2014-06-26 / Columns

Northern Primaries Get Downstate Attention

Michigan Politics
By George Weeks

It’s a good bet that Republicans, thanks in part to their northern strength, will retain control of the Michigan legislature, but some lively primaries loom before the November 4 general election.

One of the competitive GOP primaries is for the eight-county 37th Senate seat that includes five counties below the Mackinac Bridge and three in the Eastern Upper Peninsula. Two-term Represetative Greg MacMaster of Kewadin is giving up his 105th House seat to run for the Senate. He is opposed by term-limited 104th Representative Wayne Schmidt of Traverse City.

Among developments last week in that race, Schmidt was endorsed by the Michigan Chamber of Commerce. A poll released by the conservative Core Principles organization said MacMaster has a “strong lead.”

Last week, Inside Michigan Politics newsletter, which has a credible record of assessing legislative races, looked at House contests in districts now represented by Schmidt and MacMaster.

IMP said that in Schmidt’s district—rated as 59.2% Republican— “Eight Republicans are rumbling to succeed him, and at least half have a shot to win the nomination. You would think Larry Inman of Williamsburg would be the heavy favorite, but he’s not working very hard. So keep an eye on Isaiah Wunsch, a prominent cherry and apple farmer on Old Mission Peninsula, and Jamie Callahan of Traverse City, a former legislative staffer, who seems to know what it takes to win.”

In the 105th district, which is rated 59.5% Republican, IMP said, “MacMaster has endorsed one of the men whom he edged out four years ago for the state House…farmer Tristan Cole of Mancelona…but don’t rule out Tony Cutler, the deputy mayor of East Jordan.”

The newsletter did not include evaluations of other northern House races, but some of these races were cited last week by the Detroit Regional Chamber’s political action committee (PAC), known for its ability to spur campaign funding.

Schmidt was among legislative candidates endorsed by the Detroit chamber. While that endorsement is not as important locally, for example, as is opponent MacMaster’s endorsement from Traverse City Mayor Michael Estes, PAC money, if offered, can be influential regardless of distance.

The Detroit Chamber PAC also endorsed Senator Tom Casperson (REscanaba) and Representative Frank Foster (R-Petoskey).

Senate Race

The endorsement derby also was in play last week in the spirited U.S. Senate race between three-term U.S Rep. Gary Peters (D-Bloomfield Township) and former Republican Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land of Byron Center to replace retiring six-term Senator Carl Levin, Michigan’s longest-serving senator.

Land, as well as Governor Rick Snyder, earlier was endorsed by the Michigan Chamber of Commerce.

Here’s how the Detroit Regional Chamber announced its endorsement of Peters:

“Congressman Peters has a proven track record of bipartisan leadership that is focused on solutions instead of partisan bickering. His support for immigration reform, increased infrastructure investment, and his work with Gov. Snyder on the New International Trade Crossing will translate well as he moves from the House to the Senate,” said Brad Williams, vice president of government relations for the chamber.

Levin Remains in Limelight

In the final half-year of the longest-ever tenure as a Michigan U.S senator, Carl Levin continues to have a high-profile role as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Levin supported President Barack Obama’s decision to send up to 300 military advisers to Iraq to help and support Iraqi military forces. Sen. Levin said: “They will help assess the situation on the ground, support Iraqi efforts to defeat the Islamic militants Iraq faces, and help the Iraqis make best use of the intelligence support we are already providing.”

U.S. involvement in Vietnam began with sending in advisers. But Levin said, “The president is right to say U.S. troops will not return to ground combat in Iraq.”

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