Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette on Tuesday launched his gubernatorial campaign — and an inadvertent battle of “Star Wars” movie references that could make a tough nerd proud.
Speaking with reporters after his announcement, Schuette conceded 2018 won’t be easy for Republicans but argued he’s the party’s “strongest Jedi Knight.”
“I’m like Obi-Wan Kenobi. I’m our only hope,” he joked, co-opting a famous line from Princess Leia’s hologram message in the original 1977 film.
Democratic candidate Abdul El-Sayed, former director of the Detroit health department, turned the joke around Wednesday morning on Twitter, calling Schuette “Michigan’s version of Darth Vader,” the villian in the long-running film series.
El-Sayed later said he’d be up for a lightsaber duel.
“Any time, anywhere, on any issue,” he tweeted. “The force is w/ us...and the ideas, justice, equity, sustainability, and most importantly, the people.
The Democratic Governors Association got in on the geekery later Wednesday, suggesting Schuette’s campaign represents “a new disturbance in the force in Michigan.”
Schuette’s record “reads far more like a Sith Lord’s than a Jedi Knight,” the DGA said in a release. “A member of the Jedi Order he is not.”
Staff ‘on duty’ for Schuette
Schuette loves impromptu metaphors, but beyond the “Star Wars” reference, he was mostly on message Tuesday night in a well-choreographed campaign rollout at the Midland County Fairgrounds.
The gubernatorial hopeful will begin his official campaign with a relatively small, three-member staff. But after more than three decades in politics, Schuette had several campaign veterans and colleagues who were working his rollout event in a volunteer capacity.
His official team, which will surely grow in coming months, is headed by campaign “coordinator” Carter Bundy, who has worked with Schuette for several years. Bridget Bush is his new spokeswoman and Katie Hills, the daughter of longtime Schuette aide Rusty Hills, is working communications.
Trott: No return to law firm
Retiring GOP Rep. Dave Trott of Birmingham is still deciding on plans for after he leaves Congress, but he's ruled one thing out — running for office again.
“I think that’s unlikely,” he said Wednesday at outside the U.S. House chamber.
“It’s been an honor to serve, and it’s really a wonderful group of people who want to do the right thing — Republicans and Democrats. I can’t say anything bad about the place, that’s for sure.”
He said Congress just isn't the “right place in my life right now for me to be spending my energy, so I’m going to go back to Michigan.”
Trott said he wishes Republicans were further along in their agenda at this point in the year, but he said that wasn’t the main driver of his decision not to run for re-election.
“If you look at our Constitution, it inherently makes things difficult to get done, so this is not a new phenomenon. It's been going on for many years,” Trott said.
“There wasn’t really a frustration that led me to the decision. I’ve been married 29 years and worked hard in business. It’s time to take the next chapter.”
Trott said he has a few opportunities to pursue and plans to get more involved in the Trott Family Foundation, in addition to some commercial real estate projects.
He won't return to his family law firm, now known as Trott Law PC in Farmington Hills.
RNC names state director
The Republican National Committee said this week it named Lx Fangonilo as its Michigan state director.
Previously, Fangonilo was the state field director for the state Republican Party, focused on defending the GOP majority in the state House and overall success for nominees in last year’s elections. He has also worked for candidates and elected officials in Virginia and California, according to the RNC.
The state GOP has its own separate operation headed by Chairman Ron Weiser.
Blanchard cautious on Line 5
Former Michigan Gov. James Blanchard said Wednesday his longtime tenure on the board of Enbridge Inc. came to an end earlier this year as the company faces questions over the safety of its aging Line 5 pipelines beneath the Straits of Mackinac.
Blanchard, a Democrat, said it “would be a good thing” if there were a “practical alternative” to the pipeline, which activists want shut down immediately. Several candidates for governor, including former Senate minority leader Gretchen Whitmer, support decommissioning the line.
But Blanchard is advocating a careful approach, noting the important role Line 5 plays in energy delivery across the state. It supplies propane to heat a good portion of northern Michigan, he said, and sends crude oil to “refineries that help power our factories.”
“We need to make sure Line 5 is safe, and if it’s going to be replaced, it’s replaced with something that provides energy to Michigan the way we are accustomed to,” he said.
Reps to chair task forces
The House Democratic Caucus has named U.S. Reps. Debbie Dingell and Brenda Lawrence co-chairs of the task forces aimed at identifying opportunities and solutions for American workers.
Dingell will co-chair the New Economy Task Force, focusing on “rapidly advancing technology, artificial intelligence, advanced manufacturing, and ensuring workers are trained for the jobs of tomorrow,” the caucus says.
“Today, every industry — from autos and manufacturing to health care and renewable energy — is changing at a rapid pace,” the Dearborn Democrat said in a statement.
“It is critical that Congress focus on policies that will support the American worker. I look forward to working collaboratively with my colleagues, business, labor and academia to ensure we are making the right investments in America’s workforce today.”
Dingell, a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said the group will look at how lawmakers should craft policies that support advanced manufacturing, retain U.S.-based jobs, level the playing field on trade, and support businesses that train and hire new workers.
Lawrence will serve as co-chair for the Jobs with Dignity Task Force, which will develop ideas for policies to raise wages and increase profit-sharing, enhance workers’ rights and benefits and promote financial and retirement security.
“The workforce of this great nation deserves a safe working environment, fair wages, employment benefits and a sense of security for the future,” Lawrence said in a statement.
The leaders of each new task force plan to meet with business and labor leaders, experts and workers to develop policy goals, according to the caucus.
Contributors: Jonathan Oosting and Melissa Nann Burke