Lt. Gov. may drop from MI governor's race

Heard it on the radio this morning.  Current Lt. Gov. John Cherry (D) may drop out of the MI governor’s race.  Local radio reports:

WWJ Lansing Bureau Chief Tim Skubick reports Lieutenant Governor John Cherry is about to drop out of the race for governor because there are many, including some Democrats, who say he can’t win.


Skubick reported Monday night there has been speculation that Governor Granholm’s strong support for Cherry is more of a liability than an asset.

That is the same Gov. Granholm who has run the state of MI into the ground.  To be honest it is not entirely her fault but she certainly has helped.  With unemployment at one of the highest rates in the country, she is not terribly popular right now.  If she were not already term limited, she would be looking for a new job anyway.

Cherry was the most prominent Democratic candidate.  If he does drop out, it leaves only former Flint Mayor Don Williamson, State Senator Alma Smith and former State Representative John Freeman.  These are not exactly first tier candidates, and maybe not even second tier ones.  This is also speculation that the Speaker of the MI House, Andy Dillon, might through his hat into the ring, especially with the departure of Cherry.

On the Republican side, we are not short on candidates.  The following have declared or have been speculated about running:

Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox, Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard, Michigan State Senator Tom George, U.S. Representative Peter Hoekstra, Former Huron County Commissioner Timothy Rujan, Businessman Rick Snyder, and Former State Representative John Freeman.  Of these I would peg Cox, Bouchard, and Hoekstra as having the most potential.  Cox polls the best against any Democrat probably due to name recognition.

Cox is the highest Republican office holder in MI.  He has a fairly good record, holds a state-wide office, and has good name recognition, but has two potential negatives that could haunt his campaign.  The first is tied to convicted former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.  Somewhat independent of his conviction, there are rumors that Kilpatrick had a wild party at the Mayor’s mansion and that a stripper at the party was later killed under suspicious circumstances.  Cox authorized an investigation from the state Attorney General’s office that could not find evidence to substantiate the rumor.  Now there is another rumor that Cox tilted the investigation in order to cover up his own affair (not directly related to the rumored party or to the substantiated affair of Kilpatrick).  Cox has admitted to an affair but has reconciled with his wife which leads to the second potential negative to his campaign for governor.  In addition to the affair, Cox (unofficially) accused prominent lawyer and former Democratic Governor candidate Geoffrey Fieger of attempted blackmail.  Fieger was also federally prosecuted for campaign finance violations but was found not guilty by a jury.  Fieger and some of his law partners were essentially funneling campaign contributions through employees but exploited enough loopholes in the law to make conviction difficult.  He was also probably helped by having a Detroit jury.  Fieger can be summed up as a Democratic lawyers’ lawyer – think John Edwards on steroids with about half the ethics.  All of this is to say I can believe Cox’s accusations of blackmail by Fieger.  What I am worried about is an October surprise by engineered by Fieger.

Bouchard was the 2006 GOP candidate to run against Stabenow for a U.S. Senate seat.  He lost 41% to 57%.  Of course, that was hardly a great year for Republicans.  Oakland county has some of the major Detroit suburbs, so he has a fairly good base on which to run despite being in a less prominent office.  There have been major crimes in the county that get coverage from the local Detroit news.  Of course the Senate race also help in name recognition.  As sheriff, Bouchard has executive experience and good criminal justice background.  His financial management credentials are neutral.  Sure, there is some budgeting and finances with his position but it is far from the most prominent job responsibility.

Hoekstra probably plays well to parts of the state beyond the Detroit area.  He is a congressman from the 2nd district which is located on the western side of the state along the shore of Lake Michigan.  He has been in congress since 1992.  His lifetime ACU rating is 90 and his rating for 2008 is 88, fairly decent numbers.  His Citizens Against Government Waste ratings are 82 lifetime and 81 for 2008.  He has a generally conservative voting record, could be better but probably good enough.  As a long term congressman, his weakness is lack of executive experience.

Any three of these guys will be better than any Democrat, especially the current contenders.  If Cherry is out then the GOP chances of capturing the MI Governor’s office is even better than before.

There are also implications beyond the governor.  While Republicans control the MI Senate by 22 to 16, Democrats control the MI House by 67 to 43.  The GOP should be able to make gains in the House.  At the federal level, Democrats have an 8 to 7 advantage in House seats.  In the 2008 election, two of them flipped from Rep to Dem.  They are obvious targets for this year.  In addition, if Stupak (D-MI1) caves on the pro-life provisions for the health care bill, he could be vulnerable.  Even if he doesn’t cave, but health care passes without pro-file protection, he still might be punished as associated with the party of abortion.  A strong GOP and a weak Dem governor candidate could push GOP and depress Dem turnout which will affect all the down ballot races.