records, there is no evidence that Ringler has ever voted in a Republican primary, or that he has voted much at all. And there is no record of him ever giving money to any political candidate, at any time.” Continues Grebner: “The nearest I could find is that his first wife’s current husband once gave $20 to a Democrat. In other words, I know a political hack when I see one, and there’s a pretty simple answer to whether Ringler qualifies, and the answer is No.”