September 4, 2014 at 1:00 am

Political insider

To debate or not? State GOP slow to share stage with Democrats

Snyder (Daniel Mears / The Detroit News)

WOOD-TV8 in Grand Rapids has scrapped plans for debates it hoped to hold next week between Michigan’s gubernatorial and U.S. Senate candidates.

“The campaigns for Gov. Rick Snyder and U.S. Senate candidate Terri Lynn Land, both Republicans, never agreed to debate,” the station said earlier this week.

The announcement from News Director Rebecca Sapakie said the proposed debate plans were accepted by both Democrats, gubernatorial candidate Mark Schauer of Battle Creek and U.S. Rep. Gary Peters of Bloomfield Township, who’s running for the U.S. Senate.

There’s still time to schedule debates before voters go to the polls Nov. 4. Michigan State University also has offered to host one.

Land of Byron Center and Peters haven’t appeared on the same stage since the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Mackinac Policy Conference in May. Peters used the announcement of WOOD-TV8’s failed debate plan, in Land’s home territory of Grand Rapids, to issue a sharp challenge.

“To me it is a basic job requirement, a basic responsibility to the voters of Michigan, that if you are going to be a United States senator and want to run for the United States Senate, you should be willing to stand on a stage and defend the positions that you are taking,” Peters told The Detroit News. “Unfortunately, she (Land) has refused to have those discussions.”

Michigan Radio reported that Land, in a Tuesday appearance, said she is “always willing to talk to voters,” but was leaving debate talks up to those in her campaign in charge of such things.

Regarding governor debate plans, WOOD-TV8 political reporter Rick Albin said the last time he spoke with Snyder, the governor indicated he had accepted only an invitation to a joint appearance with Schauer “on the east side of the state” but “even that could not be worked out between his campaign and the Schauer camp.”

Snyder wanted to hold a joint appearance, not necessarily a debate, at the Detroit Economic Club, but the two sides could not agree on a time and date. When those talks collapsed, so did any discussion about a second joint appearance on Grand Rapids TV, Snyder campaign manager Kyle Robertson said.

Team Schauer outspends Snyder camp by $1.3M

Through Labor Day, supporters of Schauer’s bid to be Michigan’s next governor outspent campaigns supporting Snyder’s re-election effort by nearly $1.3 million.

Public records show Team Schauer poured $5.63 million into ads supporting the former congressman or attacking the governor, while Team Snyder has spent $4.36 million supporting the incumbent and criticizing his opponent, according to new spending data compiled by the Michigan Campaign Finance Network.

But Snyder and the Republican Governors Association argue they’re positioned to outspend Schauer and Democratic groups in the final 62-day stretch. On Tuesday, Snyder rolled out his first statewide TV ad since he was dressed in a scuba diving outfit in an early February Super Bowl ad.

The more than $2 million ad buy is part of a $7 million TV blitz the governor’s re-election team plans to wage every day until the Nov. 4 election, Robertson said Wednesday.

“Labor Day marks the turning point in the campaign that Snyder will be making a heavy, heavy ad buy communicating his message to voters,” Robertson told the Insider.

Snyder’s campaign has claimed Schauer’s TV strategy has weaknesses because Schauer is not airing any TV ads, although the Democratic Governors Association went back on the air Wednesday attacking the governor’s record on education spending.

DGA has made $6 million in TV ad reservations and Schauer’s campaign has said it will spend another $3 million before Election Day. The RGA has not said how much it will spend this fall, though the group had $4.32 million in a campaign bank account in late July. “We fully expect to have the resources we need to communicate our message and win this race,” Schauer spokesman Zack Pohl said.

Contributors: Chad Livengood, David Shepardson and Gary Heinlein

Schauer (Clarence Tabb Jr / The Detroit News)