Replacing Whitmer

By Kyle Melinn

Curtis Hertel Jr. positioning himself for a state Senate run in 2014

Ingham County Register of Deeds Curtis Hertel Jr., is positioning himself for a 2014 state Senate race to replace term-limited Sen. Gretchen Whitmer, D-East Lansing, multiple sources have confirmed.

Hertel, 35, is into his second term as register of deeds and was an Ingham County commissioner from 2001 to 2008. He’s also worked for the state Department of Community Health and in the Legislature with the House Democratic Caucus. He is the son of former House Speaker Curtis Hertel.

“I love my job. I think we’re doing good, important work for the people of Ingham County,” Hertel said when asked about a possible run. “I strongly believe in public service, and I’m not ruling out any options right now. I’ll look to see where I can best serve the public and the people of Ingham County and make an announcement when the time is right.”

Asked specifically if he was ruling out a run for the 23rd District, which includes all of Ingham County with the exception of Williamston and four rural townships, Hertel said, “No, I’m not ruling out the Senate at this point.”

Former Rep. Joan Bauer, D-Lansing, has openly talked about her interest in pursuing a run for the Senate seat. She said she has spoken to Hertel about his interest and it has not changed her plans at all.

“This is a big county,” she said. “I figured there would be others interested and there likely will be more. I never expected a free ride.”

Bauer, a former Lansing City Council member, won a competitive Democratic primary in 2006 to secure her first term in the House. She ran unopposed in her two primary elections for re-election.

While other local officials could jump into the race, no other names have surfaced. Reps. Andy Schor, D-Lansing, and Sam Singh, D-East Lansing, while never ruling anything out, are not making overtures in that direction. Former Rep. Mark Meadows said he’s not interested in getting into that race.

The Capitol newsletter MIRS has learned that Hertel has been making the rounds with several influential political players in town and has tentatively secured some significant support. Since a primary election is some 19 months away, however, no one is coming out publicly in support of any candidate in advance of a formal announcement.

One source said Hertel appears to be doing a lot of “early work” in attempting to clear the field for 2014 in the hopes of avoiding a lot of “late work” down the line.

Another source said a potential showdown between Hertel and Bauer would make some local Democrats “uncomfortable,” since both are popular in Lansing and will force people to choose sides.

The 23rd, with its 63 percent Democratic base, is a solidly Democratic district. The last Republican to give the seat a realistic push was former state Rep. Paul DeWeese in 2002, who ended up losing 55 percent to 45 percent to now-Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero. Through redistricting, the seat has only gotten more Democratic, giving Republicans little hope of securing it in the near future.

In only his first term as register of deeds, Hertel has made a name for himself by being out front on the issue of foreclosure fraud through robo-signing and forgery. He’s been a party to lawsuits against banks, foreclosure firms and attorneys to bring the issue further visibility.

He’s taken part in several press conferences and pushed for additional legislation to assist homeowners from being swept out of their homes as a result of callous bank policies.

He was chosen to become vice president of the Michigan Association of Registers of Deeds in 2011.

Before leaving the legislature in 2012 due to term limits, Bauer was the ranking member on the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Higher Education, a subcommittee she chaired when the Democrats were in the majority. On that body, she was an advocate for Michigan State University and increased state funding for the state’s university system as a whole.

She also sponsored legislation, since picked up by Schor, to include libraries in the state’s “gun-free zones” after an incident at the downtown Lansing Capital Area District Library a few years ago.

Bauer has also been passionate about gender workplace equality as it relates to pay and pursuing a state income tax credit for some student loans.