Snyder-Schauer showdown

By Walt Sorg

Rick Snyder has one accomplishment the cynics thought impossible: He has united the state’s Democratic Party.

The gubernatorial election is 17 months away and Democrats already have their candidate: former U.S. Rep. Mark Schauer. The Battle Creek Democrat has already been endorsed by state Sen. Gretchen Whitmer, state Board of Education President John Austin, former U.S. Rep. Bart Stupak, 2010 nominee Virg Bernero and state Rep. Vicki Barnett.

“The Democratic Party is the most focused and determined as it’s been since I first started running as a Democrat in 1996,” Schauer told me. “Rick Snyder’s policies have brought people together and I know we won’t have a repeat of 2010 when we had an historically low turnout.”

The low point of Schauer’s political career came in 2010. Two years after his 2008 upset of Republican Tim Walberg in Michigan’s 7th Congressional District, Schauer lost the job when voter turnout dropped by a massive 30 percent. Democrats fell victim to their own apathy and discouragement.

A combination of the national economic recovery under President Obama and Snyder’s policies, Schauer said, will reenergize Democrats in 2014.

“Gov. Snyder’s attacks on working people, attacks on women, attacks on the LGBT community, attacks on retirees, attacks on labor unions … the list goes on and on,” Schauer said.

Schauer’s promise: an economy that works for everyone, not just the wealthy. The former state Senate Democratic leader notes recent Snyder events featuring Amway billionaire Dick DeVos and real-estate billionaire Donald Trump as symbolic of the Snyder philosophy of government.

“He’s got a corporate boardroom solution for every problem. That’s not working for Michigan,” he said.

The Snyder reelection campaign will likely focus on Michigan’s economic upturn over the last two years. Michigan’s unemployment rate was 11.7 percent when Snyder took office and was 8.2 percent last month.

Schauer points out that the state’s recovery actually began a year before Snyder took office, mostly the result of the Bush/Obama bailout of General Motors and Chrysler. Since then, Schauer says, Michigan’s has underperformed.

“Economists said just last month that Michigan’s economic growth is slowing, growing slower than the nation’s economy. They project the economy will grow even more slowly during the next two years. If it weren’t for Gov. Snyder’s policies, our economy would be growing even faster,” Schauer said.

Schauer’s legislative experience will be another campaign theme. Both Jennifer Granholm and Snyder came into office with no legislative experience, and both had major challenges dealing with lawmakers. After some initial victories on core conservative issues, the Snyder legislative agenda has been bogged down. In recent weeks, Snyder has been unable to get Republicans in the Legislature to support his proposals on transportation, “Common Core” educational standards and Medicaid expansion.

“This governor has shown on big issue after big issue a hard time getting things accomplished with the Legislature,” said Schauer, who has two decades of legislative experience at the local, state and federal levels.

The Washington Post ranks Michigan’s gubernatorial race in the top six nationally for 2014. Snyder’s approval ratings are deeply underwater. His approval remains under 40 percent in an EPIC/MRA survey released in April, and he was in a statistical tie with Schauer even though Schauer has just 25 percent name recognition statewide.

I regularly criticize politicians in my column for screwing up. This week, the table is turned. I’m the one who screwed up. Twice.

In last week’s column I wrote that a company, Aegis LLC, formerly run by U.S. Mike Rogers’ wife, stands to make millions in federal contracts if Rogers’ controversial CISPA Internet-security legislation is enacted. I was wrong.

Closer examination of the Aegis website shows the company does not provide Internet security services and would not benefit from enactment of the legislation.It was careless reporting by me. I apologize to Rogers and his wife for the error.

In addition, I stated that Kristi Rogers is a lobbyist at her new job with Manatt, Phelps & Phillips. Her official position is managing director of Washington operations. According to Rogers’ office, Kristi Rogers is not required to register as a lobbyist under federal law. I should have been more precise in my description of her position.

That does not temper my concern over whether Kristi Rogers’ career overlaps with Mike Rogers’ position as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Other congressional spouses have been in similar situations. The ultimate judgment on potential conflicts rests with the voters. Sadly, the lack of comprehensive financial disclosure at the federal level makes it difficult for voters to reach an informed judgment.

On the air
Tune in to “City Pulse on the Air” at 7 tonight on 88.9 FM The Impact to hear Walt Sorg’s interview with former U.S. Rep. Mark Schauer.