On the website for her Congressional exploratory committee, Democrat Rebekah Warren of Ann Arbor has announced that she does not plan to run for the 12th District seat held by Rep. John Dingell, who is not seeking re-election. Dingell’s wife, Debbie Dingell, announced in late February that she is running for that position. Warren writes: “I want you to know I was not bullied out of this race. I was never afraid of the fight. And I did not take a deal to walk away. That is simply not my style.” Warren plans to run for re-election to the District 18 seat in the Michigan Senate. [Source]
At a morning meeting on Saturday, Oct. 12 held at the Ann Arbor Community Center, Ann Arbor Democratic Party members affirmed the party’s endorsement of Kirk Westphal in the Ward 2 city council race. Westphal was unopposed in the Democratic primary held in August and is the Democratic Party nominee on the Nov. 5 ballot.
The party’s executive board had voted on Wednesday to endorse Westphal. But at Saturday’s meeting of the general membership, Jack Eaton – the Democratic nominee for Ward 4 Ann Arbor city council – brought forward a motion to rescind that endorsement of Westphal. His motion was defeated by a vote of the general membership.
Eaton had contested the August primary in Ward 4 with incumbent Democrat Marcia Higgins, and he won the race decisively. He is supporting incumbent independent Jane Lumm against Westphal in the Ward 2 election, as are Democratic councilmembers Mike Anglin (Ward 5) and Sumi Kailasapathy (Ward 1) and some other local Democrats. Lumm served on the council in the mid-1990s as a Republican. Except for Lumm, the entire 11-member council consists of Democrats. The Ward 2 race includes independent Conrad Brown in addition to Lumm and Westphal.
Anglin and Kailasapathy attended the Democratic Party meeting, as did several other councilmembers who have not endorsed Lumm: Sabra Briere (Ward 1), Sally Petersen (Ward 2), Christopher Taylor (Ward 3), and Chuck Warpehoski (Ward 5). Taylor and Warpehoski have endorsed Westphal.
In rising to express her support for Lumm, lifelong Democrat Jane Michener indicated that she felt Westphal was working toward making the world “safe for developers” instead of on behalf of residents, and that’s why she’s supporting Lumm. Westphal is chair of the city’s planning commission.
To vote on the question of Westphal’s endorsement, attendees held aloft squares with a Democratic logo – a voting credential issued that morning. With 56 people voting against the motion to rescind – that is, to leave Westphal’s endorsement in place – and only 21 voting to rescind it, a simple majority was not achieved. So the required 2/3 majority was also not achieved.
The question of Westphal’s endorsement came in the context of a meeting that had been billed as “Endorsement Saturday” by the party. Representatives for 2014 campaigns at the state and national level were on hand to deliver remarks and to receive the Ann Arbor Democratic Party’s endorsement.
Not every candidate was on hand in person, but the general membership of the Ann Arbor Democratic Party gave its endorsement to the following: Mark Schauer (governor), Mark Totten (Michigan Attorney General), John Dingell (U.S. House District 12), Pam Byrnes (U.S. House District 7), Gary Peters (U.S. Senate), Gretchen Driskell (Michigan state house representative District 52), Jeff Irwin (Michigan state house representative District 53), and Adam Zemke (Michigan state house representative District 55).
At tent with food and brew for Rebekah Warrren’s campaign, I talked to Rep. Dingell about disability issues.
A Saturday, Jan. 14 meeting of Ann Arbor Democrats drew a total of four candidates for judgeships on two different Michigan courts – the 22nd circuit court of Washtenaw County and Michigan’s supreme court. Although positions on both courts are elected on non-partisan ballots, election outcomes are generally acknowledged to be decided at least to some extent along party lines.
Appearing at the meeting of the Ann Arbor City Democratic Party to establish that they’d be asking for support in the upcoming August primary, for election to the 22nd circuit court, were local attorneys Carol Kuhnke, Doug McClure and Erane Washington.
The non-partisan Aug. 7, 2012 primary will winnow the field down to two candidates for the one position that will be open on the 22nd circuit court – currently held by Melinda Morris, who is retiring. Candidates have until May 1 to file their nominating petitions.
For the position on the Michigan supreme court, the partisan connection is overt. One mechanism for ballot access is for candidates to be nominated through the convention of a political party. Three nominations can be made this year to the seven-member court. And Democrats will make their selection of nominees at a March 10, 2012 endorsement convention to be held at Detroit’s Cobo Center.
So last Saturday, Bridget Mary McCormack introduced herself to Ann Arbor Democrats as a candidate for one of the three Democratic Party endorsements for supreme court justice. She’s a professor of law at the University of Michigan, and co-director of the Michigan Innocence Clinic.
Also related to state-level party politics at the Saturday morning gathering was some measure of frustration expressed by Debbie Dingell. The wife of U.S. Rep. John Dingell (D-District 15) told the local Ann Arbor Democratic Party group that the state’s party leadership needs to give clearer direction to party members about the presidential primary to be held on Feb. 28.
The need for any direction stems from the appearance on the primary ballot of President Barack Obama’s name, despite the fact that he is not opposed in the primary, and that state party leaders did not want Obama’s name to appear. Michigan Democrats plan to select Obama as their nominee at a May 5 caucus. As it currently stands, national and state party rules don’t allow voters to participate both events – primary and caucus.
For his part, John Dingell quipped from his seat in the audience, “I’ve never voted in a Republican primary, and I ain’t about to start!” Earlier in the meeting, Dingell had dished out a well-polished series of pokes at the Republican Party, which included a lampooning of the field in the GOP presidential primary. Of the candidates, Newt Gingrich probably got the sharpest end of Dingell’s humor, when the Michigan congressman quipped, “As my old daddy used to say, even a blind hog can find an acorn.” Dingell also ticked through a number of achievements of Democrats in the last two years – including support for the auto industry and securing food safety.
Among the various volunteer sign-up sheets circulated at Saturday’s meeting was one to indicate willingness to help with the presidential campaign locally. In connection with that, David Cahill explained that the local party organization is now using the voter activation network (VAN) as its database.
The meeting was also an occasion for local candidates for office to introduce themselves. On the state level, Adam Zemke and Bob Davidow introduced themselves as candidates for District 55 of the Michigan house of representatives.
Incumbent county commissioners Conan Smith (new District 9) and Yousef Rabhi (new District 8) are both seeking re-election in the newly-configured nine districts – the board currently reflects representation of 11 districts. And Andy LaBarre told the gathering that he’s seeking election in the new District 7.
Also on the county level, Kathy Wyatt, executive assistant from the sheriff’s office, announced that sheriff Jerry Clayton would be seeking re-election this year. The sheriff’s presence was required at a job fair that morning – new dispatchers were being hired in connection with retirements and the consolidation of dispatch operations at the county and the city of Ann Arbor.
Incumbent city councilmember Tony Derezinski (Ward 2) announced to meeting attendees that he’s running for re-election. Sabra Briere (Ward 1) also attended the meeting, but her council seat is not up for election this time around. She was re-elected last year – unopposed in both the primary and the general election.
U.S. Rep. John Dingell got his biggest round of applause at Saturday morning’s meeting of the Ann Arbor Democratic Party when he described his preference for health care reform as a single-payer system – a proposal he’s been pushing for decades.
But during much of the 45 minutes spent talking and fielding questions, Dingell described a compromise working its way through Congress that falls far short of that goal.
Dingell is the lead sponsor on the House of Representatives health care reform bill, which differs in substantive ways from the Senate’s version. Those two versions of the legislation will need to be reconciled over the coming weeks.
President Barack Obama is urging Congress to deliver something for him to sign before he makes the annual State of the Union address, Dingell said, adding that it’s not clear if that deadline will be met.
Dingell covered much of the same ground on Saturday as he did when The Chronicle last encountered him at a meeting of the Obama Caucus of Ann Arbor in August. But by now, the massive health care reform legislation is closer to completion – though it’s not, Dingell reminded his fellow Democrats, a done deal.
The 16 people who gathered in Judy Dooley’s living room on Saturday came by different paths. Some had talked to Dooley or other volunteers with the Obama Caucus of Ann Arbor at a table they man each week at the Ann Arbor Farmers Market. Some had received a flyer about the event, distributed by volunteers who regularly canvas city neighborhoods. Three of the people there – Dooley, Gus Teschke and Daniela Gobetti – are coordinators for the local Obama group.
We’re pretty sure U.S. Rep. John Dingell didn’t hear about the meeting from a flyer in his door, but he showed up too. He’s using the August recess in Congress the same way other legislators are – returning to their districts to mobilize support or opposition to the health care reform bill that both the House and Senate will tackle in the fall.
The focus of Saturday’s small neighborhood gathering was President Barack Obama’s health care reform efforts, including legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives introduced by Dingell that proposes a public health insurance option. People attending the two-hour meeting raised a lot of questions about what the proposal entailed, and many shared their own experiences with problems they’ve encountered under the nation’s current health care system.