Friday, December 26, 2014

The Top 30 Most Important Michigan Political Stories Of 2014

The Top 30 Most Important Michigan Political Stories Of 2014

By Brandon Hall

(Email him at

30The Religious Freedom and Restoration Act was pushed as part of a corresponding bill to amend Michigan's Eliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act to include sexual orientation, and in some Dem versions, gender identity. The RFRA caused much debate and controversy, then died in the Senate after passing the House in "lameduck."

29. Strategic National Chief John Yob blasted the Michigan Republican Party for lying to grassroots activists about whether or not the party's 2016 presidential primary was really a "closed" primary, open only to Republicans.

28. MLive's Ballot Bash and candidate forum events throughout the fall and summer were some of the only well advertised opportunities for members of the public to interact with some of Michigan's most powerful leaders. Great work, MLive!

27. Grand Rapids voters decide to enact local term limits, sending a reminder to the small minority who would like to repeal those limits that Michiganders refuse to do so.
26. Detroit area political reporter Bill Bonds passed away after a legendary career spanning decades.

25. Activists worked hard, and even had the support of both L.G. Brian Calley and RNC Committeemen Dave Agema, but in the end, the group attempting to bring Michigan's legislature to "part-time" did not succeed in getting enough signatures to place the issue before Michigan voters.

24Detroit pension package passes as the city emerges from bankruptcy and things actually start to look up in "The D." Now if only that new Red Wings stadium didn't have so much taxpayer money...

23. In a story that has gone pretty much unnoticed by...everyone, Attorney General Bill Schuette actually said he'd be open to a pot reform ballot measure in 2016, depending on how it's written. Schuette is transitioning from hardcore anti-pot crusader to moderate, pragmatic pot watchdog as he gears up to run for Governor in 2018.

22. After a nasty race that saw State Representatives Greg MacMaster and Wayne Schmidt duke it out, Schmidt came out on top, beating MacMaster in the August primary. Using complicated, decades old family issues against MacMaster was a disgusting low point of the contest.

21. 2014 was the end of the legislative road for well known politicians such as Speaker Bolger, Sen. Whitmer, Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, State Rep. Joe Haveman, and many more. At least for a little bit...


Gamrat, left, with son Joey

20. After the establishment votes were split by Mary Whiteford and Steve Schultz, Cindy Gamrat of Plainwell was rewarded for her hard-working campaign, scoring a huge primary victory in the race to replace outgoing State Rep. Bob Genetski. 

Gamrat, a nuese who graduated from U of M, is as watched as other incoming high profile State Reps, but she is nowhere near as bombastic. Keep an eye on her-if she plays her cards right, she could move to the State Senate in 2018, or be on any Republican's shortlist for Lieutenant Governor.


19. It was a slug-fest to the end, and with a 59 vote margin, Margaret O'Brien edged Sean McCann to become the next State Senator for the Kalamazoo area. O'Brien is said to already be working with State Rep. Mike Carlton on marijuana bills that died in the Senate during "lame duck."

18. Whether it was Aramark, Education  funding, attacking Snyder's cousin for things Granholm did, racist mailers, fear mongering of Senior citizens, or attacking the Governor personally, Mark Schauer and Lon Johnson's lame, lackluster, lie-filled 2014 campaign plan was all about that hate, 'bout dat hate-no substance. Lon Johnson couldn't deliver on his grand absentee plan, and his boring, predictable BS makes one long for Mark Brewer as head of the Michigan Dems. 

Brewer would have done something like travel to gas stations around Michigan with signs that said  #StopTheSnyderGasTax and called the media there while he actually showed some emotion. (NEVER thought I'd miss Mark Brewer!) The guy had guts. Hell, remember "Reform Michigan Government Now!" He tried to take over Michigan government to benefit the Dems!

17. Jennifer Granholm may not have been on the ballot in 2014, but her presence was palpable in the Gubernatorial race. Michiganders are better off than they were four years ago, at least in almost every statistically documented aspect. The Granholm years were referenced implicitly and explicitly throughout the campaign, by candidates and surrogates alike. Surely, comparing the progress made under Snyder to where things had been under Granholm made a difference in November to the hundreds of thousands of Independent Michiganders who cast ballots for Snyder.


16. After November elections, Kevin Cotter was elected as the new Speaker of the Michigan House, while Ottawa County's Arlan Meekhof took the reigns as Senate Majority Leader. Both will take their new positions when the new legislature officially takes office in January. It will be interesting to see how these two contrast with their predecessors, Speaker Bolger and Majority Leader Richardville.

15. After months of lobbying, Equality Michigan and its partner groups were unable to get amendments to the Eliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act out of committee to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protections. They are now gearing up for a 2016 Constitutional amendment to allow gay marriage in Michigan, and may also simultaneously pursue a referendum on Elliot-Larsen.


14. Whether it was hypocritical attacks/shady, illegal robocalls and mailers in the 90th State House primary, the controversial Ottawa GOP convention and subsequent firing of longtime Executive Director Faith Steketee, or Bill Huizenga's Disney vacation with bankers he regulates-or his outstanding campaign finance reports... Ottawa County was no stranger to controversy this year. The County is gearing up for a recall of Allendale Township Sup. Jerry Alkema, and the open State House seat in Amanda Price's district is sure to interesting race....


13. After serving two terms as the leader of the Michigan Republican Party, Bobby Schostak called it quits this year. Ronna Romney-McDaniel and Pete Lund are among some of the most often potential replacements, though while Ronna is in, Lund has not yet officially declared.

Bishop, left, McMillan right.
  12. It could be argued that the nominating speech (or something like that) Tom McMillin made complimenting Mike Bishop was the beginning of the end for his Congressional hopes-and that may well be true. Regardless, he would have been a great Rep... Mike Bishop went on to win the race by double digits, replacing Mike Rogers in D.C. McMillin also faced a cash defeceit, as the well connected former Senate leader Bishop had a full war-chest.

AFPMichigan head Scott Hagerstrom
11. It didn't win every race, but as they prepared for a full on war in 2016, Americans For Prosperity-Michigan made their presence known. Involving themselves in a slew of races, hosting multiple events across the state, and continually engaging activists as well as legislators and government leaders, AFP has made it clear they mean business in 2016 and beyond.


Bentivolio, left, Trott, right

10. "Foreclosure King" Dave Trott set his eyes on a new House this year: the United States House of Representatives. To get there, he needed to "evict" Kerry Bentivolio. That's just what Trott and his allies did, spending $6 million to defeat the incumbent Representative. Trott, along with a slew of special interest groups like the Chamber, had their eye on Bentivolio from the beginning.


9. Michigan's Congressional Delegation also took a hit from retirement. John Dingell, Carl Levin, Mike Rogers, and Dave Camp all retired this year.

8. It was a heated campaign that saw Ron Weiser become the subject of attacks that were at best unfair and at worst, total BS. It also showed how great of a campaigner Dan Horning is. He didn't have Weiser's financial resources, but with his friendly personality and hard working campaign schedule, he almost dethroned the powerful former ambassador in his bid for U of M regent. Horning only lost to Weiser by 76 votes at the MIGOP convention in Novi.


 7. It wasn't a surprise on election night, but at one point, this was a heated race. In the end, Gary Peters beat Terri Land to replace Carl Levin as one of Michigan's Senators by double digits. 

Sadly, voters heard more derping about whether or not a debate would take place than the actual issues. Two ads also really stood out, and both hurt Land. The one with Peters and his family talking about how much of a cheap bastard he is, and the one making it look like she was personally spreading some sort of black smog or something. Peters defined Land, who never defined herself and did not seem to get along well with the media. It's too bad that the campaign didn't reflect how good of a politician and person Land really is, expect her to be back someday.


6. Wes Nakagiri's pink Snyder/Calley flyers made his campaign seem more like "Say Yes To The Dress!" than "Say Yes To Wes," and in the end, delegates decided to say no, renominating Brian Calley as Lt. Governor with over 60% of the vote. Wes Nakagiri earned a respectable 35%, and for the most part, ran a respectable campaign. Supporters booing Rep. Amash when he nominated the LG, and his creepy, Anti-Calley white van parked outside the convention hall lookin' like it was straight out of Law and Order SVU were not the campaign's best moments...


5. After trailing by double digits for weeks, State Sen. John Moolenaar overcame the odds and scored an upset primary win over Paul Mitchell to decide who would replace Dave Camp in Congress. Even Attorney General Schuette got involved in the race, attacking Mitchell and throwing his support behind Moolenaar in a video statement just days before the election.


4. He looks like he's more likely to need a fake I.D. to score booze for a frat party than to sport a legislative badge, but don't underestimate Lee Chatfield. Frank Foster did, and as a result, the incumbent State Rep. was bounced to the unemployment line. Foster's support for "Elliot-Larsen" was far from his only issue. His controversial voting record and lack of attention to constituents were key factors, as well as the smart, hardworking campaign Chatfield ran.


3. After years of failed leadership, the Michigan Legislature was unable to do their job, and as a result, Michiganders will vote in a special election on May 5th. There, voters can decide if they want to rasie the sales tax as part of a package to pay for road repairs and other interest group projects, like education funding. The legislature also snuck in an internet sales tax bill to the lameduck agenda, meaning Michiganders will now be forced to pay taxes on internet purchases.


2. After months of back-and-forth, voters finally had their say and decided to send "Michigan's Comeback Team" back to Lansing for another term. Gov. Snyder, Attorney General Schuette, and Secretary of State Ruth Johnson were all re-elected.


1. Unlike David Trott, Brian Ellis did not succeed in his efforts to unseat the incumbent Congressman he challenged. That's because unfortunately for Mr. Ellis, he ran against (and wouldn't stop lying about) one of the most transparent and accessible Congressman in the history of the Republic, Justin Amash. (He also lacked Trott's deep pockets, though Ellis is somewhat wealthy and did spend some of his own money.) 

While Ellis stayed hidden somewhere in EGR, Amash was out hosting town halls across the District, talking to regular people. While Ellis was rigging up BS commercials George Orwell could have written, Justin Amash stuck to the centuries old adage "the truth will set you free." And it did.

Amash, famous for posting every vote on Facebook, as well as for advocating for Constitutional government-all while refusing to engage in the typical DC games-had a smart campaign team, dedicated volunteers, and while he didn't have the Chamber, he had thousands of liberty activists across the Country backing him with small donations...

Amash survived the Ellis onslaught, sending a message to the establishment that money spent bothering Amash is money better spent elsewhere. Had the race been close, perhaps they'd be lining up for another fight against Amash in 2016. That wasn't the case though, Ellis lost by more than double digits. They better save that money to defend Bill Huizenga the way things are going for him these days. Multiple DC publications called the contest the ugliest primary of 2014.

Brandon Hall is a lifelong political nerd from Grand Haven, and is the Managing Editor of West Michigan Politics.
Email him at
Photo By Darlene Dowling Thompson

1 comment:

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