opinion

My Top 10 memorable moments of 2021

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Yes, I know how subjective these lists are. 

I’ll label this list my 2021 memorable moments of state government and politics because it’s unchallengeable. Who can question what I felt was memorable, but me?

1. Jan. 6. The U.S. Capitol riots signaled the time protests and free speech went too far, crossing the line into violence and vandalism. In Lansing, a 6-foot-high fence was built around the Capitol and the Romney Building’s ground floor windows were bordered up.

Michigan Republican Party Co-chairwoman Meshawn Maddock and gubernatorial hopeful Ryan Kelley were among the Michigan Republicans tied to the event.

2. Sept. 14. After playing footsie with his gubernatorial campaign rollout over the summer, former Detroit Police Chief James Craig’s kickoff press conference was overtaken by protesters. Craig needed to move the event to another location, sparking conversations about whether the commotion was a set-up to generate more media attention around Craig’s general campaign theme that liberal protesters are out of control. Whether this was ingenious planning or dumb luck, we’ll probably never know.

3. April 6. Rep. Jewell Jones is found at the side of Interstate 96 with a female passenger vomiting and her pants down. Jones’ pants were also partially down as he tried to talk his way out of possible criminal charges for drunk driving, among other things. Despite being an auxiliary officer himself, Jones didn’t follow the directions of authorities and found himself getting tackled, cuffed and thrown into a squad car.

4. Feb. 10. A day after the Hillsdale County Republican Party publicized hidden video taken of Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey referring to the Jan. 6 riots as a “hoax,” Shirkey tried to explain to Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II over a hot mic that the FBI would identify an unidentified person responsible for the event in “the next couple of weeks.” Shirkey ended up going dark with the press for several months as Republicans internally questioned if the Senate majority leader was right for the job.

5. May 12. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer conceded that she visited her ailing father in Florida when out-of-state or extraneous travel was frowned upon out of concern about spreading the coronavirus. She took a private jet and paid for part of the four-day journey out of her campaign account, giving rise to the oft-used political slogan, “Rules for Thee, but not for me.”

6. March 25. Speaking before a combative North Oakland County Republican Party gathering, Michigan Republican Party Chairman Ron Weiser refers to the governor, secretary of state and attorney general as “the three witches” a gender-charged label that drew outrage from the political left, giving Democrats and progressive group rhetorical and fundraising tinder for the rest of the year.

7. June 22. After 15 months of restrictions on movement and public gatherings as a way to control the spread of COVID-19, Whitmer announced the end of all state public health orders dealing with broad restrictions on impacting the general public. The announcement came before Michigan hit its 70% vaccination goal. At this point, any further restrictions were up to county health departments and school boards.

8. Sept. 14. State Rep. Steve Marino was hit with a personal protection order by former romantic interest Rep. Mari Manoogian. Threatening text messages surfaced showing Marino writing that he hoped her car exploded with her in it. Months later, the PPO was lifted after a judge found that explosive, volatile text messages didn’t run one way in this relationship.

9. April 29. Former Department of Health and Human Services Director Robert Gordon told the House Oversight Committee that the governor had asked him to leave his position, citing a desire to “go in a different direction.” While it was reported Whitmer had broomed him in favor of someone who would support rolling back COVID-era restrictions, Gordon’s testimony was the first hard proof of this change in the administration’s direction.

10. Nov. 9. Kelly Rossman-McKinney, Lansing’s most effective public relations professional for more than two decades, died at 67 after a roughly 18-month battle with cancer. Rossman-McKinney was the heart and social center of the capital community and a trailblazer for female professionals in state government circles.

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

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