opinion/with poll: Snyder will face big challenges, strong opponents if he runs in 2014
Ryan Stanton | AnnArbor.com
Will he get it? He certainly has whacked the beehive with his move from “Right To Work (RTW) is not on my agenda” to actually helping pass and signing the bill in lickitly-split speed this week.
Signing this signature anti-union bill may have prevented a primary challenge from the extreme right of the GOP or from Teabag waving challengers.
But it clearly has energized left-leaning Democrats and organized Labor who feel the “relentlessly positive action”of this supposedly moderate Milliken-like governor has shown his true colors.
Others argue organized labor created the opening for the Republicans to advance RTW when they pushed and failed in enshrining labor rights in the state constitution. With Republicans in full control of state government some argue what labor did was as foolish as bringing a knife to a gun fight.
Two years is a lifetime in politics — much can and does happen in that brief span of time. Yet, it will be difficult to scurry back to the center for Snyder when it’s anticipated that Mark Brewer, Chair of the Michigan Democratic Party, along with Teamsters, UAW, AFSCME, AFL-CIO, MEA and the Michigan Federation of Teachers and many angry foot soldiers will do all they can to remind voters that “Dog Years” Snyder took a bite out of workers’ hides, single- handedly helping bring down the middle-class with this legislation.
The are even rumblings of a recall drive.
Two years from now, Snyder will have the power of incumbency and the gratitude, support and, yes- the checkbooks of national anti-union, big business support along with the Republican Party right-wing that was lukewarm at best about his first candidacy and not enamored, until now, with his first two years in office.
For their part, the Democrats are “mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.” In the last few days since the RTW vote, all my Republican friends are rejoicing and my Democratic friends are piping hot - steam shooting out their noses, ears, and tops of their heads. Hot and ready for battle!
Can they maintain their intensity and better yet, identify, recruit, and rally behind a Democratic challenger to fight against Gov. Snyder in 2014? Will they have a union card litmus test that when cut, “Solidarity Forever” screams from their veins?
The Dems and labor reportedly spent $25-30 million attempting to enshrine labor rights into the Michigan State constitution but the voters rejected their overture in the last election. What makes them think the voters will embrace them in 2014?
Who is in the Democratic stable they can ride to victory and make it payback time to send The Nerd packing?
Democrats are mad — will they remember come the next election?
Who are the likely Democratic candidates? Let the speculation - and it is just that - begin:
Debbie Stabenow - A great campaigner, U.S. Senator, supported by labor with experience serving at the local, state, and national levels. She would be a strong candidate and as an experienced and capable woman, she would be formidable. She would not have to give up her US Senate seat to run. I suspect while there will be great interest in her running she will decide to finish out her career in the world's most exclusive club — the U S Senate.
Gretchen Whitmer - The Democratic Senate Minority Leader has had a front row seat and been a thorn in the Republican side as the leader of the loyal opposition. A former prosecutor, strong, bright, and ambitious, she has earned support through her efforts to thwart the Republican agenda. She is, as they say in poker is "All In!"
Mark Schauer - A former member of Congress and the Michigan State Senate and House of Representative from the home of Tony the Tiger, Battle Creek, is a labor favorite that seems to has increased his visibility opposing RTW. He is now a development representative with the Michigan Laborers-Employers Cooperation & Education Trust. Speaking about RTW, U.S. Rep. Mark Schauer said, "This is a direct affront to organized labor and its members. It's a game-changer."
That it is. But is it his ticket to the governors office?
Mike Duggan - The retiring Detroit Medical Center CEO and former Wayne County Prosecutor and Deputy County Executive is tough as nails, a turnaround specialist who is in the Detroit mayoral race to stay. In my humble opinion, he will win. Yet, what if Detroit stumbles into bankruptcy and a judge or Emergency Financial Manager holds the reigns of power — would a can-do leader like Duggan want the ceremonial title of “Mayor” without the ability to effect change? Could he then pivot with a year’s head start and challenge Snyder? Things that make you say “hmmm?”
Dan Kildee - Congressman Kildee comes from the Flint area, a hotbed of union activism and is beloved by not only the rank and file, but labor leaders. He will be nudged to run, may bask in the weeks of speculation and likely settle in for a long career in Congress.
Gary Peters - The Congressman previously ran for Governor and Attorney General and would have the backing of labor and a strong south-east Michigan base to make the leap. He has military, business, and legislative background both in Lansing and Washington, DC and would make a strong run - if he decides to go.
Virg Bernero - The “angriest mayor” was trounced by Snyder in the Governor’s race in 2010. But as they say, “That was then - this is now.” The Mayor has experience successfully leading a city during difficult times, making tough decisions to balance his budget, and has local and state legislative experience as well. He stays put as mayor.
Geoffrey Fieger - A quick wit, fire-brand attorney based in south-east Michigan. Fieger is best known as the defense attorney for Jack Kevorkian and as the unsuccessful Democratic nominee for governor (beating the Labor backed candidate) of Michigan in 1998 and standing up for working people. I suspect he will toy with running for both Mayor of Detroit and Governor — but will stay put as a successful attorney.
Mark A. Hackel - Macomb County Executive Hackel is a born and raised Macomb guy who is thoughtful, capable who has worked his way up the political ladder beginning his career in the sheriffs office leaving as the elected, top law enforcement guy to become Macomb's first county executive. He would be a strong opponent if he decides to give it a go. I suspect that he ultimately will decided to adopt his counties slogan and "Make Macomb his home" waiting until 2018 for a shot at the guv's chair.
There are others which space does not allow me to throw into the speculation ring. I encourage you to do so in the comment section below.
If Snyder becomes a one-term Governor, who will the Democrats put up to take him on? Can and will he be beat in 2014? Inquiring minds want to know.
So let the speculation begin.
Tom Watkins has been a participant observer of Michigan's political scene for over 30 years, including acting as deputy campaign manager Governor Blanchard as well as his deputy chief of staff. He has served in top positions in state government including deputy chief of staff in the governors office, state superintendent and mental health director. He was an elected member of the Wayne County Charter Commission and is now a business and educational consultant in the US and China. He can be reached at: tdwatkins88gmail.com