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Insider: Bentivolio becomes a reindeer Santa

Detroit News staff

U.S. Rep. Kerry Bentivolio lost his bid for re-election, but he hasn’t lost his touch for occasionally creating buzz.

The Milford Republican caused a brief stir last week after posting a photo on his Facebook page showing him giving two antlers from his reindeer to retiring Republican U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, a tea party favorite. The reindeer rancher said the antlers fall off every year around December and January.

Bachmann, who briefly mounted a presidential bid in 2011, looked thrilled to receive the antlers.

But her staffers were not available for comment about how Bachmann may use the antlers, since they were busy moving from the office as part of the congressional transition.

Levin: Obama good, but ...

Retiring U.S. Sen. Carl Levin is turning some heads in Michigan by declaring President Barack Obama will be remembered as a “good president but not a great one.”

The Detroit Democrat made the comment in a wide-ranging interview with “Off the Record” host Tim Skubick that is posted on the website of WKAR and will be telecast on PBS stations throughout the state this weekend.

The remark may be a surprise to Democrats since Obama passed the Affordable Care Act — considered a landmark move by supporters — but Republicans will likely consider Levin’s comment overly generous given Obama’s low public approval rating.

Atlantic City may get EM

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s administration is mulling whether to take a page out of Gov. Rick Snyder’s governing handbook and appoint an emergency manager to fix the crumbling finances of Atlantic City.

An adviser to Christie argues an emergency manager modeled after Michigan’s controversial law is just what the seaside gambling mecca needs after four casinos shut down this year and property values have plummeted since 2010, according to published reports.

Detroit attorney John Philo of the Sugar Law Center, which is challenging the constitutionality of Michigan’s law, was quoted in the Philadelphia Inquirer advocating against Atlantic City being pushed into emergency management.

“Essentially what it does is appoint one person who becomes the entire government of the city,” Philo told the Inquirer.

“Like a czar. What is so offensive about it is it really looks at the democratic nature of your government as the problem.”

The newspaper examined the record of three emergency managers that changed the face of municipal government in Pontiac.

Pontiac’s last emergency manager, Lou Schimmel, returned the city to partial local control last year after ending a major restructuring that included selling the Silverdome for $583,000, outsourcing police services to the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office and firefighting to Waterford Township.

Former Pontiac Mayor Leon Jukowski lamented that working with Schimmel cost him re-election.

“The second emergency manager actually eliminated my pay for a year,” Jukowski told the Inquirer. “I kept showing up just to (annoy him).”

GOP battles in Oakland Co.

Theresa Mungioli narrowly beat tea party activist Matt Maddock for chairmanship of the Oakland County Republican Party on Monday night. She won on a 47-43 executive committee vote, aided by an unusually large turnout of its 96 members.

It was a significant win for what’s described as the local GOP “establishment,” which battled with a coalition of tea partiers, libertarians and conservatives for available delegate slots when the county convention was held last week.

Maddock, who lost an Aug. 5 primary election bid against Sen. Mike Kowall, is the leader of the insurgents. Mungioli, a former congressional chairman and head of the state party’s policy committee, now on Jan. 1 will succeed Jim Thienel, who didn’t run for a third two-year term as county chairman.

The new vice chairman is Greg Didilion, who ran unsuccessfully Nov. 4 against Rep. Jim Townsend, D-Royal Oak, and the new party secretary is Pam Williams, the current vice chairwoman, Mungioli said. David Staudt continues as treasurer.

Former Oakland GOP Executive Director Dennis Pittman said the tea party-libertarian-conservative voting bloc took 90 percent of the county party’s available delegate positions last Thursday, but Mungioli doesn’t agree with that assessment. While a contingent headed by Maddock “orchestrated” a takeover effort, she said, “a mixture of people was elected last week.”

Pittman, now backing Maddock, said Mungioli benefited from votes by local and state elected officials led by County Executive L.Brooks Patterson and included Sheriff Mike Bouchard, Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, and U.S. Congressmen-elect Mike Bishop and David Trott.

The executive committee includes 48 elected officials, many of whom don’t regularly attend county meetings.

“The way she survived is that 90 delegates showed up,” Pittman said. “Typically that number is in the 70s. If somebody asked me who called in all of those members, I’d bet on Brooks.” Mungioli also disagreed with that: “I called them.”

And concerning the intraparty rivalry, she said all sides support the GOP goals of small government, low taxes and more personal responsibility. “We just have a difference of opinion on how to support that mission,” Mungioli said.

Contributors: Gary Heinlein, Chad Livengood and Richard Burr