Michigan voters got a clearer picture this week on which Republican candidates will compete in the August primary for the change to challenge incumbent Democrat Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in November.
The once-crowded, 10-candidate field of GOP gubernatorial candidates appears to have been cut in half, after five candidates were booted from the primary ballot by the Board of State Canvassers last week.
While four candidates tried to appeal the ruling in court this week, three of the lawsuits were denied by the Michigan Supreme Court on Friday, meaning the disqualified candidates’ names won’t appear on the Aug. 2 ballot.
In other election news, only one of 10 legislative initiatives that were circulating petitions this spring were successful in getting their petitions to the Michigan Secretary of State by a Wednesday deadline.
That means nine of the 10 petitions, which run the spectrum of issues from voting to education to pandemic powers, did not get enough signatures to be considered for the Nov. 8 ballot this year.
Here’s everything you need to know about this week in Michigan politics.
With the primary election just two months away, four Republican candidates in the race for Michigan governor argued their case on why they should be chosen to face off against Whitmer in the Nov. 8 general election.
Tudor Dixon, Ralph Rebandt, Kevin Rinke and Garrett Soldano participated in a gubernatorial debate at the Mackinac Policy Conference Thursday. The candidates debated everything from money, to mental health, to former President Donald Trump in front of some of Michigan’s most prominent business and government leaders.
Ryan Kelley, the other Republican candidate who is still on the ballot, declined to participate in Thursday’s gubernatorial debate, citing the conference’s COVID-19 vaccine and negative test requirement, although neither was required of candidates participating in the outdoor debate.
Candidates discussed the ways they would cut the state’s largest-ever, $70 billion budget. A poll commissioned by the conference host, Detroit Regional Chamber, in May found 73% of Michigan voters think the state is on the wrong track, with the economy and inflation being the top reason why.
The debate took place just after Whitmer held her own keynote address at the conference, where she touted the state’s economic improvements and investments.
Whitmer’s speech was in stark contrast from the GOP debate, where candidates focused on the past — how Trump really won in 2020, and how Whitmer hurt Michigan in 2020 with COVID-19 shutdowns.
For Whitmer, the focus should be on the future, not the past. The governor said Thursday it is time to think longer-term to set Michigan up for future generations. She spoke optimistically about looking forward to Michigan in the year 2100.
Whitmer said her long-term goals include making Michigan an “epicenter of innovation,” protecting the state’s natural resources and maintaining a strong middle class.
“These are goals that transcend 1, 2, 3 or even 10 administrations,” Whitmer said. “As we talk about 2100, I know I won’t be here. But my girls might be. Maybe they’ll have kids who will be too.”
Only one legislative campaign, Michiganders for Fair Lending, met the deadline this week to submit petition signatures to appear on the Nov. 8 ballot. The deadline for campaign groups to submit the required number of petition signatures was Wednesday, June 1.
The lone proposal lining up for Michigan’s general election ballot comes in two parts. If ultimately approved by voters, it would stop payday lenders from charging “predatory” interest rates if approved by voters.
The campaign group that introduced the measure said it wants to change the current payday loan landscape to one that gives access to small loans to those that need them, not one that creates a debt trap.
Committees for multiple other ballot campaigns with petitions due Wednesday said they gathered more than the minimum signatures, but were worried they would not pass the Bureau of Elections’ signature checks or survive outside challenges.
The hesitancy to turn in petitions comes after a signature fraud scandal forced five Republican gubernatorial candidates off the August primary ballot.
One campaign group, Secure MI Vote, said Wednesday they held off on submitting their petitions after they found around 20,000 fraudulent signatures while reviewing its papers.
The petition to require a voter ID at the polls got nearly 100,000 signatures above the requirement, organizers said. But the committee also caught another 20,000 signatures they suspect are fraudulent.
Another petition group that did not submit on Wednesday was Unlock Michigan 2, a ballot initiative to reduce government power during health emergencies. The petition drive gathered the required 340,047 signatures to be placed on the ballot, but organizers didn’t believe it was enough to survive a challenge.
Advocates will instead focus on passing state legislation next year. A reaction to COVID-19 pandemic orders, the petition aimed to require state emergencies expire after 28 days unless the legislature or a local government extend them.
It’s official: James Craig, the Republican candidate who was leading the race to be Michigan’s next governor, will not appear as an option for voters on the Aug. 2 ballot.
The decision comes after the Michigan Supreme Court officially denied the appeals of three Republican gubernatorial candidates on Friday who were seeking access to the primary ballot after being booted by the Board of State Canvassers last week.
In addition to Craig, two other candidates were denied by the Michigan Supreme Court on Friday: Perry Johnson and Michael Markey. The Supreme Court had not yet ruled on an appeal from Donna Brandenburg as of 5 p.m. Friday.
This was the candidates’ last chance to get back on the ballot, as June 3 is the deadline for the primary election ballots to be finalized before being printed. Michael Brown, the fifth Republican candidate who was kicked off the ballot by the Board of State Canvassers last week, did not try to appeal the ruling.
The Michigan Supreme Court denied the three Republicans’ appeals “because we are not persuaded that the questions presented should be reviewed by this court,” per a court order issued Friday.
The state found an abnormal amount of fraud in petitions this spring, including more than 70,000 forged signatures from 36 circulators, across petitions for 10 candidates running for various races.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel chimed in this week on a federal court case defending a prominent Virginia school’s admissions policy to increase the diversity of its student body.
In an amicus brief, Nessel and 15 other liberal state attorneys general took the side of the Fairfax County school board, which was sued by a coalition of parents, students, staff and alumni from the nationally top-ranked Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology.
Those plaintiffs claim the school intentionally discriminated against Asian-Americans when it reformed its admission process after a federal civil rights investigation was opened because the school was admitting low numbers of Black and Hispanic students. Admissions for the class of 2022 were 65% Asian, 23% white, 5% Hispanic and 2% Black.
The lawsuit argues the new policy’s racial effects violate the U.S. Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause. A U.S. District Court judge agreed in February, ruling the policy changed “to the detriment of Asian-Americans.”
But the Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals granted a stay on the ruling, and the U.S. Supreme Court in April let Jefferson temporarily continue its policy. Nessel, joining the appeals court case, argues the district court ruling could have a negative wider impact.
“The district court’s decision sets a dangerous precedent for achieving diversity of all kinds in our schools,” Nessel said Tuesday. “If the precedent is followed, it could impact programs in Michigan that aim to promote diversity, such as the University of Michigan’s four-year scholarship program for Detroit Public Schools graduates.”
More Michiganders who asked to repay their pandemic jobless aid will soon have their overpayments erased.
Another round of waivers will go to claimants who received “unclear instructions” about gross earnings versus net earnings when applying for benefits, the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency recently announced.
Last year, the Michigan UIA retroactively determined nearly 700,000 people were ineligible for a federal pandemic unemployment program that extended benefits to part-time and gig workers. About 530,000 were then hit with steep overpayment notices at no fault of their own.
Overpaid claimants who provided the Michigan UIA with gross earnings instead of net earnings will be the group to get waivers. The announcement came days after the Detroit Free Press reported some workers with overpayment notices were accused of misreporting their income.
The agency did not provide an estimate on how many people were affected by the earnings mishap. To date, more than $4.3 billion in overpayments have been waived for 400,000 Michigan unemployment recipients with likely thousands more still waiting.
Michigan is facing a gap between the supply of workers and the needs of employers, and state leaders say community colleges could help bridge that divide.
Leaders from Michigan’s business, education, government and philanthropy sectors discussed how community colleges could help build a path to a more equitable economy during a panel discussion Thursday at the Mackinac Policy Conference.
The discussion focused around how the economy and workforce needs have evolved in recent years – especially during the coronavirus pandemic – and how colleges are having to adapt to the unique and changing needs of both students and of employers.
Discussion moderator David Egner, president and CEO of the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation, called it a “supply and demand connection problem.” On the one hand, he said, employers have workforce needs that are constantly evolving, but they are not communicating those changing needs to the pipeline programs.
On the supply side – specifically the K-12 education system that supplies the future workforce – high school students have stopped considering skilled trades programs and community colleges as valid pathways to a career, he said.
There needs to be a more “seamless connection” from K-12 to community college, and from community college to employers, Egner said Thursday. State leaders said Thursday that it will require the help of business leaders, government, and philanthropic groups.
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