August 21, 2014 at 1:00 am

Political Insider: Flanagan stung by parallel to Wallace

Flanagan )

As the state’s superintendent of schools, Mike Flanagan is no stranger to criticism.

But when a pro-charter schools group likened his threat to block creation of new schools to the late Alabama segregationist Gov. George Wallace, “it hurt a bit,” Flanagan said.

“On the other hand, I have thinner skin than I should and it’s been nine years, I ought to thicken it up,” Flanagan said Tuesday on the radio program “Michigan’s Big Show.” “It’s a little painful ... but it is what it is, and I’ve been called a lot worse.”

The Great Lakes Education Project, the DeVos family’s pro-charter schools advocacy group, posted a message on Twitter last Thursday comparing Flanagan’s efforts to rein in charter school authorizers not properly overseeing their schools to Wallace’s infamous blocking of black students from enrolling at the University of Alabama in 1963.

“Have we come full circle on blocking access to education options?” GLEP wrote in the message above photos of Wallace and Flanagan.

The next day, GLEP removed the tweet and offered an apology to “anyone offended by our post comparing (Flanagan) with George Wallace. It was inappropriate and has been removed.”

The group did not apologize directly to Flanagan.

“We were trying to make the point, and perhaps inelegant in doing so ... that Gov. Wallace was barring students of color from educational opportunities,” GLEP executive director Gary Naeyaert said Monday. “This attack on charter schools, the result of that will be less opportunity for poor minority students.”

Naeyaert added: “Our intention is not to call Superintendent Flanagan racist. We were trying to compare historically what was happening.”

Land trailer draws crowd of Dems

Michigan Democrats are getting to know their way around the Grand Rapids suburb of Grandville this summer.

So far, their only destination is the site of Republican Terri Lynn Land’s childhood trailer home — a weed-choked lot Land’s family business has yet to redevelop after evicting 170 residents a decade ago.

In June, Land’s Democratic opponent, U.S. Rep. Gary Peters, visited the site of the former LaGrande Mobile Home Park to illustrate the need for maintaining taxpayer subsidies for economic development in low-income communities and draw attention to the Land family’s lack of redevelopment.

Last week, state Democratic Party Chairman Lon Johnson staged another press conference at the deserted site to question whether Land had paid taxes on a car and phone she gets through Land & Co., the firm her husband, Daniel Hibma, is partner in with Land’s father and brother-in-law.

“Here is all you need to know about Terri Lynn Land’s business decisions: 170 families were evicted from this trailer park while Land gets special perks from her family's business,” Johnson said in a statement.

Land has denied ever being compensated for working in the family business, despite enjoying the perks for a free phone and car.

John Truscott, a Republican consultant serving as Land & Co.’s spokesman, said this week Hibma personally paid the taxes on his wife’s company-provided car and reimbursed the firm for her cell phone. Truscott said the taxes for the car would be reflected on Hibma’s taxes, not Land’s federal tax return, since the couple files separately — another issue lingering in the Senate campaign.

Truscott said the Democrats’ misinformation about Land’s car and phone amounts to another of “Lon’s lies.”

Steele seeks constitutional classes at UM

Dr. Rob Steele, an Ann Arbor cardiologist, is seeking the Republican nomination for a seat on the University of Michigan Board of Regents at the state GOP convention Saturday on a platform of constitutionalism and party unity.

Steele lost a bid for Congress against Democratic U.S. Rep. John Dingell in 2010 and a 2012 race for UM regent. Now he is vying with former Michigan Republican Party chairman Ron Weiser, financial adviser Carl Meyers and ex-UM regent Dan Horning to get a shot at two UM board seats in the November election. Steele and Horning lost the 2012 race for two seats on the UM board to Democrats Mark Bernstein and Shauna Diggs.

Horning and Steele have teamed up again in what could be a proxy fight of the establishment versus non-establishment wings of the GOP at Saturday’s convention. The marquee fight is the race for lieutenant governor between incumbent Brian Calley and tea party challenger Wes Nakagiri.

At the Oakland County Republican Party’s convention last week, Steele tossed out some red meat for conservatives during his speech, suggesting he would work to require students who pay big bucks for an education in Ann Arbor to take classes on the U.S. Constitution.

“Everyone should learn that, including our international students,” Steele said. “When they’re sent over from the Chinese Red Army, when they go back, they should say, ‘Hey, you wouldn’t believe what we learned over there.’”

Steele also called for unity after the state convention. “Us at the bottom of the ballot depend heavily on who wins at the top. We need the unity,” Steele said. “We know there’s no question that any moderate Republican is far better than the most conservative Democrat.”

Duggan backed Hobbs' bid for Congress

The Insider failed last week to note that Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan registered one other endorsement loss in the Aug. 5 primaries.

The former Wayne County deputy executive backed state Rep. Rudy Hobbs, D-Southfield, in the 14th Congressional District primary that included victor Brenda Lawrence, Southfield’s mayor, and former Congressman Hansen Clarke of Detroit. Duggan was among a multitude of Democratic heavyweights who backed the unsuccessful candidate, including U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Detroit; U.S. Rep. Sander Levin, D-Royal Oak; former Govs. James Blanchard and Jennifer Granholm; and most unions.

So Duggan had six winners in nine races, mostly in Detroit state House districts.

Contributors: Chad Livengood, Richard Burr

Wallace
Truscott (Todd McInturf / The Detroit News)
Steele (Ricardo Thomas / The Detroit News)
The Michigan Democratic Party organized a rally Wednesday to call ... (Dale G. Young / The Detroit News)