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Wednesday, May 19,2010

Who steps up if Virg steps down?

by Kyle Melinn
Most political observers I talk to believe Michigan’s next governor will be a Republican.

I’m not completely dug into the pavement on this, but I generally agree. The possibility is at least 60 percent, maybe more.


That said, it’s hard not to play the "what if" game. Especially if you’re a Lansing politician.


Who would succeed Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero if he becomes governor?


The City Charter says the Council president gets the mayor’s job. Meanwhile, a mayor’s race would be added to the General Election to fill out the rest of the term (in Bernero’s case, through 2013).


That would mean that Council President A’Lynne Robinson or her successor as president — depending on when Bernero resigned — would become mayor.


But whether its Robinson, Council Vice President Kathie Dunbar or At-Large Councilwoman Carol Wood (the likely suspects), they’re only going to hold the position for 11 months before they’ll need to go to voters to keep the job for the rest of Bernero’s four-year term.


For Robinson and Wood, there’s a risk in filing to run for mayor since both of their Council terms expire at the end of 2011. Shooting for mayor means sacrificing their seats on the Council. Dunbar won re-election last year so she has a free shot.


If. Right now, that’s an open question. A more likely option appears to be Lansing City Clerk Chris Swope. The two-term clerk and former county commissioner has his name out there and would be an attractive option for city progressives.


The even-tempered Swope preformed so competently in his first term, nobody ran against him in 2009. A mayoral run would be a free shot; he wouldn’t have to give up his post.


Another possibility is Tony Baltimore, the Lansing staffer for U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Brighton, whose name is moving in some circles (with a big push from him). Baltimore would be a rookie as far as running his own race, but the visible Baltimore is well known around town from doing constituent work.


If Rogers runs for the U.S. Senate in 2012 or if his seat is erased in 2011 because of the Census, it’s understandable why Baltimore would be thinking ahead.


A wild card in it all would be state Rep. Joan Bauer, D-Lansing, whose name has been tossed about for the position before, but her entrance into the race is unlikely. Bauer, as a member of the City Council, had a clear shot at the job when David Hollister left to run the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Growth, but took a pass.


If another credible progressive candidate doesn’t step up, Bauer is a possibility, but otherwise, she’ll likely serve out her final term in the Michigan House.


But let’s not put the cart before the horse. Bernero needs to defeat a moneyed Andy Dillon in the Democratic primary while having to defend his record with employee unions. Offering 36-hour weeks or 26 furlough days to city employees will create some defectors. Also, how will rank-and-file Democrats feel if the Michigan Chamber of Commerce endorses him?


Bernero will have an uphill battle whether it is against U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra, businessman Rick Snyder, Sheriff Mike Bouchard or Attorney General Mike Cox.


But as Bernero has said before, "(People) underestimate at their own risk."


Filing deadline recap


Last week’s filing deadline came and went with few surprises and few competitive races. Sen. Gretchen Whitmer is facing Kyle Haubrich, a Michigan State University law student. Michelle DiSano, wife of Potterville political consultant Joe DiSano, filed to run as the Democrats’ sacrificial lamb against Republican Rep. Rick Jones in the 24th state Senate district.


Republican Vevay Township Supervisor Jeff Oesterle is seeking to unseat twoterm incumbent Rep. Barb Byrum. The Republicans seem to like their chances, but they’ve talked up every race versus a Byrum for years to no avail.


Bauer is a stone-cold lock in the 68th and Rep. Mark Meadows has an interesting match-up with politically moderate Meridian Township Supervisor Susan McGillicuddy, who may have a better shot in 2012 when Meadows is termed out of office.


State Democrats are high on Pamela Drake for the Clinton County 85th District. The winner of a five-man Republican primary will face her in November.


Locally, former mayoral candidate Charles Ford filed to run against County Commissioner Rebecca Bahar-Cook, but withdrew by Friday’s deadline.


The most interesting election locally, however, may take place in the 5th County Commission district, where incumbent Andy Schor will have a primary against Lansing military veteran Kenneth Peterson.


One of Peterson’s chief issues is the 2 percent pay raise the commissioners gave themselves in 2010.


"If poor judgment is made in voting a pay raise (it) should be cause for concern in poor judgment in other areas, as well," Peterson wrote on his Facebook site.


Schor has pledged "an aggressive campaign to explain to Democrat voters that I am the best Democrat and remind them what I have done and why I deserve another term."


(Kyle Melinn is the news editor at MIRSnews.com. He can be reached at Melinn@lansingcitypulse.com.)


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