The Michigan attorney general’s race is close, while Secretary of State Ruth Johnson has a 6-percentage-point lead over her Democratic challenger, according to a new Detroit News-WDIV (Local 4) poll.
In the poll of 600 likely Michigan voters, Republican Attorney General Bill Schuette leads Michigan State University law professor Mark Totten 40-38 percent with about 21 percent undecided — within the Sept. 3-5 survey’s margin of error of plus-minus 4 percentage points.
“The reason that race is close is Republicans are just facing these natural Democratic headwinds in Michigan,” said pollster Richard Czuba, president of the Glengariff Group.
But Totten remains a political unknown compared with Schuette, a former state Court of Appeals judge, state senator, congressman and agriculture director in the Engler administration.
“We’re seeing a ton of polls showing Attorney General Schuette in the lead and that is because he is doing his job protecting the victims of human trafficking, working on unsolved rape cases and protecting pensions,” Schuette campaign manager John Sellek said in a statement. “The voters are far more concerned about real issues like these than political hijinks — and it shows.”
In the same poll, Gov. Rick Snyder is ahead of Democrat Mark Schauer by 1.8 percentage points, while U.S. Rep. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, has a more than 10-point lead over Republican former Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land.
More than 76 percent of respondents to the poll said they have never heard of Totten. About 60 percent of likely voters surveyed could identify Schuette by name, but his favorable-unfavorable numbers were split.
Totten’s chances of toppling the incumbent attorney general increase depending on the success of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mark Schauer and U.S. Senate candidate Gary Peters, Czuba said.
“This race is tied, because after 30 years in office, the voters know Bill Schuette, and they aren’t happy with him,” Totten campaign manager John Keig said in a statement.
Although Schuette holds a 12-to-1 campaign cash advantage over Totten, Democrats have focused on the outspoken conservative attorney general’s pursuit of legal challenges to President Barack Obama’s health care law. Schuette also has defended Michigan’s voter-approved constitutional amendments that forbid gay marriage in the state as well as racial preferences in Michigan’s public university admissions and public hiring.
Totten has chided Schuette’s high-profile defense of the amendment that only allows marriage between men and women, saying he would side with gay rights advocates and hire an outside counsel to appeal a Detroit federal judge’s ruling that the state’s amendment is unconstitutional under the federal Constitution.
Independent voters are split, with 28 percent supporting Schuette, 28 percent backing Totten and 38 percent undecided, according to the poll.
Keig said once voters “get to know Mark Totten, they’ll see a clear contrast between” with Schuette, “a politician pursuing extreme ideological crusades.”
Schuette’s campaign has nearly $2 million cash in hand, according to filings made in early August, compared with $146,300 left for Totten.
In the secretary of state’s race, Republican incumbent Johnson of Holly leads Detroit Democratic civil rights attorney Godfrey Dillard 40 percent to 33.5 percent. About 26 percent of those polled were undecided.
Johnson earlier this year called for requiring disclosure of now-secret donors for issue ad campaigns,a move that fellow Republican legislators then prevented by adding secrecy protections to a new law that doubled campaign finance limits.
Dillard, a late Democratic Party selection, has said voting rights are threatened in Michigan and wants to lobby for more campaign contribution transparency to fight “special interests in Lansing” who “are flooding Michigan’s political system with dark money.”