Political insider: Will Trump fly to GOP Mackinac conference?

Detroit News staff

Billionaire real estate tycoon Donald Trump has been using his personal Boeing 757 airplane to travel across the country in his month-old campaign for the 2016 Republican nomination for president.

From media accounts, Trump rides the $100 million plane everywhere as he bounces between New Hampshire, Iowa and other states such as Arizona, where he delivered a fiery speech to 4,200 flag-waving supporters and accused Mexico of sending criminals into the United States.

In typical Trump style, the reality TV star's name is emblazoned in capitalized letters on the side of the twin-jet airliner.

But 757 airplanes can't land everywhere, which got the Insider wondering: How will Trump get to Mackinac Island in September for the Michigan Republican Party's leadership conference at the Grand Hotel (if he comes)?

Republican presidential contenders Jeb Bush,Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina and Scott Walker have already confirmed they will speak at the conference — and several more candidates are expected to attend.

A 757 plane can't land on the Mackinac Island Airport's 3,500-foot runway. But Trump is in luck.

His large plane can land at the nearby Pellston Regional Airport with prior approval, said Randy Bricker Jr., vice president of operations at the Emmet County airport.

Deep-pocketed Mackinac Island visitors often fly small charter jets from Pellston and Traverse City.

Bricker said Monday the airport has not received any requests for landing Trump's plane or any other 757s during the Sept. 18-20 Republican gathering on Mackinac Island.

Like the other 15 GOP presidential candidates, Trump has been invited to speak at the conference but his campaign has not yet made a commitment, said Sarah Anderson, spokeswoman for the Michigan Republican Party.

Mitchell to try again

Mitchell

Earlier this week, the launch of retired businessman PaulMitchell's bid for the 10th Congressional District Republican nomination centered around his recent successful crusade to defeat the Proposal 1 sales tax increase in May.

Mitchell, a former owner of the Ross Medical Education Center, made a name for himself in Republican politics last year when he spent millions of his personal fortune in a failed attempt to win the 4th Congressional District GOP primary.

Mitchell recently moved from Saginaw County to Lapeer County to be closer to family, which put him in a congressional district that happens to have an open seat next year with the planned retirement of U.S. Rep. Candice Miller, R-Harrison Township. So he decided take another stab at getting a seat in Congress.

His only elected office was a brief five-month stint on the St. Clair City Council in 2008. Mitchell resigned in May 2008 in part because he was getting married and moved to Saginaw County with his new wife and her children.

In his resignation letter to the city's mayor, Mitchell decried that his fellow council members were not willing to discuss "real budget cuts" instead of a proposed property tax increase to fund road maintenance and repairs, to which he had been open.

"A decision must be made about as to whether we keep pouring money (potentially $50,000 ... this year) into the current pool, build a new pool or get out of the pool business entirely," Mitchell wrote.

Mitchell said Wednesday his struggle with St. Clair council members on getting them to slash spending in lieu of a property tax increase for road funding has parallels to the debate in Lansing over whether to raise taxes or slash other areas of the state budget to fund road repairs.

"They were unwilling to make any structural cuts to the city budget," Mitchell said his former hometown. "It's a familiar scene after Prop 1."

Walberg's fundraising lead

Walberg

U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg is considered vulnerable again to a Democratic challenge in the 2016 election, but he is still raising plenty of cash for his 7th Congressional District re-election bid.

The fourth-term Republican from Tipton raised $451,000 in the second quarter ended June 30 and had $792,000 cash on hand. He is listed as one of 21 House Republican incumbents who is getting a fundraising boost from the National Republican Congressional Committee's Patriot Program.

By contrast, state Rep. Gretchen Driskell, an announced Democratic candidate from Saline, reported what her campaign called "strong second quarter fundraising" of $206,180. But Walberg still has two-and-a-half times more money on hand than Driskell's $294,868.

Driskell

"The grassroots momentum we've generated in the early stages of our race shows that our neighbors in the 7th District are ready for a representative who truly represents them, and that momentum will give us the resources to win," Driskell said in a Wednesday statement.

But she seems to be falling a little behind Walberg in money compared with 2014 losing Democratic challenger Pam Byrnes, who raised $1.38 million to Walberg's $1.83 million.

Tougher on drones

Jones

The Michigan State Capitol Commission decided Monday to ban flights by drones or unpiloted aircraft over the Michigan Capitol "except under special circumstances."

The Associated Press reported that Commission Chairman Gary Randall said state police told him they could enforce the prohibition through trespassing laws.

Enter serial bill scripter Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, who Wednesday said he would draft legislation to ban the practice — something he said commission members wanted to "toughen" their policy.

While Jones called the buzzing of drones around the Capitol "potentially dangerous," he could envision practical exceptions.

"If the Capitol Commission wants to give out permits to trained drone photographers for a wedding, that would be appropriate," said Jones, who was disgusted last year when a "Snaketivity Scene" was put on the Capitol lawn for three days during the Christmas season.

Or how about letting drone photographers snap pictures of a future Satanic Temple holiday display or a Nativity scene?

Contributors: Chad Livengood and Richard Burr