Category: News Briefs - Original Written by Bankole Thompson, Chronicle Senior Editor
These days it’s hard to imagine what kind of campaign Michigan Democrats are running right now (if any) or plan to run in 2014 against incumbent Gov. Rick Snyder, who just dissed the Tea Party wing of his party by supporting the expansion of Medicaid for the working poor.
It’s complex to comprehend how Democrats can marshal the right candidate with largesse to challenge Attorney General Bill Schuette, whose out-of-nowhere support for pensioners in Detroit’s bankruptcy crisis puts him in an advantage to disarm charges of public neglect.
It is almost unfathomable that Secretary of State Ruth Johnson can be dethroned at a time when the political calendar doesn’t seem to favor Democrats. The same doubt goes for placing a candidate on the Michigan Supreme Court.
Above all, Congressman Gary Peters’ ongoing campaign to replace outgoing veteran U.S. Senator Carl Levin is all but a sure thing given that Republicans appear to be lining up behind fundraising powerhouse Terri Lynn Land, the formidable former GOP Secretary of State who won re-election twice and obviously has mass appeal, including among women voters.
If you are a die-hard Democrat who believes the party “is always right” and reading this you might be asking what planet I’m living on. But if you are an open-minded Democrat who reads the tea leaves, you know that the party has some serious issues and could be in more trouble trying to claim victory in the 2014 election cycle.
The Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mark Schauer is nowhere to be found, and don’t bother to look for him in Detroit either, the largest Democratic base but the most ignored that new party chair Lon Johnson now says he wants to change.
I only met Schauer once at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, and it was a chance meeting actually because we bumped into each other at the lobby of the hotel and his aides wanted to do a quick introduction. We spoke briefly. That was it.
At the NAACP Freedom Fund Dinner this year I had a conversation with a prominent African American in the labor movement who at the time was surprised that Schauer, who was introduced at the Detroit Regional Chamber’s 2013 Mackinac Policy Conference, has yet to make any meaningful or significant appearance in Detroit or to even meet with some of the labor officials here.
Well, he concluded like many that it’s almost like the same old story: Democrats jet in the last minute, set up a shop on East Jefferson, make no real investment and get the guaranteed votes at the polls and then disappear till the next election season.
I hope Johnson, the newly elected and energized leader of the Michigan Democratic Party, does not repeat the same old “game” that hoodwinks voters and doesn’t give them anything to look forward to.
Prior to his election, Johnson visited my office for an hour-long conversation about the fate of the Michigan Democratic Party, during which he was bustling with optimism speaking of a new era.
Johnson whose wife is Julianna Smoot, a former top fundraiser for President Barack Obama’s 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns, initially raising $880 million in 2008 and a similar amount in the last election, unseated the long-standing two-decades chair of the Michigan Democratic Party, Mark Brewer.
“I think people want a wholesale change. They recognize that what we are doing and how we are organizing ourselves, and how we are putting together our message, our team, there needs to be a change. This is not about any one institution or any one person,” Johnson said. “It’s a recognition that we are not winning and leadership starts at the top and you need to bring in the tools to get that done. And you need to start now. You cannot wait till 2014 or October 2014 to start the process.”
And waiting till 2014 is exactly what the party appears to be doing since there is no indication of a movement to build up a cohesive campaign next year.
In my interview with Johnson, I was impressed by his plans but only if he can implement them.
“Change to me means five things. One, we need to restructure our executive leadership. We need both a chair and an executive director. The role of the chair should be raising money, deliver the message and find others to deliver the message. Keep the table — the constituencies representing the Democratic Party — keep them together and expand that table,” Johnson explained.
“Two, we need to double the amount of money that we are raising. Three, we need to expand our outreach to minorities, women and younger voters. This is not a process we can start in June of 2014. We need to start now. And those programs need to come from the community. If they are coming from Lansing, from the MDP, they are going to fail. They need to come and be driven by the community and those plans have to be accountable. They have to have a budget, they have to be staffed, they need a timeline and we need to start right now.”
Next for him is technology.
“The Obama campaign used technology in three ways that we are now applying,” he continued. “One, they used technology to understand who they should be talking to. Second, they used technology to test what messages do we deliver to those targeted voters because information moves so fast. And lastly, they used technology in a whole new way to deliver that message, to empower the person to put stuff on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter.
“And last but not the least is recruitment. There is nothing more immediate or long-lasting that the MDP could do to recruit good candidates. I want to see a hundred new African American candidates, a hundred new Hispanic candidates, a hundred women candidates, a hundred candidates under the age of 35. Those candidates out of those hundred, 50 would win and 50 would fail. When you have new candidates, you bring them in and they will engage, bring their friends, workers, their families and you bring in new people and donors. But more importantly they bring in new ideas, approaches to the challenges we face.”
Notwithstanding all of these grand visions, the problem right now is that the leadership of the party is finding it difficult to identify winning candidates. If the party is serious about making a realistic stake for next year it should have been looking for candidates last year, not now or waiting toward the end of 2013.
Because there is no realistic pool of candidates from which to draw, an analogy that goes for Detroit as well, lacking a pool of qualified people to run for local office, the Dems are sure to hit a road bump next year or even a pothole.
Given that the chances of winning any major public office is like building a federal case to win, it’s hard to predict what the outcome of 2014 will be in the Democratic fortune column.
When Sen. Levin’s seat became open it was clear that Democratic powerhouse and female leader Debbie Dingell would have been an ideal candidate and one who polls showed had a shot at replacing Levin. But Dingell, who has fundraising prowess and understands Washington and Detroit, steadily initiating many White House projects for this region, withdrew her name from the race.
Congressman Peters is a fine legislator who goes to bat for Democrats and has a track record of doing so, but it would take more than that for him to win statewide against a former Secretary of State who’s won twice. Yes, Peters’ fighting ability is brilliant but there is no guarantee that he could easily win the Senate race. So that race is a gamble fair and square for both Peters and Land.
Yes, right-to-work law is fuel for energizing the base of the party, but it seems like Snyder is trying to put out that fire by pushing for and successfully gaining the expansion of Medicaid for the working poor.
So gubernatorial challenger Schauer will have to offer more than just right-to-work and his campaign of doing so must begin in Detroit.
Johnson, the party chair, promised to set up an office in Detroit. We’ll believe it when it comes to fruition, and if it is a sincere promise it should happen now.
If not, we’ll wait for the sleeping giant to wake up.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 04 September 2013 10:08
Category: News Briefs - Original Written by AJ Williams, Chronicle Web Editor
The Board of State Canvassers unanimously voted Tuesday to certify Detroit’s primary election results, and yes, Mike Duggan was the winner of the Aug. 6 primary. Again.
In the end, Duggan got 48,716 votes compared to Benny Napoleon's 28,391.
Napoleon issued a statement after the announcement, saying:
"The state board of canvassers certification of Detroit's primary election with a result that is strikingly different than two previous counts by the city clerk and county clerk, respectively, gravely concerns me," said Benny N. Napoleon. "Whether Mr. Duggan receives 4,000 more votes or 10,000 more votes, the issue remains that we have problems with accurately counting the votes. How can we come up with three vote counts that are vastly different and be okay with this? "First and foremost, we must protect the sanctity of the vote. At a historic time when we face challenges to our democracy in this city, Detroit voters need to be assured -- beyond any doubt -- that their vote will be counted and counted accurately. A few weeks ago I called for federal oversight of the November 5thGeneral Election. I continue to stand on that request now more than ever. In the end, no matter who becomes the Mayor, the power of the vote must be honored and respected."
Last Updated on Wednesday, 04 September 2013 09:49
Category: News Briefs - Original Written by Bankole Thompson, Chronicle Senior Editor
About 20 shootings in Detroit greeted the week of the unveiling of 10 new EMS ambulances and 15 new police cars to Police Chief James Craig and Fire Commissioner Donald Austin, signaling the level of public safety challenge that the city faces even as the private sector stepped in with new vehicles to help combat crime in the city.
The vehicles are the first group to be put into service, thanks to an $8 million donation from Detroit’s business community to strengthen public safety in the city. The remaining 13 EMS units are expected to be outfitted and ready for delivery before the end of this year. Another 85 patrol cars will be rolled out as the vehicles get equipped.
“Our corporate and philanthropic community stepped up to help our city in the midst of unprecedented financial challenges,” said Mayor Bing. “Reducing crime and improving emergency response times have always been a priority for my administration. The new vehicles being delivered today to the police and fire departments are state-of-the-art and will greatly improve public safety and the quality of service that we provide to our citizens.”
The 25 new public safety vehicles made their debut in a procession down Woodward Avenue in downtown Detroit, culminating with a news conference by Mayor Bing and Penske Corporation Chairman and Downtown Detroit Partnership Vice Chairman Roger Penske. Representatives from the corporations and foundations that contributed to the Mayor’s Active and Safe Campaign rode in the public safety vehicles.
“This is an extraordinary day for the city of Detroit,” said Roger Penske. “We are proud to offer new police cruisers and EMS units to Mayor Bing and the Police and Fire Departments. I want to offer my special thanks to the local business leaders and the Downtown Detroit Partnership for their outstanding efforts in helping us reach this milestone today. These vehicles will enhance the visibility of the police and fire efforts in the city, improve the safety and security of our neighborhoods and will provide an immediate positive impact on our city. “
The city’s entire fleet of 23 EMS ambulances is being replaced at a cost of approximately $161,000 per vehicle. The EMS units are being built by Horton Ambulance on the International Terra Star Chassis. Each ambulance takes up to 100 days to build. The Terra Star units were ordered through a local dealer.
The 100 police cruisers were acquired through local Chevrolet, Chrysler/Jeep/Dodge and Ford dealerships, and a Detroit company is outfitting the vehicles according to City of Detroit specifications. The police cars cost from $45,000 to $50,000 each, depending on the make and model. The police vehicles presented today are Dodge Chargers, Ford Interceptors and Chevrolet Caprices.
In addition to Penske Corporation, the corporate and philanthropic donors working in conjunction with the Downtown Detroit Partnership are: Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Chrysler Group, LLC, Ford Motor Company, General Motors Company, Quicken Loans, Inc., The Kresge Foundation, Platinum Equity, LLC. Shinola. FirstMerit Bank serves as the financial partner in this collaborative project.
Mayor Bing launched the Active and Safe Campaign with a goal of raising $60 million over three years for updated equipment, technology and training for the city’s first responders, as well as improved programming at Detroit’s recreation centers.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 28 August 2013 10:18
Category: News Briefs - Original Written by AJ Williams, Chronicle Web Editor
The state board of canvassers will be in Detroit on Tuesday to officially certify the Detroit mayoral primary election.
This follows a motion to the Appeals Court Friday filed by Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette to have Ingham County Circuit Court Judge Joyce Draganchuk's temporary restraining order reversed.
Draganchuk's order was made Thursday and called for workers with the state Department of Elections to cease tabulations of uncounted write-in ballots from the city's contentious primary. A hearing on the order had been scheduled for Tuesday.
State canvassers will receive a summary report Tuesday on the write-in tabulations and certify the primary results.
Regardless of who the official primary winner is Benny Napoleon and Mike Duggan are still set to face off in the general election in November.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 03 September 2013 08:44
Category: News Briefs - Original Written by Bankole Thompson, Chronicle Senior Editor
In the last two months I’ve seen all sorts of e-mails and comments from “they are stealing the election” and “Detroit voters are being cheated” to “Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey is deep in with the White power structure to take our vote,” all carefully aimed at creating enough panic in the public to basically render the legitimate voice of Detroiters at the ballot box meaningless or useless.
With such comments it begs the question: What is the point of convincing a voter in the city that their vote will count in the general election?
If such highly irresponsible opinions or comments seriously missing the facts are being circulated as legitimate arguments or points of contention to raise legitimate issues with the electoral process, it creates even more panic for the average person.
And it is still more troubling when such accusations, without shred of evidence or merit, are coming from individuals who carry some influence in the political process.
Granted voter intimidation is real, and voter fraud is all too common in the long protracted struggle of the African American political experience and the continued fight for voting rights. While it is titillating to wallow and wriggle in conspiracy theories and whispers about the political power structure because it makes for great gossip over dinner table, let us not put Detroit in the Mississippi column so quickly when the facts do not bare that out.
Let’s not begin to define Detroit as the Florida of our current political dispensation when the evidence in support of such polemic political sentiment is far-fetched. It’s easier to make highly and explosive charges of voter fraud in Detroit than it is to look for the facts and the details that would suggest such massive alleged irregularities.
But while there are valid issues with the electoral process as evidenced by past and some present legal challenges, it does not amount to the grand conspiracy that there is a concerted effort by the power structure to steal the vote in Detroit.
Yes, our institutions like the Detroit Department of Elections are not perfect, but it does not excuse this body that is supposed to function with electoral integrity to ensure that not only should every vote count but that the process through which votes are counted is fair and clean. And it is one that should extol the virtues of the rule of law, democracy and good governance.
Whenever there is semblance of irregularity it needs to be challenged. But challenging some of the irregularities that are often common features of the electoral process should not qualify anyone to conclude that Detroit is the new North Carolina, the Southern state that has demonstrated in the eyes of the nation a deliberate effort to suppress the vote of African Americans.
This style of political conversation is profitable and we see how news organizations like Fox News have built an empire out of political conspiracy fed by a well-oiled propaganda machine that has sought to make President Obama the anti-Christ and the one who is making America un-American.
The political stardom of the Glenn Becks of the world was built squarely on the altar of conspiracy theories, feeding into people’s minds what doesn’t exist, but what makes them scared. And innocent-information-seeking-minds kept worshiping on the altar of demagoguery, clamoring for more because they didn’t know any better.
But in Detroit we owe it to ourselves and in the interest of civic discourse and honest political engagement to spare the general election of the circus of political conspiracy. We owe it to the guardians of voting rights and the legacies of men and women of mark who fought to ensure that the Black vote carried the same weight as that of their White counterpart to guarantee that every vote counts.
Thus, to dismiss about 20,000 votes that were cast in the primary election on the basis of lacking procedural marks clearly flies in the face of protecting voting rights.
What message does it send to the world in disqualifying thousands of votes cast when those votes are not being disputed, rather it’s the process of marking the ballot boxes that are in dispute?
But since full blown conspiracy theory has it that there is an all-out effort to steal the election, it appears plausible to call into question the legitimacy of those votes that were actually cast even when the issue is the fact that the boxes containing the votes were missing the required hash marks, a process by which the votes are counted on poll books. In this case the 20,000 votes at issue were entered without the hash marks, leaving the matter as a numerical discrepancy, not a voter discrepancy.
And since race is at the center of this mayoral election where Mike Duggan, a White candidate, is up against Benny Napoleon, the African American candidate, it is all the more interesting as those thousands of votes which belonged to Duggan are now being called into question. If the votes are tossed out, Napoleon would be the winner of the election as opposed to the primary write-in candidate Duggan.
And lawyers for Wayne County Clerk Cathy Garrett made a stunning recommendation last week that because of the absence of hash marks, the thousands of votes should be invalidated as a recommendation to the Wayne County Board of Canvassers which rejected the recommendation of nullifying of the primary votes, because of the absence of hash marks which is not a state law.
Clearly, Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey has an obligation to ensure that poll workers follow the recommendation of using hash marks, and if they didn’t those poll workers at the precincts involved in this case should be fired and never used again in future elections. Some can call it a dereliction of duty on the part of the election department, but those who were delegated this assignment at the precincts in question to maintain voting integrity have an obligation as well to carry out their assignments faithfully.
The election snafu led to an exchange of barbs between two of Detroit’s most influential female political leaders.
Winfrey did not see any reason why the votes shouldn’t be counted since they are legitimate votes, and Garrett simply stood by a policy, not law, that only ballots with hash marks should be counted. But the battle goes beyond the flap between Winfrey and Garrett, and some, including the Duggan campaign, have suggested that there is a deliberate attempt to meddle with Detroit’s democracy by those who opposed Duggan’s candidacy.
Clerk Garrett’s brother is the powerful union boss Al Garrett who runs AFSCME Local 25, which has funded labor activist Robert Davis, the man who has challenged almost every issue in the public domain in court today. And Davis, who has long set his eyes on Duggan and successfully knocked him off the Detroit ballot twice, which forced supporters of Duggan to push for a write-in campaign, is now calling for the invalidation of the 20,000 votes cast for Duggan because of the lack of hash marks. Davis has indicted by the federal government on charges of stealing money from Highland Park’s school board. He has maintained his innocence while awaiting trial.
Clerk Winfrey’s husband, Tyrone Winfrey, a former member of the Detroit Board of Education, is the chief of staff to the Education Achievement Authority (EAA), an effort that was birthed by Gov. Rick Snyder to address the plight of failing students and whose funding model has drawn the ire of some education activists, including Davis, since it was set up.
Thus the power dynamics and political relationships, whether involved or not behind the personalities of the political leaders in this case, continue to feed the work of the conspiracy theorists about the elections in Detroit.
“Election administrators should be people who are ready to lay down their lives to preserve or protect 20,000 votes,” said Vince Keenan, the founder of Publius, the reputable voter information site. “The votes are not in question. So far as anybody knows at this point these are legitimately cast votes and someone made the recommendation to discount them.”
Keenan said there is no historical precedent for eliminating that many votes because “the crux of the problem is not who the votes were for…the crux of the problem began when it became apparent that there has been a procedural issue in the way the votes were counted.”
But the votes could have been easily verified by hand counting the ballots or doing whatever is needed to satisfy the electoral process. Now the issue goes to the state where the election director, Chris Thomas, has already signaled that it is unheard of to discount that many votes in a dispute that only has to do with hash marks.
“You simply don’t throw out the will of the people on a procedural win,” Keenan explained. “Cathy Garrett generally has a reputation for this. The question is who made this call (to invalidate the votes) and how did this seem like a satisfactory remedy?”
But here is the other problem. The lack of trust in Detroit government allows for conspiracies around election takeovers to thrive and to be seen as credible discourse in the overall political wellbeing of the city.
“Part of what has happened here is we have created a toxic environment where regular challenges over minor issues are allowed to cast a shadow of doubt over the electoral process,” Keenan said. “It is a toxic environment for the function of democracy. We are more concerned theoretically with the idea of an emergency manager disenfranchising the people than actually counting votes.”
Procedures have to be followed in elections, which is why some have gone to the point of calling for a Department of Justice investigation into the Detroit primary election when it is not even clear if this procedural dispute merits the involvement of a DOJ investigation.
“If it turns out that mistakes have been made in the counting of ballots after votes are legitimately cast, then we have a standard to uphold because that cast ballot deserves the utmost priority in terms of tabulation in determining what that voter contributed to in the election.”
Both Duggan and Napoleon have expressed the desire to have votes counted fairly, even as the latter called for a DOJ investigation. And Winfrey, according to Keenan, “adapted to what was anticipated to be a large write-in vote. It would have been great if tabulation marks have been used. But at some level she did.”
And let’s take the conspiracy theory off the table and deal with the facts only as they evolve in the court of law and in the court of public opinion. The State Board of Canvassers has ordered the write-in votes to be counted, which is what Wayne County should have done.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 28 August 2013 10:16
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