The front-runner for Michigan’s Democratic gubernatorial candidate has pulled out of the race. Technically, he was never in the race as Lieutenant Governor John Cherry only had an exploratory committee in operation and had not actually announced his candidacy.
In terminating his exploration, Cherry said the fundraising numbers weren’t there although he’d received enough signatures to earn a place on the primary ballot. There are a few reasons why the money wasn’t good:
- The state is hurting desperately, deeply mired in a depression set in motion long before the current financial and economic crisis began. Democrats who might ordinarily have donated earlier in the exploratory phase have been tighter with their money and are only willing to part with cash for sure things.
- Cherry is very tightly associated with the current governor Jennifer Granholm, whose popularity has been crushed by the economic situation, backstabbing within her own party ranks and by a nice-girl approach to governance. There are a few people whom Granholm should have kicked firmly to the curb and didn’t do so during her two terms in office, people who have done her no favors. The failure to use the pointy toes of her shoes hurt Cherry by association.
- Highly divisive and polarized state legislature has obstructed any and all attempts to improve the economic conditions in the state, while blaming the current Granholm-Cherry administration for the continued slide. Michigan has a Democratic-majority state house and a Republican-majority state senate; they can’t even come to an agreement about funding for schools without blaming the state executive for their deadlock.
- Cherry is not the most telegenic and dynamic person, in spite of his proven ability to work with legislators to get things done as a former state legislator. Let’s face it, there are people who are shallow and can’t see past this to their pocket book to buy effectiveness.
Cherry did all the right things; he’d gone across the state, garnered the support of a critical mass of county party chairs, gained the support of the state’s unions (except for one, we’ll get to that). He’s been a champion of the Great Lakes waters and ecosystem. And yet it wasn’t enough. Unfortunately, the raw and ugly truth is that winning in politics is still about the money.
The role of the Obama administration and its puppet, the Democratic National Committee, cannot be ignored in this situation. President Obama had multiple chances to name Gov. Granholm to different appointments in his administration and didn’t; there have been open seats in the judiciary, for which Granholm is eminently qualified, and even those didn’t come to pass. Had Obama appointed Granholm, Cherry could have stepped up to the governor’s office, knocked some heads together over the state’s disastrous budget and worked on improving job numbers with less obstruction than Granholm has experienced. But the Obama administration (Hello, Rahm, Tim Kaine) wrote off both Granholm and Cherry along with this state’s Democrats.
So where do we go from here? All kinds of phone calls, instant messages and emails are piling up since last night, asking that same question, and the answer is very scattered and opaque. The biggest single problem is that the state’s Democratic Party does not have a deep field of candidates with the right combination of proven experience and state-wide name recognition. There are a few bright lights among junior politicians in the state, but they cannot muster the hurdle of name recognition while still working so early in their careers.
There are also two other candidates in the primary race, but neither so far has been able to make a dent in state-wide name recognition. It’s unfortunate, since both John Freeman and state rep. Alma Wheeler-Smith are strong progressive candidates, but they may not have enough key experience and/or money to overcome the name cred deficit.
But there are many other options. Let’s go down the list of possibilities:
Virgil Bernero — he is expected to announce his candidacy today, not letting the body get cold. Bernero has most recently been elected as mayor of the capitol city of Lansing, running as a populist. But he is a DINO at best, has annoyed the LGBT community, and is rumored to have some as-yet undisclosed baggage. Sources say Bernero has also received encouragement from the DNC (Hello, Rahm/Tim Kaine!) to throw in his hat, a subtle fuck-you to the unions who supported Cherry. The UAW has not publicized support for any candidate, but is believed to support Bernero because Bernero went to bat for the General Motors facilities in his city. Bernero’s other problem is the Democratic Party itself, for whom Bernero has done little.
Debbie Dingell — wife of long-time member of the House Rep. John Dingell, a former executive director of Global Community Relations and Government Relations at GM and a member of the DNC, Dingell has the clout, state-wide name recognition and could probably scare up the money for a run in a hurry. This is not another nice-girl who’d be afraid of using the pointy shoes, either. But does she have interest in making a run? There are only whispers at this point, nothing concrete.
Debbie Stabenow — Michigan’s junior senator is another whispered possibility. Were she to run for the governorship she would have strong state-wide name credibility, and again, could probably pull together the cash. It’s not clear, though, whether her seat in the Senate would be filled by an appointment by Gov. Granholm or if by a special election. And again, there’s no indication beyond whispers that she has any interest in running.
Dennis Archer — at least one Democratic moderate in the state house has hinted at a “wealthy Detroit Democrat” as another candidate. Dennis Archer would fit that label readily; he’s well-known to the national Democratic Party and would be able to pull together the money handily. He’s a former mayor of the city of Detroit and a former state supreme court justice. He’d have better name credibility outside of the Detroit Metro area than Bernero because of his experience. Yet Michigan has a nasty racist side to it; its predominantly white Dems to the west and north may not be comfortable with an African American as governor, especially after taking the risk of voting for an African American president.
And now we come to the dark horse:
David Bonior — yet another whispered potential candidate, Bonior is a long-time Dem with solid state-wide name recognition and firm appreciation among the unions. He’s a former state legislator and a former member of Congress. Bonior most recently chaired former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards campaign; Edwards had a decent following in Michigan because of Bonior. The state party would rally fairly readily behind Bonior, but would the DNC be supportive? Probably not. Which might not be a bad thing at all. Somebody clearly believes Bonior would be a viable choice as they’ve launched a Draft Bonior for Governor Facebook page.
If you’re from Michigan and you’ve heard a name not mentioned here, do dish in comments.
. . .
UPDATE: 6:30 pm ET — I’ve been reminded there’s another candidate in the field: George Perles, former coach of the Michigan State University Spartan football team.
But seriously. If this guy is a for-real candidate, don’t you think he’d at least have a website and a campaign team working the field by now? It’s been months since this guy was rumored to be in the race.
Be sure to note in comments here that another candidate is being discussed. It’s part of the big, bold, new economic turnaround plan for Michigan run by the Dems in DC, wherein our manufacturing base is converted from making autos to making bad, cheap pizza. Be sure to catch Marcy’s take on this.
Stay tuned for the next crazy-assed turn on the road to the Michigan governorship. If only Otto Preminger were still alive to make a better movie out of this nutty plot.