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Wednesday, September 18,2013

Political notes from around town

by Walt Sorg

This story was corrected on Sept. 19. Because of a reporting error, this story originally stated the wrong years Curtis Hertel Sr. served as co-speaker of the House. He did so in 1993-'94.

Less than two years after being elected Ingham County clerk, Barb Byrum is looking for greener pastures. The former threeterm state representative is not-so-quietly promoting herself for lieutenant governor.

Byrum earlier had hopes of running for secretary of state but apparently has shifted her sights with the growing likelihood that 2010 secretary of state nominee Jocelyn Benson will take a second shot at the job.

Byrum basically has to convince one person: presumptive Democratic gubernatorial nominee Mark Schauer. While Republicans will see a battle royale between tea party folks and Gov. Rick Snyder over Lt. Gov. Brian Calley’s nomination at their party’s convention, Democrats will happily endorse whomever Schauer wants.

Byrum is working to raise her visibility with the party people whom Schauer might consult in the process. She’s encour aged friends to push the story that she’s a leading candidate and took out a onemonth sponsorship on the political blog MichiganLiberal.com.

Working in her favor is her track record as a candidate, winning four elections over the last decade, three of them by large margins. She has a reputation as an effective campaigner.

Working against her: geography and political choices.

I speculated earlier this year that Schauer would look to metro Detroit for his running mate, with Oakland County Clerk Lisa Brown — also a former state House member — and Detroit Rep. Rashida Tlaib as the most likely choices. Brown drew national attention after beating an incumbent Republican to become clerk of Michigan’s second-largest county.

Also working against Byrum: She and her mother, former state Sen. and Rep. Dianne Byrum, loudly supported the reelection of Mark Brewer as state Democratic Party chairman, even speaking on Brewer’s behalf at the February convention where he ultimately lost to Lon Johnson.

Whitmer takes a break At the other end of the political ambition spectrum is state Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer, D-East Lansing. Whitmer, who is term limited out of the Legislature next year, is making it clearer by the day that she will walk away from elective politics at the end of 2014 to spend more time raising her two pre-teen daughters.

Whitmer told me recently that if she wanted to run for attorney general, she would need to be working actively right now to lay the groundwork for the nomination. Left unsaid was the fact that she isn’t making any effort to pull together a campaign.

Whitmer, 42, announced in January she would not seek the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, which helped clear the field for Schauer.

With Whitmer apparently out of the mix, MSU Law Professor Mark Totten appears ready to breeze to the nomination. And Benson, who’s the acting dean of Wayne State University’s law school, will likely be the party’s repeat candidate for secretary of state.

Hertel working early Ingham County Register of Deeds Curtis Hertel, Jr. isn’t taking anything for granted in his run for to succeed Whitmer in the state Senate. Despite being a prohibitive favorite in the heavily Democratic district, Hertel is campaigning hard more than a year before the general election.

Hertel is already going door to door in Ingham County, personally visiting more than 1,500 homes so far.

Hertel is working early to clear the Democratic field, which most believe he has already done. Virtually all the public officials who could have challenged for the nomination have endorsed him: state Reps. Sam Singh, Andy Schor and Tom Cochran; former state Rep. Mark Meadows; Ingham County Sheriff Gene Wriggelsworth; Ingham County Drain Commissioner Pat Lindemann and Clerk Barb Byrum. Former state Rep. Joan Bauer has announced she will not run in the primary.

With the field pretty well cleared in the Ingham County district, little stands in Hertel’s path to continuing a family tradition of state legislative service.

He would be the fourth Hertel to serve in the Legislature. His father, Curtis Sr., was cospeaker of the House in 1993-‘94; his uncle, Dennis, served six years in the state House and 12 years in Congress; his uncle John served for eight years in the state Senate.

Crenshaw not initially unanimous Bryan Crenshaw, who took office as Ingham County commissioner last week, initially wasn’t a unanimous choice for the job. Sources indicate the initial vote among Democrats on a successor for Debbie DeLeon included two votes for Catherine Mooney, who lost to DeLeon in last year’s Democratic primary. The final official vote, however, was unanimous.

DeLeon resigned after being elected vice chairperson of the Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians, based in Petoskey, a job that required her to relocate to west Michigan.

Check out LansingCityPulse.com for coverage of last week's protests in East Lansing and Owosso, where diverging groups staged separate rallies against military intervention in Syria.

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