Cox says he can shake off scandals to win GOP nomination

Lansing, MI –

Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox has built a formidable war chest and a long list of endorsements in his campaign for governor. But his critics and adversaries continue to try to sink his effort to win the Republican nomination. He's been unable shake old scandals and suspicions.


Mike Cox has confessed to cheating on his wife years ago. That's a fact. There's also the rumor - repeated so many times that many people assume it's a fact. It says Cox helped cover up and maybe even attended a wild party at the Detroit mayoral residence. It says there was a stripper there who was beaten by the wife of then-Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. The stripper was later murdered.

The party has never been proven, and Cox dismissed the possibility that it happened as an "urban legend" after conducting his own investigation. And that has only played into some people's theory that he was part of a conspiracy to cover up the event.

Cox says all that talk is nothing more than dirty politics. He also says he can take it.

"No excuses. No whining," Cox says.

Cox refers often to his background as a U.S. Marine and later as a homicide prosecutor in Wayne County to emphasize his toughness and tenacity.

His personal history, the rumors, and innuendo have not stopped Cox from amassing plenty of campaign donations. And he hit the jackpot of Republican endorsements when both the Michigan Chamber of Commerce and Right to Life of Michigan decided to back him.

"I think those are the key endorsements that a Republican needs to get to win and he has those," says anti-abortion activist Katie Wilcox.

That support helped convince Wilcox to support Cox. She dismisses the rumors and the infidelity in Cox's history as irrelevant.

"The other candidates are going try to use things to distract people from the issues," Wilcox says. "I look at the issues and I see that he is a strong conservative. He always has been. He has a great record as attorney general."

Cox has been able to use the job to burnish his conservative credentials. He's gone to court -- sometimes against the wishes of his Number One client, Democratic Governor Jennifer Granholm -- to defend abortion restrictions and the state ban on recognizing same-sex partnerships. This year, he has joined lawsuits to challenge federal health care reforms and to support Arizona's new immigration law.

Like most of the other Republican candidates, he's tried to tap into the nascent Tea Party movement for supporters - often addressing rallies like this one at the state capitol.

"Are you going to turn your anger into action?" Cox asks. "Are you going to turn your frustration into purpose? Well, I thought you would and it's why I'm here today."

Cox says he expects one of his first official acts in January would be a budget-cutting executive order.

Cox promises to cut business and income taxes by $2 billion and state spending by $4 billion - much of it from public employee salaries and benefits.

Those are big numbers. And some analysts doubt Cox could do that without eliminating critical services, or worsening Michigan's already dismal return on tax dollars from Washington.

Jeff Padden is a former Democratic legislator who now runs the Lansing think tank Public Policy Associates. He says the Cox budget plan does very little cutting while calling for more spending in areas such as agriculture and law enforcement.

"There's a huge gap between the things that this candidate says that he wants to do and what it would cost to do those things and the revenue that he says he wants to have to pay for it," says Padden.

Cox acknowledges he can be sharp-elbowed, but he says only with people who can defend themselves. The attorney general says he can also be gracious, and knows when to use charm and when to be pushy to get things done - and he says that would be a switch from how Lansing works right now.

Election 2010 - WKAR
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