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Wednesday, March 31,2010

Will Wood knock on Bernero?

by Kyle Melinn
Lansing City Councilwoman Carol Wood professes to be a proud Democrat. She began paying dues to the Michigan Democratic Party in 2006 and participated in the 2008 Democratic primary election.

But what if her arch political rival, Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero, wins the Democratic primary and becomes the party's nominee in November. What would Wood do?


The 2009 mayoral candidate said this week that she hopes it doesn't come to that.


"I don't know what I'll do," Wood said.


"I will vote because voting is extremely important to me. Maybe it becomes a write-in situation. Either way, it will be difficult for me."


The clash between Bernero, the city's chief executive, and Wood, his chief critic on the Lansing City Council, has been well chronicled, with the political tug-of-war coming to a head in 2009 when Wood challenged Bernero for mayor, a race which Bernero won walking away.


Wood, also, hasn't made a secret over her political leanings. When she moved back to Michigan from Alaska in 1993, she registered to vote while declaring a Republican preference, allowing her, at the time, to vote in the GOP primary.


Why did she check the Republican box? Wood said this week she doesn't know. She was in line at the secretary of state. There was a line of people behind her. She said she just checked one. She said she's always been a more independent judge of the candidates.


In 2007, shortly after winning her third term on the Lansing City Council, she became a member of the state Democratic Party. So when it comes to the 2010 gubernatorial election, she said she will be supporting one of the three Democratic candidates. House Speaker Andy Dillon and Rep. Alma Wheeler Smith also are officially in the race, although 1998 Democratic nominee Geoffrey Fieger recently told a Grand Rapids television station that he's looking at a run.


"I haven't decided who I will support," Wood said. "I have been looking at the other two candidates more than Virg. I want to read up more about them and see what their plans for Michigan are."


When she makes up her mind, she said she likely will make a public announcement.


Wood said the Democrats need a candidate who will do what he said he is going to do. They need someone who works well with others, someone who can bring plans to fruition by reaching across the political aisle and reach common ground on the issues.


"We need someone who is not hotheaded, someone who doesn't go out there and promise more than they can deliver," Wood said. "We need a leader who is willing to make sacrifices and who is fair in their expectations."


The Lansing City Councilwoman said she doesn't like watching the politicians make unrealistic promises during a campaign, like proclaiming he or she is going to create an ridiculous number of jobs only to come back after they take office and say, "Wow, this job is a little harder than I thought."


Based on this criterion, Wood said she isn't sure that Bernero is the best candidate for the job.


But if Bernero moved across Michigan Avenue from the 9th floor of City Hall to the 2nd floor of the Romney Building, Bernero would be out of Wood's hair, so to speak. She wouldn't have to deal with him in running city government and, arguably, the field would be clear for her to run to be his successor as the city's chief executive.


More than one person has mentioned this scenario to Wood as a reason maybe she should throw her support behind Bernero. Wood said she isn't buying it.


"I don't think you should reward bad behavior," Wood said. "My mother always told me, 'If you think I'm going to reward you for your bad behavior, you're crazy.' At the end of the day, I doubt (the nominee) will be Virg Bernero, but I'm looking forward to what the voters do."


It's been suggested by some political spectators that if Wood feels so strongly against Bernero’s being governor she could actively campaign against him, even if it means working behind the scenes with Dillon or the Republicans to feed them information about Lansing city government that could be used against Bernero on the campaign trail.


Bernero's rocky history with the Lansing city employees represented by Teamsters union and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, for example, are well documented and the type of stuff Wood could use to help fuel another candidate's campaign.


Folks within the Bernero campaign say the issue hasn't come up and Wood said that she doesn't operate that way.


She said she's not working to defeat Bernero like she was when she was a candidate running against him. Wood said she wouldn't work behind the scenes to sabotage another candidate in a race unrelated to her own.


"I wouldn't want someone to do that to me so I wouldn't do that do somebody else," she said. "The truth is, no, I'd never do that."


 Correction: An earlier version of this story should have said that Wood was most recently elected in 2007. 

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