Check out the website:  Look at the recent Political Notes and Len’s Letters on the website.  Political Note #347 The Financial State of the States, Political Note #358 Laura Kelly Kansas Governor, Political Note #366 Tony Evers Wisconsin Governor

Political Note #381  Gretchen Whitmer Michigan Governor

2022                           General Election.

Joe Biden carried Michigan in 2020 by 154,188 votes, a 50.6 to 47.8 difference.  In 2018, Gretchen Whitmer was elected Governor of Michigan by 406,659 votes, a 53.3 to 43.8 difference.  She was popular in 2018.

What do polls say now?  A Detroit Free Press story on March 2 reported that a recent poll gave Gretchen Whitmer a 52% positive job approval rating, but a 47% negative rating.  Her job approval rating had dropped from the previous September, when it had been 56% and only 44% had given her a negative job approval rating.  That’s a decline, but she still seems well regarded in this very divided state.

The Detroit Free Press attributed the job approval drop to the intractability of Covid-19 in Michigan.  The polls don’t address is intensity.  Looked at from the outside, the differences in Michigan seem to be as intense the most intensely divided states in the country.  For much of the country, the differences are pretty intense.

Georgia and Texas and many other states have plans to suppress votes.  California will attempt to recall its governor.  If New York had a recall provision, their governor might be at risk.  Of the Democratic governors coming up for election, only Kansas’s Laura Kelly is at greater risk of a loss than Gretchen Whitmer.  But the hatred In Michigan seems greater.

A month ago, the Chairman of the Michigan Republican Party apologized.  He described three Democratic women office holders – the Governor, the Attorney General, and the Secretary of State as “witches”. He said they should be “ready for the burning at the stake.” It wasn’t just the women he was after.  He was more than unfriendly toward Michigan’s two male Republican Congressmen who voted to impeach Donald Trump.  For those two Republicans, the Chairman of the Michigan Republican Party suggested the possibility of “assassination.”

The Chairman of the Michigan Republican Party followed up on those comments saying (bold emphasis is mine) “I apologize to those I offended for the flippant analogy about three women who are elected officials and for the off-hand comments about two other leaders. I have never advocated for violence and never will. ……I pledge to be part of a respectful dialogue going forward.” 

Don’t expect too much respectful dialogue from the Republican Party Chairman,

An apology only to those he offended is no apology.  What does he have to say to those who relished his comments?  Describing his remarks as flippant or off-handed is an effort to get us all not to take these comments seriously.  I suggest you take them seriously.  Statements made without careful regard for their consequences are statements from the heart.

The Chairman of the Republican Party did not make remarks about the Michigan Supreme Court. Give him time.  Michigan tries to make its judicial elections non-partisan.  Judicial candidates run without a partisan designation on the ballot, but candidates are nominated by political parties.  Before the 2018 election, Justices nominated by Republicans dominated the Court 6-3.  A Democratic nominee won in 2018 giving the court a 5-4 Republican alignment.  Two seats were up in 2020 – the Democratic Chief Justice and an open seat held by a Republican nominee who was over 70 and, therefore, unable to run again.  Democrats won both seats – flipping the Court to 5-4 Democratic.

  • Chief Justice Bridget Mary McCormack             2,377,410
  • Democratic Nominee Elizabeth Welch 1,490,550
  • Republican Nominee Mary Kelly 1,252,692
  • Republican Nominee Brock Swartzle 1,009,320

Michiganders are demonstrating that, when they vote statewide, they prefer Democrats.

In 2018, Michiganders demonstrated their preference for Democratic proposals.  They voted to remove redistricting from the legislature and give it to an independent commission that would be randomly selected from applicants who had not run for office or been a lobbyist – with the following limitation: four Commission members would be Democrats, four would be Republicans, and five would be Independents.  The Secretary of State would convene the Commission.

The proposal passed 2,516,9987 to 1,590,638, by nearly one million votes, by 61.28 to 38.72.  Michiganders were clear.  They have had enough of a legislature for which Democrats receive a majority of votes, but is so gerrymandered that Republicans win a majority of the seats.

Michigan Republicans are not out of resources.  They can intimidate.  They can find elements of the constitution to exploit, though it may be more difficult now that the State Supreme Court has a majority of Democratic justices.

A year ago, in April 2020, the Michigan legislature was debating whether or not to extend the emergency Governor Gretchen Whitmer had declared to set rules for dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic. Michigan United for Liberty organized a protest of 200 or more people opposed to extending that authority.  They came to the protest armed.  Forewarned, some of the legislators came to the Statehouse wearing bullet proof vests.  The armed protesters pushed into the Statehouse, past the guards.  They could not gain entry to the legislative chambers, but did enter the gallery which looked down on the legislators.  In comparison with what came next at the US Capitol in 2021 and in Michigan, Michigan United for Liberty was peaceful.

In the fall of 2020, fourteen men from a paramilitary group called the Wolverine Watchmen were arrested by the FBI.  Six were charged with federal crimes; eight with state crimes.  Their plan was the violent overthrow of the Michigan government, perhaps as a prelude to the violent overthrow of other state governments and the federal government.  They organized themselves, trained for action, and developed a plan — storm the capitol, kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer and others, and execute them.  They considered setting the capitol on fire, leaving those remaining to cope with that.

In April 2020, legislators voted against extending the Governor’s emergency authority. The Governor insisted she did not need legislative authority.  The Michigan Supreme Court upheld her authority.  The Republicans collected signatures for a referendum to pass a law eliminating the Governor’s authority to declare an emergency.

Michigan is one of two states with the following quirk in its constitution.  The Michigan legislature can simply adopt, as law, an initiative petition with enough signatures.  The Governor cannot veto a law adopted in that fashion. Led by the same Republican Party Chair who described the Governor, the Attorney General, and the Secretary of State as witches to be burned, the Party is planning to follow up the emergency declaration petition with a drive to “create an opportunity for us to have a fair election in 2022.”

Believe that they are after a fair election, and I’ll sell you ……. Whatever you want, whether it is mine or not.

Petitioners need valid signatures from 8% of the total number of votes for governor in the previous election – 340,047 signatures.  Once the signature drive has begun, it must be completed within 180 days.  The legislature then has 40 days to consider the initiative’s proposed legislation.  If the legislature doesn’t act, the proposal would be considered by the voters at the next election.  If the legislature adopts the proposed legislation, it becomes law.  The Governor has no role.

Nothing is automatic.  Before the 40 days for considering an initiative proposal begins, the bipartisan Board of State Canvassers (two Republicans and two Democrats) must approve the signatures.  The signatures for the initiative petition to remove the Governor’s emergency powers is waiting for the Board of Canvassers approval.  And waiting.

Democratic members of the Board balk at approving the signatures because some of them were collected illegally – the nature of the proposal was misrepresented to signators or petitions were left unattended, signed, and witnesses signed later.  Republicans explain that none of the illegally collected signatures were submitted to the Board.  Democratic members of the Board want to investigate.

Will the Republicans begin a petition drive that includes both voter suppression and restores redistricting authority to the legislature while the fight over emergency powers continues?  We’ll see.  They have a 39-part package prepared in the state Senate.

Gretchen Whitmer has a tough job as Governor of Michigan.  Republicans see their hold on the state as precarious.  Democrats see their opportunity to extend state-wide election successes to the legislature blocked by plans for voter suppression and an end to the non-partisan Redistricting Commission.

Gretchen Whitmer was prepared for this tough job.  She was born in Lansing.  Both her parents were lawyers.  Her father was President and CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan for nearly 20 years.  He also served a stint as head of Republican Governor William Milliken’s Commerce Department.  When her parents divorced, her mother and the children moved to Grand Rapids.  After graduating from high school, Gretchen Whitmer returned to the state capital to get her BA and her JD at Michigan State.

Gretchen Whitmer’s turn as Minority Leader in the State Senate was the culmination of her career in the Michigan legislature.  In 1998, the year she graduated from law school, she ran for State Rep and lost.  She won in 2000, 2002, and 2004.  In 2006, she ran and won election to the State Senate, first in a special election and then in the general election.  She won again in 2010 after which she was term limited.  During her next to last year in the State Senate, she earned national attention during a debate about abortion.  She talked in public about having been sexually assaulted herself and how important it is for someone who is assaulted to be able to get an abortion legally.

Gretchen Whitmer ran to be a practical governor, one who could work with the Republican legislative majority.  She would “fix the damn roads.”  After she was elected, she proposed, then dropped a gas tax plan to pay for fixing the roads.  To actually get a budget passed, she made concessions to the Republicans though she did get funds for infrastructure.  Her defining experience as governor was in dealing with Covid-19.  She initiated a stay-at-home order, was met with public support and Republican resistance.  She won battles, legal challenges.

Who won the war is a different story. We’ll know in November 2022 if Gretchen Whitmer is reelected.  We’ll know if the Independent Redistricting Commission is able to complete its work before the 2022 election.  During the most recent Covid-19 surge, Gretchen Whitmer refused to issue stay-at-home orders or to mandate wearing masks.  Dire as the surge has been, she said she would not issue orders the public would not comply with.

Gretchen Whitmer has had  accomplishments.  She succeeded in extending Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act and did get substantial funds voted to fix the roads and address other infrastructure issues.

Consider Gretchen Whitmer as embattled.  Join the fight on her side.  If she wins again….  If she and the Democrats can forestall the Republicans’ plans to suppress the vote and to restore partisan gerrymandering, she will be able to address her Democratic priorities — universal Pre-K and an automatic weapons ban among them.  Help her achieve these goals.  Help make Michigan as Blue as its population.

The Cook Report projects the following Democratic governors as Likely, or Leaning Democrat for 2022 rather than as Solidly Democratic.

Kansas          Laura Kelly (Lean D)

Maine             Janet Mills (Likely D)

Michigan       Gretchen Whitmer (Lean D)

Minnesota    Tim Walz (Likely D)

Nevada          Steve Sisolak (Likely D)

Wisconsin    Tony Evers (Lean D)


Cook thinks Pennsylvania is a Toss up.  The Democratic governor is term limited.  We won’t know who the Democratic candidate will be for a while.

Cook thinks Virginia, where the election is in November, 2021 is Likely D.  The Virginia governor is also term limited.  The June primary is packed with Democratic candidates.


Organizations to support

The Democratic Governors Association (DGA)  …the only organization dedicated to electing Democratic governors and candidates for governor

 The Democratic National Committee (DNC).  The official organization of the Democratic Party

Fair Fight Promotes fair elections around the country


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A Competitive Special Congressional Election Primary is a Few Days Away

The TX 06 multi-party primary is on May 1.  Jana Lynne Sanchez could use every bit of help you can provide.  She is the most likely Democrat to get into the run-off. In the most recent polls, she was either first or second among a cluster of four candidates – three Republicans plus her.   If she is one of the last two standing, she’ll need resources for the run-off. Lots of resources. Democrats and Republicans see this as the first contest in which a Republican seat can be flipped.  Add to Jana Lynne Sanchez’ resources  https://www.janasanchez.com2


A Special Interest of Mine

If you live in Part A of the district, please support and vote for Rebecca Weintraub as Democratic District Leader in the June 22 Democratic Primary.   If you know people who live in the district, please encourage them to vote for her. This is New York City’s own small town politics.  Many of the readers of Lenspoliticalnotes are New Yorkers.  Some may live in or know people in Part A of Assembly District 76 (roughly east of 3rd Avenue and south of 79th Street to and including Roosevelt Island).

We and the other Democratic Club in District 76 are supporting Rebecca Weintraub’s candidacy to be one of four leaders of the 76th Assembly District — the female leader of Part A of Assembly District 76.  District Leaders are a kind of liaison between political parties and the community.  You can learn more about her at her Website or at Twitter @RSWinNYC or at Instagram /RSW_in_NYC or at Facebook /VoteRebeccatraub.  In her non-political life, she is Vice President of a public relations firm, mother of Benjamin, and wife of Evan.  In her political life, she has been an active member of our club, a leader in an innovative effort collecting video responses from NYC candidates for public office used to assess who to endorse and who to vote for.