Rick Pluta is the Capitol Bureau Chief for the Michigan Public Radio Network, and you hear his reports on state politics every morning here on 90.5. Between an eventful few weeks in Lansing and the approach of the August primary, it seemed like a good time to get his perspective. He spoke with WKAR's Melissa Benmark.
RICK PLUTA: The candidates have really just now started going out in earnest making their cases. But, we’ve got two instances, where, in Grand Rapids and in southeast Michigan, where write-in candidates are expected to at least make a strong play for the seat. We’ll see. That’s a big hill to climb.
We’ll start with the 11th Congressional District. That’s really going to turn into a battle in the Republican primary between the Tea Party and the Republican establishment. That, after Thad McCotter, amazingly, did not file sufficient signatures to qualify for the primary ballot--
MELISSA BENMARK: Easily the weirdest story of the year.
PLUTA: Certainly the weirdest political story of the year. The Republican establishment decided that the candidate remaining on the ballot, Kerry Bentivolio, a teacher, a reindeer farmer, Tea Party sympathizer/activist, wasn’t the best candidate for them.
The last thing Republicans want is another congressional fight in November. So, they met a couple times, they hashed over some other possibilities, and the person that came to the forefront was Nancy Cassis, a former state Senator who’s been a consultant for the Ambassador Bridge Company since her retirement from the Legislature. And so, she is going to launch a write-in campaign, which is a big hill to take.
We’ve got a different situation in a state House race over in Grand Rapids, where Roy Schmidt switched from the Democratic to the Republican parties in kind of a devious fashion. That, they waited for just a few minutes before the filing deadline to withdraw his name from the Democratic primary, to put his name into the Republican primary, where he is unopposed, and to, it appears, get someone else, kind of a patsy, to put his name in. And there were questions about that person’s residency, and sort of in the glare of the publicity, he withdrew.
So now, Democrats are going to run a write-in campaign. They just settled on Winnie Brinks, a political newcomer, you know, someone who’s active in her local PTA, to be sort of the fresh face and a non-politician against Roy Schmidt, who they’re going to portray as sort of the uber-politician who plays political games. And so, we’ve got not one but two long shot but credible write-in campaigns.
BENMARK: If you would give me sort of where it stands at this moment…where we stand with the Emergency Manager Law being on the ballot.
PLUTA: It’s been a lot of legal twists and turns. It went before the Court of Appeals and a three-judge panel of the court, in what only can be described as a bizarre decision, no one can remember anything like it before, the panel ruled that legal precedent said the question should go on the ballot, but the judges didn’t like the legal precedent. And so they asked for the entire Court of Appeals, 28 judges, to vote to empanel a special super-panel of judges, seven judges, who would make the determination. And the Court of Appeals, the entire court just rejected that and said absolutely not, that’s not the way to go.
And, I think sent the subtle message that judges are supposed to follow precedents. And you found one, you followed it, stick with it. So, as of right now, it should go on the ballot. Formally, officially, it would require an action by the Board of State Canvassers to do what the court says it has to do. But this is almost certainly going to go to the Michigan Supreme Court, which is not bound by precedents. That, the Michigan Supreme Court, everything it does is precedent-setting. And so, that could be a different ballgame.