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Posted on Fri, Feb 8, 2013 : 12:50 p.m.

Battle for Michigan Democratic Party chairmanship hits Ann Arbor this Saturday

By Ryan J. Stanton

Two candidates waging statewide campaigns to lead the Michigan Democratic Party into the 2014 election have decided to make Ann Arbor an early stop on the campaign trail.

The Ann Arbor Democratic Party plans to host MDP Chairman Mark Brewer and challenger Lon Johnson at its Saturday meeting at the Ann Arbor Community Center, 625 N. Main St.

"This is the first serious challenge to Mark Brewer's leadership in about a decade," said Ann Arbor Democratic Party Chairman Mike Henry. "I am eager to hear exactly why Lon Johnson thinks his leadership will strengthen us in Michigan. And more importantly, exactly how he thinks he can mount and execute a statewide program better than Mark."


Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Mark Brewer

AP File Photo

All seven Democrats in Michigan's congressional delegation sent a letter this week to party members, urging them to support Johnson over Brewer, calling Johnson "the right leader" who can unite Democrats. The letter pointed out Michigan Democrats suffered disappointing state losses in 2012, and they face many challenges with the Republicans at the helm in state government.

"I am concerned that Michigan is a blue state that is increasingly becoming red in representation," U.S. Rep. John Dingell, D-Dearborn, wrote in a letter of his own this week. "The future of too many things we care about are at stake. Only with a diverse, vibrant and energized party can we hope to gain victories in 2014 and beyond. I believe there is one candidate that can do just that: Lon Johnson."

Brewer has served as the statewide party's chairman since 1995. Johnson of Kalkaska has been involved in political campaigns for 20-plus years and ran for the state House last year. He's married to Julianna Smoot, the head fund-raiser for President Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012.


Lon Johnson

At Saturday's meeting, both candidates will present cases explaining why Ann Arbor Democrats should elect them as chairman at the MDP Convention at Cobo Center in Detroit Feb. 22-23.

The party will serve a light breakfast from 9:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. while attendees network and mingle with guest speakers. The business portion of the meeting runs from 10 a.m. to noon.

Ann Arbor Democratic Party meetings, including the general membership meeting this Saturday, are free and open to the public.

Other speakers at Saturday's meeting include Dingell, State of Michigan Board of Education President John Austin, former Michigan State AFL-CIO President Mark Gaffney, and John Callewaert, director of the University of Michigan's Graham Environmental Sustainability Institute.

Dingell is expected to speak on a host of topics affecting Michigan and the nation. Austin, who is rumored to be a potential challenger to Gov. Rick Snyder in the 2014 gubernatorial race, is expected to address concerns about Michigan's educational and budgetary challenges.

Callewaert is expected to speak about hydraulic fracturing in Washtenaw County. Gaffney is expected to discuss the state of workers' rights and collective bargaining in Michigan.

Henry said the party's meetings also regularly attract the mayor, City Council members, Washtenaw County commissioners, members of the state House and Senate, and other government leaders.

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's email newsletters.



Fri, Feb 22, 2013 : 6:31 a.m.

Sorry to say, it looks like the Democrats have mistakenly believed in their own propaganda on a major issue. Specifically, in Michigan and across the country, gun owners have reacted with alarm an outrage at President Obama's move to reignite the gun control debate. It looks like the Democrats thought that they could marginalize the gun owner voting block and ignore it, steamrolling over objections to achieve even more gun control laws. It's true that gun owners are in the minority - but it's over twice as large as the minority which transformed the racial rights landscape in America. Both parties depend on voting blocks (minorities) because neither party actually unites the actual majority of American (or Michigan) adults. So here we see Barack Obama thinking he can win the gun control debate but it's likely he's just lost a vital voting block and turned it into an implacable foe. This will impact Michigan politics and the fate of the Democratic Party here. They've lost a lot of ground over the past 10-20 years and not a little of that was lost because of their animosity toward gun owners. Obama's re-election sparked a gun buying surge but his late December anti-gun-owner declaration caused a gun-buying frenzy and a 1 million member increase in NRA rolls. Meanwhile, Republicans have become the gun owners' friend and advocate. The Democrats were dominant during most of the 1960s but started to decline right after passage of the Gun Control Act of 1968. Thanks to Obama's blunder, Democrats may become an endangered species.

Jack Eaton

Mon, Feb 11, 2013 : 6 p.m.

If you are interested in fair coverage of the event, Eclectablog has a pretty good article here: I found it noteworthy that Mr. Johnson helped John Dingell defeat Ann Arbor's favored candidate when Dingell ran against Lynn Rivers in 2002. I found it curious that Mr. Dingell took the position that even though Mark Brewer had done a good job, it was time for a change. Mr. Dingell apparently has not applied that rationale to his continued service in Congress.

David Cahill

Sat, Feb 9, 2013 : 9:44 p.m.

About 150 people were at this morning's (Saturday's) Dem meeting, close to an all-time record. Both Johnson and Brewer spoke. Johnson got much more applause than Brewer. My guess is that Johnson will win at the state convention on February 23.


Sat, Feb 9, 2013 : 1:09 p.m.

I am unfamiliar with Lon Johnson, but Mark Brewer's efforts with Michigan's Democratic party have been invisible. There has not been an apparent presence in Michigan, at the state level for at least the past 4 years. I received one request for money for the Presidential race of 2012 and that was the sum total of visibility. We have excellent Democratic representatives and senators at both the state and federal levels, but not enough of them. There was no presence in our district for the federal representative race which allowed the return of this representative with little difficulty; the democratic candidate appeared to have insufficient support from the Michigan Democratic Party. This is not helpful. I'm guessing that Lon Johnson would bring much needed energy, enthusiasm and resources.


Sat, Feb 9, 2013 : 6:19 a.m.

The losses absorbed by the Democrats in the last two election cycles shouldn't be placed at the feet of Mr. Brewer. They still carried Michigan for Obama and it's not like it's Mr. Brewer's fault they haven't had credible challengers emerge to take on Rick Snyder. It's way too early. And Mr. Dingell, if anyone should be retiring, it's you. You lack the influence you once carried, and your basically a body occupying a seat in the House. It's nice you have the longest record of a serving House member, but it doesn't give Michigan any political advantage nationally. Same to you, Mr. Conyers.


Sun, Feb 10, 2013 : 3:52 a.m.

ManA2 - the Democrats were never going to win the Governor's race in 2010. They had NO CHANCE. Andy Dillon was a far superior candidate, and even he wouldn't have done much better than Bernero. The economy was in shambles and the voters had already punished the Republicans two years before. It was Gov. Granholm's turn to feel the voter's ire. Of course Brewer can find great candidates, but he can't make them run. It's not like he can order someone like Gretchen Whitmer around and make her run for Governor. Plus, the Democrats, as of today, have no serious challenger to Snyder, because no one's established themselves as a viable alternative. That is something beyond Brewer's control.


Sat, Feb 9, 2013 : 4:41 p.m.

Metric - It is exactly Mr. Brewer's fault credible challengers haven't emerged. That is one of the very biggest parts of his job. Find great candidates and raise lots of money. First Bernero, and now he just got the Dems defunded with RTW. RTW would never have happened without the wildly misguided overreach on Proposal 2. Epic fail.


Sat, Feb 9, 2013 : 4:40 a.m.

I'm not sure WHO should lead the MDP but its abundantly clear that Mr. Brewer should NOT lead the party anymore. The GOP has gerrymandered Michigan's Congressional districts to the point where Democrats can get more votes but lose by several seats due to the shenanigans of the right. Now they want to distribute electoral college votes on the basis of that same gerrymandered usurpation of democracy. Like their national counterparts, the Michigan GOP will stop at nothing to deny representation to Democrats. Snyder and the whole lot of em ought to be tossed in jail.

Terry Bankert

Sat, Feb 9, 2013 : 3:10 a.m.

We are at a cross roads in Michigan Politics.How much more suffering must we endure for lack of leadership. No longer can we tolerate passivity in the cause for justice to reestablish a quality of life to the working families and the poor, the young, the elderly and the infirm of Michigan. Old school power politics has failed us. We are now in an an era of inclusion, transparency, mobility, and social media communications.We have an entrenched foe. Democrats need a fully equiped fearless leader.Mr. Brewer thank you for all you have done, Lon Johnson is the future of the Michgian Democratic Party.


Fri, Feb 8, 2013 : 11:20 p.m.

Ron Paul for Democratic party chair! Put the liberty, back into the liberals!!!

Jay Thomas

Fri, Feb 8, 2013 : 7:50 p.m.

Please keep Brewer. ;)


Sat, Feb 9, 2013 : 4:42 a.m.

You're obviously a republican!


Fri, Feb 8, 2013 : 7 p.m.

Hard to imagine how Brewer gets reelected. GOP Gov, GOP House, GOP Senate and Right to Work...all in a state that starts with Dem's +7 by party identification.