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Reader quiz: Name Michigan's two members of the United States Senate. Hint: Carl Levin retired last year.

If you couldn't think of Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters, you're not alone.

A statewide poll conducted April 13-17 by Marketing Resource Group Inc. in Lansing found 61 percent of 600 likely voters can't name both Stabenow and Peters.

About 36 percent of voters surveyed could name Stabenow, the Lansing Democrat who has been in the U.S. Senate since 2001 after 22 years in the state Legislature and U.S. House.

Peters received 1.7 million votes in November, but just 15 percent of voters surveyed could name the Bloomfield Hills Democrat. The poll had a margin of error of 4 percentage points.

But 69 percent of likely voters can name Vice President Joe Biden. Still, 2 percent offered a name other than Joe Biden, according to MRG.

"According to our survey, almost a third of all likely voters – those who decide our elections – would have a difficult time passing an impromptu citizenship test," MRG President Tom Shields said in a statement.

Funding Flip the Script

Gov. Rick Snyder chose the Goodwill Industries center on Grand River in Detroit for his special message on criminal justice reforms this week because it operates a jobs program for criminal offenders who have served their time.

Goodwill Industries is threatened with the possible loss of the $2.5 million it's receiving this year from the state for its Flip the Script program, which has parolees learn job skills and discipline at the plant by assembling and packaging auto parts.

Snyder's speech leaned heavily toward less-costly, more-effective alternatives to prison time, as well as re-entry programs.

But even as the governor was speaking, lawmakers were pondering whether to continue subsidizing it. The Snyder administration's budget recommendation calls for elimination of the funding.

The House-passed version of the 2016 budget also would cut the $2.5 million. The Senate, where Democratic Sen. Vincent Gregory of Lathrup Village has championed the program, would continue the funding in its proposed state budget. It's also backed by Sen. John Proos, R-St. Joseph, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Corrections.

"Maybe the governor has rethought it now," Gregory said as lawmakers worked to iron out their budget differences Wednesday. "I think it really needs more time to show its worth. It can end up saving more money than it costs by not sending people back to prison again."

New job for ex-legislator

Five months after being forced out of the Legislature by term limits, former state Rep. Pete Lund has landed a new job.

The conservative anti-tax group Americans for Prosperity has hired Lund to be its new state director in Michigan, replacing Scott Hagerstrom.

Lund, a Shelby Township Republican, shared the title of Inside Michigan Politics' Most Conservative legislator last year with Rep. Ray Franz of Onekama and former Rep. Tom McMillin of Rochester Hills. Lund, Franz and McMillin each had a 7.14 percent liberal voting record, according to IMP's annual rankings.

Americans for Prosperity is part of the political network of billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch. The group has become active in state politics in recent years, deploying "education" campaigns against lawmakers who voted for Medicaid expansion, raising taxes for road funding and the state bailout of Detroit's pension funds to help the city get out of bankruptcy.

AFP also waged a costly, yet losing battle against Democrat Gary Peters in his successful campaign last year to succeed Sen. Carl Levin in the U.S. Senate. AFP spent $5.2 million on TV ads attacking Peters, according to the Michigan Campaign Finance Network.

Carson urges a debate for all

Presidential hopeful and Detroit native Ben Carson is urging the Republican National Committee to permit all qualified candidates to participate in upcoming debates and not to exclude the less "popular" in the growing field.

Carson's campaign last week released a letter that Carson sent to RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, saying that "limiting participation of qualified candidates on this reasoning, I believe, does our party a tremendous disservice."

"I am particularly concerned with widespread speculation that my respected and well-qualified colleague, Ms. Carly Fiorina, may fall victim to those who want to limit debate participation to the more 'popular' candidates, and I am serving notice herein, that I could not support such a decision," Carson wrote.

The letter has the benefit of making the famed neurosurgeon look magnanimous and inclusive by insisting on the presence of the only female candidate in the field. It also the side benefit, if the RNC observes it, of protecting Carson's participation.

The first GOP presidential debate is set for Aug. 6 in Cleveland.

Contributors: Chad Livengood, Gary Heinlein, Melissa Nann Burke

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