Susan J. Demas: What Will Michigan’s Most Conservative and Liberal Senators Do Next?

State Sen. Mike Green could be the latest Michigander tapped by the Donald Trump administration.

The Mayville Republican, already riding high after being named Inside Michigan Politics’ “Most Conservative” senator for 2016, is being considered for Michigan’s state director for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. Green, who only voted liberal 22.2 percent of the time last year, was floated for USDA undersecretary, but told Team Trump that he wasn’t interested in moving to Washington.

Green would join the ranks of fellow Wolverine State dweller Betsy DeVos, Trump’s pick for Secretary of Education, and Ben Carson, who Trump will nominate of Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Trump has also given his blessing to Michigan Republican Party Chair Ronna Romney McDaniel as Republican National Committee chair.

Green will be term-limited in 2018, along with the majority of his colleagues, so now is traditionally the time to start planning for a post-legislative career.

As I noted after Inside Michigan Politics compiled the “Most Liberal and Most Conservative” House member rankings before the Nov. 8 election, many past winners have continued to be influential leaders, particularly on the GOP side, long after serving in the Legislature.

IMP has been tallying legislative votes for several decades to determine the “Most Liberal and Most Conservative” members of each chamber. We pore over every vote that calendar year and determine every lawmaker’s record. In 2016, IMP examined 30 record roll-call Senate votes for social, economic, taxation, environmental, civil rights, and public health/safety issues by the 39 senators this term (that includes Virgil Smith, who stepped down after being sentenced to jail). For the rankings, 100 percent is the gold standard for a senator who voted the liberal position on these votes. The full list is in our Dec.14 edition.

So let’s take a look at what the 2016 Senate recipients may have up their sleeves, as all of them will be term-limited in ‘18.

Sen. Judy Emmons (R-Sheridan) came in second, voting liberal just 23.3 percent of the time. She’s been one of the leading voices on human trafficking, along with Attorney General Bill Schuette, who’s almost certainly running for governor next year. Emmons would be a natural in a future Schuette administration. She also briefly weighed a Secretary of State bid in 2010 and could look at the open slot in 2018.

Sens. Dave Robertson (R-Grand Blanc) and Joe Hune (R-Hamburg) tied for third with 30 percent liberal voting records. Robertson, who chairs the Elections and Government Reform Committee, has put a conservative stamp on Michigan campaign finance law and torpedoed no-reason absentee voting in 2015. He could be a natural fit for Secretary of State.

Hune is consistently one of the most conservative senators, having led the pack in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2015, and was also out front with a Trump endorsement at a time when most politicos assumed he was a flash in the pan. The chair of the Senate Agriculture and Insurance committees eschewed both a 2014 run for Congress and a job with the Trump administration. Having been in office since he was 22, after winning his 2002 state House primary by only two votes, Hune might want a break from government service in 2018. He’d be a natural fit in any number of anti-tax, business or agricultural groups.

Over on the other side of the ideological spectrum, Sen. Morris Hood III (D-Detroit) earned the 2016 “Most Liberal” title with an 86.2% voting record. He’s been mentioned for a Detroit City Council post this year, which would mean leaving office early.

Hood’s colleague, charismatic Sen. Coleman Young II (D-Detroit), who was the runner-up with an 86.2% liberal record, could also run for City Council or even challenge Mayor Mike Duggan.

The Democrats only have an 11-member caucus, which isn’t enough to block immediate effect votes, so dipping down to nine or 10 members would only impact bills that couldn’t attract a majority of GOP votes.

Sen. Rebekah Warren (D-Ann Arbor) broke all IMP records by winning the “Most Liberal” crown for 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015. Last year, she slipped to third place, tying with Sen. Steve Bieda (D-Warren), with 83.3% liberal records. Warren, who took a keen interest in now-Rep. Donna Lasinski’s bid for the 52nd House District seat in Washtenaw County, is a veteran of  MARAL Pro-Choice Michigan and could launch a second act as a political consultant. Warren is also a long-time friend of former Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer (D-East Lansing), who just declared for governor. Warren is rumored to be a top contender for a cabinet post if Whitmer wins in 2018.

As a lawyer, Bieda has plenty of options and has had conversations about running for attorney general next year. He’s long been interested in Congress if U.S. Rep. Sandy Levin (D-Royal Oak) ever steps down in the MI-9, although his son, former Gov. Granholm appointee Andy Levin, would probably have the inside track. But Bieda may best be suited to lead the fight against Warren Mayor Jim Fouts, whose alleged disparaging remarks about disabled people has sparked a firestorm in Michigan’s third-largest city.

There’s still plenty of time for winners of the 2016 IMP Rankings to plot their next moves after term limits kick in. And chances are, we’ll be hearing many of their names for years to come.

Susan J. Demas is Publisher and Editor of Inside Michigan Politics, a nationally acclaimed, biweekly political newsletter. Her political columns can be found at Follow her on Twitter here.