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Political Insider: Michigan GOP disavows pro-Schuette email

Jonathan Oosting, Beth LeBlanc and Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News
Michigan Republican gubernatorial candidates Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, left, and Attorney General Bill Schuette participate in the GOP's first debate, Wednesday, May 9, 2018 in Grand Raids, Mich. Schuette emphasized his endorsement from President Donald Trump and his plans to cut taxes and auto insurance rates during a Wednesday night debate hosted by WOOD-TV. Calley touts Michigan's economic gains during his time as Lt. Gov. (Michael Buck/Wood-TV8 via AP, POOL)

Michigan Republican Chairman Ron Weiser on Saturday disavowed an Ottawa County GOP email suggesting the state party is actively working to support Attorney General Bill Schuette in the gubernatorial primary.

“This email was sent without MRP’s knowledge, sign off or consent,” Weiser told Republicans in a follow-up email. “We have not and will not be involved in choosing a candidate.”

The Michigan Republican Party does not endorse in open and contested primaries like the gubernatorial race featuring Schuette, Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, state Sen. Pat Colbeck and Saginaw Obstetrician Jim Hines.

But the Ottawa County email invited activists to join the Michigan GOP for a “day of action for Schuette for governor” on June 23. “Together, there will be a joint state-wide effort for the campaign,” it said, going on to describe local “Schuette Saturday” events in Zeeland.

GOP spokesman Sarah Anderson said Colbeck's campaign reached out to the state party asking about the Ottawa County email on Saturday. Weiser’s explanatory email went out that same day to state committee members, county chairs and district chairs, she said.

County parties have their own bylaws that govern local endorsement rules, Anderson said. The Michigan GOP has endorsed congressional incumbents but is neutral in the governor’s race, she said.

“We had no role in sending the email that implied otherwise, and sincerely apologize for any confusion it caused,” Weiser wrote. 

Schuette ad targets Calley's time at Harvard

A new television ad from Attorney General Bill Schuette’s campaign targeted Lt. Gov. Brian Calley for wasting taxpayers’ time while pursuing his master's of business administration degree at Harvard University.

The ad said Calley, who serves as president over the Senate, collected his roughly $123,900 salary while missing one-third of Senate session days in 2013 and 2014. The ad lumps Calley in with Democratic Harvard graduates such as former Gov. Jennifer Granholm and former President Barack Obama.

“Calley went to Harvard on your dime and your time,” the ad says.

Calley dismissed the allegation on Twitter and renewed criticism that Schuette used government staff to witness sales of inherited property in the Virgin Islands.

"Could you imagine being in government for the past 34 years (as Mr Schuette has) and this being the most important message you had to share?" the lieutenant governor wrote Tuesday via Twitter.

Schuette's attack is the latest exchange between the two Republican candidates.  

As recently as Monday, Calley came out with his own ad featuring two victims of former Michigan State University sports doctor Larry Nassar. In the 30-second commercial released less than a week after Calley signed sexual assault statute of limitation extensions into law, Kaylee Lorincz and Rachael Denhollander praised Calley who “listened,” “while some politicians grandstanded.”

Schuette was not mentioned in the commercial, though it was his office that prosecuted Nassar on sexual assault charges.

Snyder nudges Trump on Soo Locks

Michigan is committing $50 million to upgrade the aging Soo Locks and is hoping to secure additional funding for what could be a $900 million project, Gov. Rick Snyder and other state leaders said last week in a letter to President Donald Trump.

The president unexpectedly vowed to “fix” the Soo Locks during an April campaign event in Macomb County, and state leaders are hoping he makes good on his promise to try an expedite plans to build a new lock that mirrors the 1,200-foot-long Poe.

Snyder and legislative leaders pledged $50 million in late May. In a June 15 letter to Trump, they said Michigan is in discussions with other states in the region about contributing to “this critical project upon with our national economy depends.”

But ultimately, the federal government will need to kick in hundreds of millions of dollars if the project is approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

 “This will remain a top a top priority for us and we hope to work with you and our federal partners in Congress to secure funding and begin construction as soon as possible,” said the letter from Snyder, Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof and House Speaker Tom Leonard.

Replacement advocates contend a Poe Lock failure could have catastrophic impacts on the economy in Michigan and nationwide. Other states rely on steel produced from iron ore that passes through the locks, which are located on the St. Mary’s River between Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and the Canadian province of Ontario.

Trump names Detroit U.S. attorney choice

Matthew J. Schneider, who has served as interim U.S. attorney in Detroit since January, was formally nominated for the post Wednesday by President Donald Trump. 

Schneider has previously served as the top deputy to Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, overseeing the AG office’s active caseload and a staff of 500. 

He previously was lead counsel representing Gov. Rick Snyder and the state of Michigan in the Detroit federal bankruptcy litigation.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions had appointed Schneider as interim U.S. attorney in January and the bench of the U.S. District Court for Eastern Michigan in Detroit reappointed him last month.  

He’s expected to hold post until the U.S. Senate votes on his nomination. 

Contributors: Jonathan Oosting, Beth LeBlanc and Melissa Nann Burke