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No clear fav for lieutenant governor


It’s two weeks before the Aug. 7 primary and Gretchen Whitmer is still dodging questions on who her running mate would be.

The Democratic gubernatorial frontrunner is focused on fending off two primary challengers before naming her lieutenant governor pick. She has until the Aug. 25 Michigan Democratic Party convention to make up her mind.

Like Whitmer, no major-party gubernatorial candidate party has picked a running mate, which speaks to the point that there is no clear-cut selection in either party for lieutenant governor.

It’s not 2014, when Oakland County Clerk Lisa Brown was Mark Schauer’s natural pick. He needed a Southeast Michigan woman to add gender balance to a maleheavy Democratic ticket, and Brown had won countywide and in competitive legislative elections.

In 2010, Virg Bernero picked then-Southfield Mayor Brenda Lawrence for the same reasons. The Dem ticket needed an African- American female presence with prior electoral success. Lawrence best fit that bill.

Jennifer Granholm’s pick of then-Senate Minority Leader John Cherry in 2002 was a no-brainer. Cherry had the legislative experience and deep union connections Granholm lacked.

Even in 1994, the Howard Wolpe-Debbie Stabenow primary was so close that Wolpe’s bringing Stabenow onboard as his running mate made perfect sense in that he was attempting to unify the party.

Whitmer’s choice is not as clear cut. What is clear is that her ticket would need balance.

U.S. Sen. Stabenow is running at the top of Democratic ticket for reelection. Dana Nessel is the party’s likely attorney general nominee. Jocelyn Benson earned the party’s endorsement for secretary of state. Including Whitmer, none of the four are African American. Also, Whitmer must motivate metro Detroit voters to show up Nov. 6 to beat the Republican (again, presuming she’s the nominee).

So Whitmer needs an African-American male from Southeast Michigan.

Who are her better options? Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon was the early front-runner, but sources say that that isn’t going to happen.

The other names in circulation all have some negatives attached to them. Former Detroit City Clerk candidate Garlin Gilchrist II ran a heck of a campaign last year, but he still lost. He’s also young and still a little green politically.

The well-respected Sen. Vincent Gregory, D-Southfield, is retired military and law enforcement, but there’s some question whether a statewide campaign is his speed and if he has the zest to motivate folks to the polls.

Legislative Black Caucus Chairman and Rep. Sheldon Neeley, D-Flint, has boundless passion, energy and charisma, but he’s not from Detroit, which is where Whitmer needs to the most help.

The young senator Ian Conyers is a sharp up-and-comer with that polished Clark Gable look and presence that could work statewide, but the Conyers name is tainted after his great uncle’s missteps last year forced him to unceremoniously resign. Also, Ian Conyers is running a distant fifth in the race to fill U.S. Rep. John Conyers Jr.’s seat, a sign that he may not be the best choice.

Whitmer doesn’t need legislative experience like Abdul El-Sayed or Shri Thanedar could use if they win the nomination, so she could also pick someone out of the private sector like former gubernatorial candidate Bill Cobbs, with whom she’s had a good relationship. But it’s always helpful to have a running mate who comes with at least a small network of political support from which to draw. Even Cobbs doesn’t have that.

For the progressive El-Sayed and Thanedar, Whitmer would be an understandable choice if their goal is to tack toward the middle in appealing to mainstream Democrats. If not, liberal Sen.

Rebekah Warren, D-Ann Arbor, makes a lot of sense. With 12 years’ legislative experience, she’s well educated and spoken on the issues. She sticks to her guns on core issues while having a reputation of being able to work across the aisle on issues of common agreement.

Republicans face a similar ticket-balance conundrum. House Speaker Tom Leonard and Shelby Township Clerk Stanley Grot appear to be leading the AG and SOS races, respectively, over a pair of female candidates.

Whoever ends up being the GOP nominee, he needs a female running mate unless Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker wins the AG nomination or Leonard somehow is lured to be lieutenant governor.

Schuitmaker is a defendable pick, if she’s willing to take it, presuming a loss to Leonard.

The best choice would be Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Candice Miller, but if she wanted a statewide post, she could have run for governor and probably done well. Miller left Congress to be closer to her home, so it’s hard to imagine she’ll want to drive two hours one way to Lansing every day.

Rep. Laura Cox and Sen. Margaret O’Brien’s names have been mentioned, but both would have to give up runs for the state Senate for a less-than-certain gubernatorial run.

If the LG choice was a no-brainer, the candidates would have named their picks by now. With the candidates waiting until after the primary to announce their choices, it’s clear the running-mate decision is not clear cut for anyone.

Kumar running against Bishop Last week’s election guide should have included information on the candidacy of Lokesh Kumar, a Lansing Republican, who is running in the GOP primary against U.S. Rep. Mike Bishop in the 8th District. Kumar is the president of the Eisen Electric Co., which offers automobile racks, power controls and supply-chain management, among other services.

Kumar said he wants to increase federal school funding 50 percent to improve curriculum while providing a stronger, safer atmosphere for children.

(Kyle Melinn, editor of the Capitol news service MIRS, is at melinnky@gmail.com.)


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