Abdul El-Sayed Said He Expected Mike Duggan's Endorsement for Governor

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Michigan politicos are once again atwitter about Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and other Democrats allegedly trying to recruit an alternative to Gretchen Whitmer for governor. That's from a Bridge story this week following up on a Detroit News column in November. And I wrote a column for Dome Magazine back in October, going through the months-long history of the effort and analyzing what's behind it:

As things currently stand, the Democratic gubernatorial frontrunner is former Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer (D-East Lansing), who served for more than 14 years in Lansing. Her top competition is Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, the former Detroit Health Department head who’s in the Sanders mold and would be the nation’s first Muslim governor. There’s also businessman Shri Thanedar, who immigrated from India, and former executive Bill Cobbs, who’s African-American.

Most Democratic leaders and voters are fine with the field, which, after all, is pretty representative of the party.

But for the forces utterly convinced that a woman, Muslim, immigrant or African-American absolutely cannot win the top job in Michigan next year, the mission is clear: Find the Great White Male Hope.

But i's worth revisiting some history that's been forgotten.

Another Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Abdul El-Sayed, said during the April 28, 2017 edition of "Off the Record" that he expected to receive Duggan's announcement. That made some sense, as Duggan hired El-Sayed to run Detroit's health department, even though Duggan is the prototype of a moderate Dem and El-Sayed proudly hails from the Bernie Sanders wing. But apparently El-Sayed has been passed over if Duggan is looking to recruit another gubernatorial hopeful.

The exchange starts at 25:58.

The #MeToo Backlash Is in Full Swing

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Hi, ladies*, I'm here to tell you that it's OK to step away from the keyboard for a few days. It's cool not to check Twitter and especially Facebook, where you're supposed to be linked with your actual friends.

Because it is a cesspool right now over the sexual harassment and abuse scandals in Washington, especially with two Democrats (U.S. Rep. John Conyers and especially U.S. Sen. Al Franken) resigning. You don't have to scroll far to find people you like and respect make slut-shaming comments, urge women just to toughen up and argue that keeping Dem votes supersedes the needs of women who were abused.

It's only been a few weeks since the #MeToo movement went viral, and the backlash is already in full swing.

There are some interesting pieces written by excellent writers on the political dynamics of these scandals, including Dahlia Lithwick and Charles Pierce. Everything is political and it's fair to examine the impact of resignations on Democrats, Republicans and the Trump agenda. Have at it. But sooner or later on social media, these debates devolve into sexist vitriol for victims and/or admission that the right of women not be molested just isn't that important ... if the perpetrator is from the same party as you.

I can't believe I have to say this, but sexual harassment and assault aren't just important problems if someone from the other side is doing it. If you were incensed last year when women came forward about Donald Trump grabbing them, but you're skeptical or disbelieving of women who say the same of Franken, you don't care about a serious women's issue. And maybe you should engage in some personal self-reflection about your attitudes about women and your own behavior.

I'm not one to back away from political fights or debates. I believe I'm already on my fifth one today and it's 10 a.m. on a Saturday. Dealing with mansplainers and misogynists is literally part of my job. But it gets tiresome. And when it comes to sexual abuse, something that I believe the majority of women (including me) have experienced (often multiple times), it can be painful.

So if you want to be Diana and rhetorically cut down every sexist argument with your sword, go for it. I respect the hell out of that. But if you want to turn your phone off and enjoy a few days of peace, do it. You have every right.

*This post can, of course, be read and enjoyed/hated by everyone, but I'm going to speak directly to women here, thanks.

With a Key U.P. Victory, 2018 Looks Brighter for Michigan Democrats

If you're looking for a window into 2018 in Michigan, the most important race took place last night in the western Upper Peninsula.

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On first blush, it looks like a pretty routine result in the special election for the 109th state House District: Democrat Sara Cambensy held a seat that's been blue for more than a half-century. The district has a solid 56.9 percent Democratic base, per Inside Michigan Politics, and became vacant after Rep. John Kivela (D-Marquette) tragically killed himself this spring.

But Republicans made a real run at this 109th. Why? They knew that this election was bigger than a single state legislative seat.

Democrats were palpably nervous about the race after Cambensy narrowly won her August primary. Divisions in the party reared their head, as leaders fretted her pro-choice and liberal politics wouldn't play in a district Donald Trump won by 5 points in 2016. Cambensy's history of primarying Kivela last year hadn't been forgotten. And the memory of Trump defying all expectations and winning Michigan in 2016 certainly put a fire under the Dems.

So if Republicans had managed to flip the 109th, I noted that they would have changed the narrative that 2018 would be a good Democratic year in Michigan. Democrats' efforts to take back the House next year (now split 63-47 in the GOP's favor) would have instantly been seen as lost cause and fundraising would have mostly dried up.

The GOP has controlled all three branches of government here since 2010. Trump became the first Republican to win Michigan since 1988. A Republican victory this year in the U.P. — an area that's been shifting conservative since 2010 and went big for Trump in '16 — would have confirmed that Michigan really is an emerging red state. And so even if 2018 continued to look bright for Democrats nationally, we'd have had good reason to believe that Michigan would be immune from the trend.

But those fears were laid to rest, as Cambensy didn't just win. She won in a 14-point rout. Any divisions in the Democratic Party didn't hurt the outcome — just as we saw in the marquee gubernatorial races last night in New Jersey and Virginia.

Republicans really did give this Michigan state House race their all and their nominee, Marquette school board President Rich Rossway, was up on TV. He didn't run a bombastic, base-inspired Trump campaign, either. In fact, he played down his party affiliation (much as Democrats in red areas have done for years) and even walked a picket line, something relatively unheard of for Michigan Republicans since they rammed through Right to Work in 2012.

So now House Democrats are back in the same place they were on Nov. 9, 2016, with two victories Tuesday (the other was the 1st in the Detroit area). Republicans once again have a 63-47 majority, meaning Democrats have to flip nine seats next year to take control.

That's the exact situation the Dems faced in 2016 when they failed to make any net gains. But Democrats' smashing successes in Virginia legislative races last night — a state that, like Michigan, boasts heavily GOP-gerrymandered districts — has definitely made leaders more optimistic. And with clear evidence of an energized base, Democrats are also feeling better about their chances at the top of the ticket with next year's gubernatorial race.

Winning the governor's mansion or the state House in 2018 would give Democrats a seat at the table during Michigan's critical 2021 redistricting — something that hasn't happened for three decades.

And of course, a big Michigan Dem victory would be a stunning reversal for a newly minted Trump state, portending serious problems for the president in 2020.

Could Michigan's restrictive student voter law hurt Bernie Sanders?

The kids may be all right -- but they may not be able to save Bernie Sanders in Michigan.

The Vermont U.S. senator made his first campaign visit here on Monday, dazzling college students at Eastern Michigan University and adding another stop in metro Detroit.

Michigan's March 8 primary could prove pivotal in the Democratic nominating contest, as it's just after Super Tuesday. The Flint water crisis has become a national firestorm, prompting Democrats to schedule a debate in the city on March 6. Little wonder why all three Clintons -- Hillary, Chelsea and Bill -- logged time in the state last week. 

Sanders' lock on younger voters helped him win a double-digit victory in New Hampshire, and almost put him over the top in Iowa. It's little wonder why he chose EMU as the site of his first Michigan event.

But Sanders could have a tougher time earning the youth vote in Michigan. That's because first-time voters  are barred from casting an absentee ballot if they didn't register to vote at a clerk's office or the Secretary of State –– which could impact college students.

Then there's the law that your voter registration address must be at the same address as your drivers license. But many college students keep their home address on their license. So if your license has your Detroit address, but you attend Michigan State University, you're still required by law to vote in Detroit. Since the primary is on a Tuesday, it's safe to say most students won't be home to vote.*

This law has been around for roughly 15 years, courtesy of then-state Sen. Mike Rogers (R-Brighton). Democrats have long groused that Rogers parlayed the law into a razor-thin victory for Congress in 2000, as many MSU students in the district discovered they couldn't vote on campus.

Now this same law might hurt Sanders on March 8, although the election may not be close enough to make a difference. Clinton held a commanding 32-point lead in Inside Michigan Politics/Target Insight's polling taken Feb. 2-4. And the former Secretary of State led every age group, including voters 18-34.

Still, the Democratic primary has been full on unexpected twists. Voter restrictions in Michigan could be another one. 

*This section has been updated at 4:12 p.m. with additional information.

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

Oh, noes! My newspaper's editorial page is biased!

A good 50 percent of my hate mail comes from folks accusing me of bias -- liberal, conservative, anti-warlock, you name it. Although the right-wing whack-jobs lately have been the most persistent (and potty-mouthed).

For some unknown reason, I feel the need to explain to folks that I write an opinion column, which, by its very definition, is biased. That, dear readers, is the point and what makes it fun. And it's notable to me that some of my most loyal readers, who have to comment on every post, are those who disagree with me the loudest. Columns and blogs should create a dialogue. My preference is that it's a respectful one, but some people have other ideas.

So when I see post like this accusing the Detroit Free Press editorial board of ... drum roll ... bias, I tend to snort. Feel free to disagree with its analysis. But yes, indeedy, the Freep has the more liberal editorial page of the two Motown papers, although it's pretty centrist. And yet this Republican is shocked, shocked that the editorial page would criticize Mike Cox for cozying up to the NRA. Next thing you're going to tell me is that the Detroit News will endorse a Republican for governor next year.

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