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Wednesday, August 19,2009

Where in the world is Chris Lewless?

by Kyle Melinn


Where in the world is Chris Lewless? When his eyes were set on the 68th District state House seat in 2006, Chris Lewless and his merry blue-shirted band were seemingly everywhere in Lansing.

In a race that featured a popular Lansing City Councilwoman (Joan Bauer) and the son of Lansing’s favorite mayor (Jerry Hollister), shoe leather and sweat earned Lewless a third-place finish and 20 percent of the Democratic primary vote. It was a great showing for someone who, at the time, was a political nobody.

Lewless pulled it off by setting the gold standard for work ethic.



Now, two weeks removed from a second-place finish in the August primary advanced him into the November run-off for the Lansing City Council’s Fourth Ward seat, the question folks are asking is, "Where’s Chris Lewless?"


An early favorite for the seat, Lewless sent out one mailer before the Aug. 4 primary. That’s the only sign of life coming out of the Lewless’ campaign between May and August.

Lewless’ campaign Web site is down for repairs. His Facebook campaign site hasn’t had a new post since March and his campaign finance reports show him only raising $150 since April.

He came 50 voters away from losing a spot on the Nov. 3 ballot to Thomas Truscott, which actually surprised people like myself who thought his inaction had doomed him to a third-place finish behind Truscott and eventual first-place finisher Jessica Yorko.

So where’s Lewless? He’s out trying to make a living for his young family as a trial lawyer. He’s starting his new law firm from scratch, and, quite frankly, the work that he’s found is not always in Lansing.

It’s been challenging, he said. It’s certainly hard to knock on doors when you’re not in town.


He admittedly "took a step back" in the primary, but Lewless assured me, "We’re going forward as of right now.


"I’ll admit it. I have not run the same campaign as I did three years ago," Lewless added. "It’s also a different economy than it was three years ago."


In my opinion, another difference here is the money. In ’06 Lewless was running for a $79,650-a-year state House job. With Lansing City Council, he’s basically running for a full-time, $20,000-a-year job. Unless you’re retired, set your own work schedule or have a really understanding boss, it’s hard to put in the time to do right by the City Council job and its dozens of meetings a year.


Surprisingly, Lewless ran the primary to lose and still backed into victory because enough voters remembered Lewless Version 2006. At the same time, Truscott couldn’t shake the Republican label attached to his name in the progressive/ liberal Westside despite having the support of unions, including the UAW and the Michigan Education Association.

But fond memories of yore aren’t going to cut the mustard against Yorko, the human embodiment of the Energizer Bunny, in a General Election.

While Lewless is scrounging up clients, Yorko helped rally enough people to get the Lansing City Council to unanimously sign off on a plan to include biking lanes in future city street construction. And she hasn’t even been elected, yet, for pete’s sake.


Unless the Fourth Ward sees a return of the Lewless of old after Labor Day — and he told me it would — this race is over. Congratulations, Councilwoman-like Yorko.



Film on the block


Over at the state Capitol, where state lawmakers and Gov. Jennifer Granholm are trying to figure out how to balance a budget next year that’s $2.8 billion in the red, the probability that Michigan’s bestin-the-nation film incentive credits will be cut has risen to "near certainty" levels.

In her counter-proposal to state lawmakers, Granholm suggested a 12 percent cut to the credit, a sign that she is willing to negotiate the point with the Republicanled Senate, which proposed a $50 million cap on the credit.

Responding to the news, Detroit Free Press columnist and author Mitch Albom headlined a rally at the state Capitol on Tuesday in an effort to save the credit from any cut.


Even though Granholm reiterated at a press conference an hour later that she wants to maintain the nation’s top film incentives, organizers from the Michigan Production Alliance are convinced that taking one penny out of the incentives (let alone the $10 million to $12 million cut from the governor’s proposal) will chase the industry out of Michigan, particularly since states like Alaska already are looking at bigger credits.

"It will kill it," said the alliance’s Ken Orlich. "In this industry, you’re either first or you’re last."


Also likely to see a cut is the planned state Earned Income Tax Credit, which is scheduled to be 20 percent of the federal credit in 2010. Granholm is willing to drop that credit to 15 percent.

(Kyle Melinn is the editor at the MIRS newsletter. His column runs weekly. Write him at melinn@lansingcitypulse.com.)

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