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Michigan Dems rethink fundraising dinner name

Detroit News staff

Michigan Democrats are starting to rethink whether they should continue holding an annual fundraiser in the name of two slave-owning presidents from the 19th century.

The Michigan Democratic Party’s Jefferson-Jackson Dinner is an annual gathering – typically held at Detroit’s Cobo Center – that attracts big name national party leaders. In recent years, Vice President Joe Biden, former President Bill Clinton and Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultzhave spoken at the dinner, which party insiders call “Jeff-Jack.”

The event is named after former presidents Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson, who are considered founders of the Democratic Party in the early 19th century.

They’re also historically controversial figures in that both men owned slaves and Jackson removed Native Americans from their land and pushed them westward.

Jackson’s presence on the $20 bill continues to rile up debate, especially in light of the U.S. Treasury’s decision to replace the nation’s first Treasury secretary, Alexander Hamilton, on the $10 bill with a still-unnamed woman leader.

Democrats in Connecticut, Georgia and Missouri have changed the names of their annual dinners. Missouri Democrats renamed their dinner after the Show-Me State’s favorite son, former President Harry Truman (who dropped two atom bombs on Japan at the end of World War II).

Brandon Dillon, new chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party, said there’s an internal party discussion about renaming the fundraiser dinner after different party figures.

“Perhaps having a name that’s more representative of the modern Democratic Party is worth talking about,” Dillon said.

Some names that have been bandied about in Democratic circles include former presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy or a Democratic politician from Michigan, such as the late U.S. Sen. Philip Hart or retired U.S. Sen. Carl Levin.

By contrast, Michigan GOP Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel told The Detroit News’ editorial board Wednesday that she remains proud to have county party officials hold fundraising dinners named after presidents Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan.

O’Malley to visit Ann Arbor

Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley plans to hold a fundraiser in Ann Arbor next month during the former Maryland governor’s first campaign visit to Michigan.

O’Malley will join supporters of his bid for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination Aug. 12 at the Arbor Brewing Company’s downtown Ann Arbor brewery, campaign spokeswoman Haley Morris said Wednesday.

The O’Malley campaign is seeking $250 donations from donors, $50 from young professionals and $30 from students to attend the “Happy Hour” with the former two-term governor, according to a fundraiser invitation.

Supporters who donate $500 can be hosts for the fundraiser and $1,000 donors can chair the event, according to the invitation, which was posted on O’Malley’s Facebook page.

O’Malley, a former Baltimore mayor, left office in January after eight years as governor of Maryland. He is running what most political analysts consider a long-shot campaign to upset former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as the Democratic Party presidential nominee in 2016.

The Detroit News reported last week that Clinton collected at least $567,000 in donations from Michigan donors at a July 21 fundraiser at a private home in Grosse Pointe.

The other Democratic presidential candidates are Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, former U.S. Sen. and Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee and former U.S. Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia. None of them made public appearances in Michigan this election cycle.

Kasich says yes to Mackinac

Ohio Gov. John Kasich plans to speak at the Michigan Republican Party’s leadership conference on Mackinac Island in September, making him the fifth GOP presidential hopeful to commit to attending the biennial gathering of party leaders and activists.

The state GOP announced Kasich’s commitment to attend the Sept. 18-20 conference on Wednesday.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina have committed to speaking at the confab, held every two years in the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island.

The party expects to get three more candidate commitments so that eight presidential hopefuls speak at the four scheduled meal events, Republican Party Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel said at a Wednesday Detroit News editorial board interview.

There is a possibility the conference could add a Sunday meal event to accommodate two more candidates, she said.

“We may add a Sunday, so that could take us to 10,” McDaniel said. “But I don’t foresee that happening right now.”

Kasich, who launched his campaign for president last week, has placed an early emphasis on stumping for support in Michigan, which has a presidential primary scheduled for March 8 next year.

On Saturday, Kasich made a three-city swing through Michigan.

McDaniel said the frequent Republican presidential candidate visits to Michigan are helping put the state on the radar for 2016. She said several candidates have indicated their election strategy includes targeting Michigan, but wouldn’t divulge who.

Even though a GOP presidential candidate hasn’t won Michigan since 1988, the state can’t be taken for granted, McDaniel said.

“If any candidate is writing Michigan off,” she said, “then I think that would be folly — including the Democrats.”

Detroiter among

‘most beautiful’

Detroit native Mone’ Ross was named this week among the 50 Most Beautiful People working in politics by the Washington tabloid The Hill.

A Democrat, the 23-year-old Ross works as an aide to U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland.

She expects to begin a master’s degree program this fall to help achieve her goal of making and donating dresses for black women in need, she told the newspaper.

“I want to help somebody else who may be experiencing that same self-doubt or are feeling less confident,” she said, explaining that, growing up in Detroit, “it was more difficult being African-American or being a darker skin tone.”

But she overcame it, she said, through her own growth and with the help of her parents, according to the article.

Contributors: Chad Livengood, Jim Lynch and Melissa Nann Burke