#MichiganGrit (Guest: Senate Majority Leader Winnie Brinks)



Topping the political news this week: the Governor delivers a populist State of the State message, with Democrats in the Legislature cheering repeatedly and Republican members sitting on their hands – even to the point of not cheering a proposal to help young children, or throwing shade at Ohio and Indiana. Mark and Jeff analyze the Governor’s address, and talk legislative priorities with the first woman to serve as Senate Majority Leader, Grand Rapids Senator Winnie Brinks.

Also this week: in what’s becoming our weekly Republicans in Trouble segment, Macomb Prosecutor Pete Lucido has done it again – this time quoting the GOAT of insurrectionists, Gen. Robert E. Lee, and being targeted in another lawsuit alleging official misconduct. And there’s a lot happening in both the state and national Republican Party leadership that pits the ultra-MAGAs against less extreme MAGAs.

Senate Majority Leader Winnie Brinks has the historic distinction of being the first woman to ever hold this position in the Michigan Senate, as well as being the first woman to represent Grand Rapids in the Michigan Senate in more than 100 years. Her legislative focus has been on clean drinking water in Michigan and has worked tirelessly on efforts to reduce the prevalence of toxic PFAS chemicals in it. Her other policy passions have included improving equity in maternal health care, reproductive rights, reducing prescription drug costs, and helping uplift local communities and organizations.

Before being elected to the state House (where she served two terms) Brinks was a caseworker at The Source, helping businesses and nonprofits improve workplaces and retain employees. She also worked as the director of a community-based corrections agency and as a school paraprofessional. She is a graduate of Calvin College, earning a bachelor’s degree in Spanish with a concentration in sociology.

State of the State

Also this week




MAGA Mania (Guest: Denver Riggleman)



We’ve got a MAGA alert agenda this week:

  • Michigan Republicans have a battle of election deniers for chair of their party. 
  • Some top Michigan Republicans want to draft charisma-challenged Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to lead the 2024 ticket. 
  • In Ottawa County, the MAGA takeover of the Republican Party is on full display with a purge of county officials who aren’t radical enough for the new county commission. 
  • And the MAGA wing is looking at a takeover of some mid-Michigan school boards. 

The MAGA-craziness is on display in DC as well, with reality-adjacent people like Marjorie Taylor Greene and Jim Jordan now into power positions in the U.S. House…which also features a couple of committee assignments for the Congressman currently known as George Santos.

Joining the conversation this week is former Republican Denver Riggleman of Virginia. A former Air Force officer and National Security Agency contractor, Riggleman was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 2018. He was defeated in his bid for reelection in 2020, losing to Republican primary challenger Bob Good in a drive-through party convention. 

Riggleman co-authored a book with Hunter Walker titled, The Breach, which was published in October of 2022. The book detailed his work on the United States House Select Committee on the January 6 AttackHe is the only member of the Republican party to speak on the House of Representatives floor against QAnon. He is a co-sponsor of 2020 US House resolution “Condemning QAnon and rejecting the conspiracy theories it promotes”. He is also one of the co-authors of the Network Contagion Research Institute report called “THE QANON CONSPIRACY: Destroying Families, Dividing Communities, Undermining Democracy” which he wrote before the January 6 storming of the US Capitol.

This week in Michigan politics: 

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• Market Research Studies
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• On-Line and Automated Surveys
• Focus Group Research
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The Domino Effect



The Michigan Legislature’s 2023 session has officially started. Democrats, now controlling both chambers for the first time in 40 years, have already introduced a raft of high-priority bills. And the 2024 game of political musical chairs is underway. We update the race to succeed Debbie Stabenow in the Senate, and the likely domino effect of that race on Michigan’s congressional delegation.

Walt Sorg sits in for Mark Brewer who is on vacation. Walt and Jeff decided that makes it a good time to talk about Mark behind his back … specifically about how Mark was one of the behind-the-scenes heroes of the 2022 midterm election. His constant vigilance over those who would wreak havoc on the electoral process was a big factor in keeping the election and post-election period quiet and without controversy.

Some of the stories in this week’s panoply of Michigan politics:

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This week’s podcast is underwritten in part by EPIC-MRA
EPIC ▪ MRA is a full service survey research firm with expertise in:
• Public Opinion Surveys
• Market Research Studies
• Live Telephone Surveys
• On-Line and Automated Surveys
• Focus Group Research
• Bond Proposals – Millage Campaigns
Political Campaigns & Consulting
Ballot Proposals – Issue Advocacy Research
Community – Media Relations
Issue – Image Management
Database Development & List Management


The Stabenow Surprise



In Washington D.C., Republicans are a hot mess – with two former Michigan congressmen waiting in the wings as a possible solution. In Michigan – a political shocker. Even as Democrats take full control of state government, Senator Debbie Stabenow drops a political bombshell.

Michigan politics has been upended by the decision of Senator Stabenow to end a half-century of public service to, in her words, “I intend to begin a new chapter in my life that includes continuing to serve our State outside of elected office while spending precious time with my amazing 96-year-old mom and my wonderful family.”

The Michigan inauguration on January 1 not only launched the Democratic trifecta in Michigan State government, it cemented the prominence of women and minority group members in all the centers of political power within state government. Women are now Governor, Secretary of State, Attorney General, Senate Majority Leader, Chief Justice, House Speaker Pro Tem, and chairs of both the House and Senate Appropriations Committee. Two more top leaders — the Lt. Governor and Speaker of the House — are African Americans, and the two Majority Floor leaders are am Indian-American and Middle East-American. Add to that: eight of Michigan’s 13 members of Congress are women!

In other political news over the last week:

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This week’s podcast is underwritten in part by EPIC-MRA
EPIC ▪ MRA is a full service survey research firm with expertise in:
• Public Opinion Surveys
• Market Research Studies
• Live Telephone Surveys
• On-Line and Automated Surveys
• Focus Group Research
• Bond Proposals – Millage Campaigns
Political Campaigns & Consulting
Ballot Proposals – Issue Advocacy Research
Community – Media Relations
Issue – Image Management
Database Development & List Management


Holiday Special – Corruption Dejá Vu



More than 100 years ago, George Satayana wrote “those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.” When it comes to political scandals it is especially true. So today, some Michigan political history that may foreshadow one of the first big stories of 2023.

Pulitizer Prize-winning reproters Eric Freedman, and Jim, Mitzelfeld, right, celebrate news of their award April 12, 1994 with Detroit News Editor and Publisher Robert H. Giles. The first story in their winning series on the mishandling of spending by the Michigan State House Fiscal Agency was printed in January 1993. Diane Weiss / The Detroit News

And that is the investigation of former state House Speaker Lee Chatfield – an investigation that began with accusations of sexual misbehavior and quickly branched out to major misuse of government money, campaign fundraising practices bordering on bribery, and the sometimes toxic intersection of high-powered lobbyists and government decision makers.

29 years ago Lansing was embroiled in a scandal with many of the same overtones of the Chatfield affair. Massive amounts of money were stolen by the powerful and excessively independent director of the state House of Representatives’ fiscal agency. 

Mitzelfeld (left) and Friedman (right) nearly 30 years later, joined by 1990 Pulitzer winner M.L. Elrick of the Detroit Free Press.

As has been true with the Chatfield scandal, much of the public’s knowledge of the corrupt behavior was revealed by reporters from the Detroit News. The coverage of the 1993 House Fiscal Agency Scandal was led by reporters Jim Mitzelfeld and Eric Freedman. They were awarded a Pulitzer Prize for their reporting … and they join us on a special edition of “A Republic, If You Can Keep It”. (The interview was recorded before we learned that the U.S. Justice Department was assisting in the Chatfield investigation; anything either of our guests say regarding that investigation is solely based on what they had read in the news.)


For more information on the two scandals:

The 7 worst political scandals in Michigan history
• The Scandal, 20 Years Later – John Lindstrom blog post
Corruption lingers 20 years after legislative scandal erupts – Spartan Newsroom (by Eric Freedman)
Leaders act quickly in fiscal agency scandal. – Free Online Library
U.S. v. MORBERG | 863 F.Supp. 511 (1994) | upp51111272 | Leagle.com
Michigan State Police hand off Lee Chatfield probe to Attorney General | Bridge Michigan
Ex-Speaker Lee Chatfield provided foothold in government for lobbyists – Detroit News
Lee Chatfield traveled the nation as Michigan’s speaker, but who paid?
Livengood: Chatfield scandal exposes unchecked influence of lobbyists
Commentary: Tarnished gavels – Is corruption an occupational hazard for House speakers? – Spartan Newsroom (by Eric Freedman)

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This week’s podcast is underwritten in part by EPIC-MRA
EPIC ▪ MRA is a full service survey research firm with expertise in:
• Public Opinion Surveys
• Market Research Studies
• Live Telephone Surveys
• On-Line and Automated Surveys
• Focus Group Research
• Bond Proposals – Millage Campaigns
Political Campaigns & Consulting
Ballot Proposals – Issue Advocacy Research
Community – Media Relations
Issue – Image Management
Database Development & List Management

 


Who Will Go to Jail?



The recounts show what we all knew: Michigan’s elections were fair, and the vote counts accurate.

Michigan has a major supporting role in the January 6 final report – with evidence that could put some state Republicans in jail as it details efforts by Donald Trump to overturn Joe Biden’s Michigan victory.

And two of the top-tier Biden successors, according to the buzz machine, are Michiganders: Gretchen Whitmer and Pete Buttigieg. One of them is reported quietly building a campaign infrastructure if Biden decides not to run.

Also in this week’s cornucopia of politics and/or political crime news:
Final Report of the January 6th Committee
Michigan Trump electors invoked 5th Amendment more than 100 times
• Michigan recount: Big expense, very few changed votes, results show | Bridge Michigan
• 
Partial hand recounts of two ballot proposals validate election results
• 
Michigan election board certifies recounts upholding proposal win
• 
In strategy session, Michigan Republicans say donors abandoned them
• What Trump told Shirkey, Chatfield to try to get Michigan election overturned
• 
Buttigieg 2024 – Punchbowl News
• 
The Democrats Have a Deeper Bench Than You Think – The Bulwark
• 
How Democrats could use their big Michigan win to set up the 2024 race – POLITICO
• 
New Statewide Poll: Inflation Concerns Persist, Voters Optimistic About Democracy – Detroit Regional Chamber
• 
Insider: Voters in poll see gun laws as priority for Michigan Legislature
• 
How Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Democrats plan to cut Michigan taxes in 2023 | Bridge Michigan
• 
Michigan Democrats eye other abortion law changes as Prop 3 set to take effect | Bridge Michigan
• 
Read the summary of the Jan. 6 committee report – The Washington Post
• Trump is accused of using copyrighted images in his NFT collection | The Independent
• 
Chatfield scandal helped boost reform effort, but Senate failed us

This week’s podcast is underwritten by Practical Political Consulting and EPIC-MRA. We thank them for supporting “A Republic, If You Can Keep It” throughout 2022!




And the (pointless) Recounts Keep on Coming!



Jeff and Mark are traveling this week as we record the “pre-criminal-referrals” episode of the podcast.

Jeff is getting the better end of the deal! He’s in Nashville where leaders of the Lincoln Project are holding their post-midterm victory lap…beginning planning for 2024..and sampling the hospitality of America’s country music capitol.

Mark is coming up for air after still another long day of another recount. The futility of the partial recounts of Proposals 2 and 3 being highlighted by a Michigan state Supreme Court ruling, and a federal Appeals Court ruling in Colorado both burying the Big Lie and the attorneys promoting it.

Elsewhere in political news this week:

This week’s podcast is underwritten by Practical Political Consulting and EPIC-MRA. We thank them for supporting “A Republic, If You Can Keep It.”


Recount Tinfoil Hats and Other Insanities



Lame ducks, federal subpoenas re: Michigan’s 2020 election, a Supreme Court hearing on ending democratic elections, another court hearing on the lawyers who pushed the BIg Lie in Michigan, a bizarre farewell speech from the top Republican in state government, and a new wrinkle in the Democratic Party’s plans to shift the presidential primary schedule – a shift that could mean even better news for Michigan.

And for the last few days Mark has been in the middle of some of some won’t-change-anything recounts … which are really an effort to shore up the BIg Lie conspiracy theories from 2020.

Jeff Timmer and Mark Brewer sound off on all of these issues … and more

Some links to help you follow all the crazy:

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This week’s podcast is underwritten by Practical Political Consulting and EPIC-MRA. We thank them for supporting “A Republic, If You Can Keep It.”

 


Keep Building – Or Fail! (Guests: Amy Chapman, Jon Hoadley)



Donald Trump may be drawing a lot of heat for his Ye-Dinner with white nationalist Nick Fuentes at his Mar-A-Lago crime scene, but his acolytes in Michigan appear to be firmly in control of the state’s Republican Party. Potential criminal defendant Matt DePerno appears poised to become the new state Republican chair, but he now has opposition from a more traditional Republican: former congressman Pete Hoekstra.

State Democrats are in the middle of a different battle: the high-stakes debate over which states will go first in the 2024 presidential primary schedule. The lame-duck state Senate, still under Republican control, is cooperating with efforts to convince the Democratic National Committee to move Michigan to the head of the line.

Also in Michigan political news this week:

Joining the conversation this week are two of Michigan’s top political consultants, Amy Chapman and Jon Hoadley.

Chapman’s political activism dates back nearly 40 years. While earning her B.A. in politics and journalism from New York University in 1983, she worked on the field staff for former Rep. Andrew Maguire (D) of New Jersey in 1980. After graduating, she worked as the deputy field director and assistant to the political director for former California Senator Alan Cranston (D) when he ran for president in 1984. She was Michigan state director of the Obama presidential campaign in 2008, Oregon state director of the Bill Clinton campaign in 1992 and more recently headed up the Michigan Democratic Party’s coordinated campaign. Nine years ago Chapman formed Amy Chapman Consulting, based in Madison Heights to “provide strategic guidance, planning and assessment management” for nonprofit foundations and other organizations.  

Jon Hoadley served three terms in the Michigan House, representing the Kalamazoo area. Hoadley has been involved in LGBT and progressive political advocacy since college, and has worked on political campaigns since 2004. Currently, he serves on the Michigan Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights . Prior to his election to the Michigan Legislature, he became president and owner of Badlands Strategies, a progressive public affairs consulting firm. During this time he managed a local campaign to defend Kalamazoo’s local non-discrimination ordinance, and assisted with a similar campaign in Royal Oak.  He also managed the campaign to elect Justice Bridget Mary McCormack and worked with the Unity Michigan Coalition.

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This week’s podcast is underwritten by Practical Political Consulting and EPIC-MRA. We thank them for supporting “A Republic, If You Can Keep It.”


The People’s Lawyer (Guest: Attorney General Dana Nessel)



On this week’s podcast:

In Lansing, Democrats are quickly and quietly putting in place their leadership structure as they prepare to take control of both chambers. In Washington, it’s just the opposite for House Republicans who face the prospect of being unable to elect a Speaker of the House.

The upcoming resignation of Michigan Chief Justice Bridget Mary McCormack brings some major changes to the court: a centrist Republican appointee as the new Chief Justice (at least, for awhile) and the first-ever black woman named to McCormack’s unfinished term.

Joining the conversation this week: Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel. Nesselwas reelected with an eight-and-a-half point victory over Big Lie promoter and potential criminal defendant Matt DePerno, a definite improvement over her narrow 2.75 point victory over Tom Leonard four years ago.

As Attorney General, her visibility rose first when state GOP chairman Ron Weiser referred to her as one of Michigan’s “three witches” (along with Gov. Whitmer and Secretary of State Benson), and achieved national prominence when then-President Donald Trump labeled her a “wacky do-nothing.”

Nessel first achieved legal prominence in 2014 when she successfully argued for the plaintiffs in DeBoer v. Snyder, which challenged Michigan’s ban on the statewide legal recognition of same-sex marriage; the case was eventually combined with others and appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States as Obergefell v. Hodges, which led to the nationwide legal recognition of same-sex marriage. In 2016, she founded Fair Michigan, a nonprofit organization that works to prosecute hate crimes against the LGBT community.

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This week’s podcast is underwritten by Practical Political Consulting and EPIC-MRA. We thank them for supporting “A Republic, If You Can Keep It.”