Check out the website:  Look at the recent Political Notes and Len’s Letters on the website.   

Governor: Political Note #421 Chris Jones Arkansas, Political Note #402 Katie Hobbs Arizona, Political Note #432 Stacey Abrams Georgia, Political Note #358 Laura Kelly Kansas, Political Note #407 Janet Mills Maine, Political Note #381 Gretchen Whitmer Michigan, Political Note # 414 Steve Sisolak Nevada, Political Note #366, Beto O’Rourke Texas, Tony Evers Wisconsin Governor.

Attorney General: Political Note #425 Chris Mann Kansas, Political Note #415 Dana Nessel Michigan, Political Note #360 Aaron Ford Nevada, Political Note #367 Josh Kaul Wisconsin

Secretary of State: Political Note #409 Bee Nguyen Georgia, Political Note #435 Jocelyn Benson Michigan

December 27th , 2021   Political Note #435 Jocelyn Benson MI Sec’y of State

2022                                 General Election

Ballotpedia tells us that 47 of the 50 states have Secretaries of State.  It goes on to say “The duties of the position are generally administrative in nature…. The officeholder also often serves as the chief election official in their state, administering state elections and maintaining official election results.”

Although Secretaries of State are elected in partisan elections, the position used to be seen as the least partisan role in state government.  Oversight of elections was as much an administrative duty as keeping business records.  Disputes about the registration of voters and the false claim that ex President Donald Trump won the 2020 election has made oversight of elections partisan.  We need to look more carefully at the candidates for Secretary of State – especially in those states where there could be a dispute about the next election.

 Jocelyn Benson’s race for reelection is a great example of a contest between a candidate representative of the Democratic Party and a candidate representative of the  Republican Party. Democrat Jocelyn Benson is an achiever, a 44 year-old who has achieved a lot and can be expected to achieve more.  In 2010, she wrote State Secretaries of State: Guardians of the Democratic Process as she prepared a run to become Michigan’s Secretary of State.  She didn’t win that election, but you could be confident that she knew what a Secretary of State was supposed to do.  That was true in 2010 and true again in 2018 when she did get elected.

Jocelyn Benson grew up in Pittsburgh, the daughter of two special education teachers. While she was in high school, she worked in a Blockbuster video store, so she knows that some things become obsolete. After high school, she went to Wellesley, where she graduated Magna Cum Laude majoring in political science. Affected by the mixed reaction to the verdict in the OJ Simpson trial, she added an African Studies minor.  As a sophomore she was elected as a delegate to the Town of Wellesley’s representative town meeting. As a junior she founded the Women in American Political Activism Conference bringing 300 participants to Wellesley. While still a student at Wellesley she wrote a chapter of a book about Congressional elections.  Her chapter was about a Congressional race in California.  She did an internship with the Southern Poverty Law Center and worked for them after graduating, before leaving for Oxford University to take advantage of the Marshall Fellowship she had been awarded.

Jocelyn Benson studied race relations at Oxford.  She returned to the States to study law at Harvard.  She went on to teach law at Wayne State University’s Law School in Detroit while also clerking for Sixth Circuit Judge Damon Jerome Keith, formerly a civil rights attorney and Co-Chair of the Michigan Civil Rights Commission.   While teaching, she became Associate Director of the Damon Jerome Keith Center for Civil Rights.  In that role, she created the Michigan Allies Project to track hate incidents and to provide legal support for victims.

In 2006, Jocelyn Benson married Ryan Friedrichs, a distance runner who had become the executive director of an effort to increase civic engagement.  Subsequently, he saw combat in Afghanistan as a squad leader of a parachute infantry company, and returned to Michigan to serve as the Chief Development Officer for the City of Detroit.

In 2012, at age 35, Jocelyn Benson was appointed Dean of the Wayne State University Law School. She brought national attention to the Law School as she expanded experiential learning for students, and, among other initiatives, created a program on entrepreneurship and business ownership.  She served on a civics education board with former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.  She created the support network Military Spouses of Michigan, and led a sports initiative to encourage athletes to lead their fans to become more engaged in civic life.  In 2018, she was a great candidate for Secretary of State and was elected by 53-44.

Now Jocelyn Benson is a target of the Republicans.  Donald Trump has picked Kristina Karamo as his favorite among the three Republicans seeking their nomination as Secretary of State.  Karamo has falsely claimed that Trump won the 2020 election in Michigan. A witness to ballot counting at the TCF Center in Detroit, she claims to have seen absentee ballots processed improperly.  She visited Arizona to witness the circus of a vote audit there.  She has spoken at a QAnon Conference.  A college orientation instructor at Wayne County Community College, she has a BA in communication and media and a Master’s Degree in Christian Apologetics from Oakland University.  She is a member of the Republican State Committee and has served as a member of the Black leadership committee with Right to Life, a group opposed to abortions.  Michigan Live reported at the end of October that she led the Republicans in fundraising with $100,000 while Incumbent Jocelyn Benson had raised $450,000.

These are not big numbers for a state-wide campaign in Michigan.  It would not take much national organizing for Karamo to raise enough to be a real challenge to Jocelyn Benson.  Complacency kills campaigns.  Make a donation to Jocelyn Benson .  Do not allow her opponent to develop any kind of momentum.  We cannot have someone who buys into Donald Trump’s Big Lie oversee Michigan’s election in 2024.

One more thing

Republicans control the gerrymandered Michigan State Senate 20-16 with two vacancies and the Michigan House of Representatives 58-52.  Redistricting of Michigan’s representation in Congress as well as the Michigan State Senate and House of Representatives are in the hands of an Independent Redistricting Commission.  The members of the Commission were selected by lottery from those who applied with the following restriction – 4 Democrats, 4 Republicans, 5 not registered in any party.  It may be possible to identify particular Democrats to support in order to have an impact on the state legislature’s numbers.  Until then, consider giving to the Michigan Democratic Party.


Incumbents to defend for Governor, Attorney General, and Secretary of State

Kansas Gov             Laura Kelly (Toss up) 

Maine Gov               Janet Mills (Likely D)

Michigan Gov          Gretchen Whitmer (Lean D) 

Michigan AG           Dana Nessel

Michigan SofS        Jocelyn Benson 

Minnesota Gov       Tim Walz (Likely D) 

Minnesota AG         Keith Ellison

Minnesota SofS      Steve Simon

Nevada Gov             Steve Sisolak (Likely D)

Nevada AG               Aaron Ford

Pennsylvania          Josh Shapiro  (Open Democratic seat)

Wisconsin Gov       Tony Evers (Lean D)

Wisconsin AG         Josh Kaul

Wisconsin SofS      Doug LaFollette

Democrats who can flip Republican Governors or other state officers

Arizona Gov            Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (Toss up)

Arkansas Gov         African American Nuclear Engineer Chris Jones  (Safe R says Cook)

Georgia Gov            Ex State House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams (Lean R)

Georgia SofS           State Rep Bee Nguyen

Kansas AG               Chris Mann 

Maryland AG.          Congressman Anthony Brown.  (Open Dem Seat)

Nevada SofS           Cisco Aguilar 

Texas                         Ex Congressman Beto O’Rourke


In some states, we don’t know who the Democratic nominee will be

Florida Gov              Ex Gov and Rep Charlie Crist, Ag Commissioner Nikki Fried, and State Sen Annette Taddeo are the principal competitors for the Democratic nomination (Lean R)

Ohio Gov                  Mayors John Cranley and Nan Whaley have announced for this seat where the Republican governor is facing a primary challenge (Likely R)

Maryland  Gov         I count eight candidates so far for this formerly Republican open seat (Lean D)

Organizations to support

The Democratic National Committee (DNC).

The Democratic Senate Campaign Committee (DSCC)

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC)

The Democratic Governors Association (DGA)

The Democratic Attorneys General Association (DAGA)

The Democratic Association of Secretaries of State (DASS)

The Democratic (State) Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC)

Fair Fight Stacey Abrams organization to support fair elections

Three Cautions while donating through Act Blue (most Democratic candidates use Act Blue for online donations)

  1. Take care to hit the donate button only once. If you hit it a second time, you could be charged for two donations instead of one.
  2. Take care to watch for an already clicked recurring donation. You can unclick it and donate only once if that is your intent.
  3. Watch for your receipt. If the receipt indicates a donation different from your intention, reply to Act Blue via the receipt right away.  They will fix your donation.  They want you to donate only what you intend to donate.

Support Democrats.  Sadly, Republicans have become enemies of democracy. Jocelyn Benson’s  probable opponent is a perfect example of this unfortunate circumstance.