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Wednesday, January 15,2014

Political notes from around town

Rose Bowl vacations, challenging Mike Rogers, millionaires in Congress and more

by Walt Sorg
The aftermath of the ice storm fouled up Rose Bowl plans for the mayors of both Lansing and East Lansing.

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero’s wife, Teri, headed to the Left Coast right after Christmas, but the mayor didn’t leave town until New Year’s Eve. (Power was restored to the full BWL grid later in the day, although many individual homes still were without power.) Bernero’s trip was privately funded.

Even though the position of East Lansing mayor is part time, Mayor Nathan Triplett and his wife, Sarah, decided on Christmas Eve that they’d forfeit their pre-paid airfare and hotel (along with game tickets) to allow him to stay on top of storm recovery efforts. Triplett has been widely praised for his non-stop social media presence during the recovery, providing residents with continually updated information on power restoration, debris collection and warming centers.

Two want to challenge Rogers

Two Lansing residents are letting it be known that they will seek the Democratic nomination to oppose six-term Republican Rep. Mike Rogers. Susan Grettenberger is director of social work programs at Central Michigan University. Ken Darga just retired as the State of Michigan demographer.

Darga’s strategy is unique: He’ll run as a nonpartisan Democrat, actively seeking support from moderate Republicans. His nonpartisan cred is bolstered by the fact he only recently joined the Democratic Party. (He felt, as a state employee, he shouldn’t be a member of a party.) In the primary he will be criticized for his staunch opposition to reproductive choice.

Either would face a major challenge with Rogers. The Brighton Republican was reelected in 2012 with 58.6 percent percent of the vote. (Mitt Romney also won the 8th district, 51-48, over President Obama.) And Rogers has more than $1.7 million sitting in his campaign bank account.

State and national Democrats are likely to sit out the race financially. At least four other Michigan congressional seats (held by Republicans Justin Amash, Dan Benishek, Tim Walberg and Kerry Bentivolio) are considered more winnable.

Millionaires dominate Congress, mid-Michigan’s members lag behind

A new analysis from The Center for Responsive Politics shows more than half of all members of Congress are millionaires. While financial reports only indicate a range of wealth, the CRP estimates the median net worth for House members at $896,000 and a whopping $2.9 million for senators.

Nine of Michigan’s 14 House members (as well as Sen. Carl Levin) fall into the millionaire category. Locally, Reps. Mike Rogers and Tim Walberg rank among the poorest (financially) in Congress: Rogers’ net worth is estimated at between $111,016 and $590,999 (No. 370), Walberg’s at between $67,018 and $355,000 (418th).

Sen. Debbie Stabenow ranks secondfrom-last in the upper chamber with a net worth of $15,001-to-$50,000.

Michigan’s wealthiest members are Republicans Fred Upton ($8 million to $28 million) and Dave Camp ($5.6 million to $15.3 million).

Net worth was calculated by the lawmaker’s range of assets and range of liabilities. Assets include securities, real estate (excluding primary residence, unless it generates income), business ownership, bank accounts and loans owed.

Call me if you agree with me …

Walberg has raised some eyebrows with a request to constituents to tell him about their experiences with the Affordable Healthcare Act, but only if it’s a bad-news story.

On his government website, he writes “From letters, phone calls and emails you’ve told me how many of your premiums are expected to rise or your health provider is cancelling your insurance all together due to the health care law. To better help you with these concerns, please fill out the page below on how Obamacare is hurting you, your family or business. Additionally, someone in my office may be in touch with you about the potential use of your story to help address this on-going problem.” Walberg has consistently voted to repeal ACA.

Hertel pursues inevitability

Ingham County Register of Deeds Curtis Hertel Jr. continues to pile up endorsements in what appears to be a cakewalk campaign for the state Senate to succeed Gretchen Whitmer. In the last month he has announced support from a Democratic party Who’s Who list that includes Sen. Carl Levin, UAW Region 1-C and the UAW CAP Council, former state Rep. Joan Bauer (once considered a possible primary rival), all 11 Democrats on the Ingham County Commission, all five county officials, all three Ingham County state representatives, the Greater Lansing Labor Council and Teamsters Local 580.

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