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As Gov. Snyder ducks Trump, Democrats link them

Chad Livengood, and Jonathan Oosting

Michigan Democrats and Republicans are both stressing the importance of supporting their presidential nominees as a way of bolstering their other statewide candidates in the Nov. 8 election — with the controversial exception of GOP Gov. Rick Snyder.

Both political parties met separately Saturday to nominate candidates for statewide positions at the bottom of the ballot. As they filled out their ticket in Grand Rapids, Republican officials rallied party faithful behind presidential candidate Donald Trump, who is set to return to Detroit on Saturday, continuing his recent effort to reach out to African-American voters.

“If we don’t elect him, we don’t elect anybody on this ticket,” said Bill Runco, a longtime Republican leader from Dearborn who lost a bid for the State Board of Education.

But Snyder was notably silent on the presidential race, making no mention of the New York businessman in his five-minute convention speech.

Snyder has steadfastly refused to offer support for Trump or even criticize Democrat Hillary Clinton, and his lack of enthusiasm this weekend frustrated some GOP delegates.

“I’m staying out of the presidential race,” he told reporters after his speech. “My focus is the state House races, the Supreme Court, staying focused on Michigan.

While Snyder has kept his distance from Trump, Michigan Democrats who gathered in Lansing for their own nominating convention attempted to link the two Republicans as they touted the prospect of a second Clinton White House.

U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint Township, accused both Trump and Snyder of embracing a “failed corporate philosophy” of governing, telling The Detroit News he thinks “both of them should be insulted” by the comparison.

“Elections have consequences. Nobody knows that better than the people of my hometown,” Kildee said. “The Flint water crisis was a man-made crisis, created by decisions made by Gov. Snyder and unelected emergency managers he appointed.”

U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, went even further in her scathing comparison of the billionaire real estate mogul running for president and Snyder, the millionaire venture capitalist and former CEO of Gateway Computers.

“We’ve seen this movie before,” Stabenow said. “Our Republican governor campaigned on the fact he was an outsider, somebody who had never been involved in government before. He’s now the first governor in the history of our state to poison an entire community of 100,000 people out of incompetence and negligence in Flint.”

Snyder focused on other races

Snyder, who has apologized for the Flint crisis largely attributed to failures by state departments under his control, declined to endorse in the Republican presidential primary while pledging to focus on the resolving the crisis.

But the governor does plan to play an active role in other races this fall, both on the campaign trail and as a fundraiser.

Snyder’s Relentless Positive Action committee has so far endorsed and contributed to 15 Republicans seeking re-election to the state House, which Democrats are trying to regain control of for the first time since a GOP wave in 2010.

The PAC also has given to U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg of Tipton, who is facing a challenge from Democratic state Rep. Gretchen Driskell of Saline.

But Snyder’s continued silence on the presidential race was not lost on the 3,000 Republican delegates, activists and guests who attended the party’s state convention at DeVos Place in downtown Grand Rapids.

“He didn’t say anything about (Trump),” said Anthony Berger, a delegate from Harrison Township. “I think all of the Republicans should be endorsing Trump, unless we want Hillary. I think the governor should be with the Republican Party.”

Pauline Montie, a delegate from Trenton, said she’s “disappointed” that Snyder isn’t vocally supporting Trump given that he’s seen as the de facto leader of the Republican Party in Michigan.

“He needs to get on board the Trump train whether he likes it or not,” Montie said.

Michigan Republican Party Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel said Saturday that she’s been actively trying to get Snyder to support Trump.

“Not everybody’s there. We’re going to keep working on him. I’m going to keep working on him,” McDaniel told reporters. “But, of course, we want everyone behind our nominee and we think Donald Trump’s best suited to be in the White House and we don’t want Hillary Clinton.”

Dems eye state House majority

Both parties on Saturday nominated their candidates for the Michigan Supreme Court, State Board of Education and the governing boards of the state’s three largest universities.

With Clinton leading Trump in most recent Michigan polls, Democrats are optimistic that a strong showing at the top of the ticket could help them win down-ballot races.

“We have an opportunity to win at every level of government this year, including the nine seats needed to take back the state House,” Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Brandon Dillon told some of the estimated 1,500 delegates gathered at the Lansing Center.

But with more than 70 days to go before the election, officials also stressed the danger of taking anything for granted.

Organized labor often plays an important role in helping Democrats turn out voters, and U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence urged union members not to sleep on the presidential race this fall.

“There are some people who are checking out of this race and saying I don’t like either candidate,” said Lawrence, D-Southfield, during a labor caucus. “The person that sits at home is the one I am so worried about.”

Michigan Democrats also adopted a resolution to formally oppose the Trans Pacific Partnership, a 12-country trade deal that Democratic President Barack Obama helped negotiate and is asking Congress to approve.

Trump has made criticism of the TPP and other international trade deals a key component of his campaign, working to woo blue-collar workers in Michigan and other states. Clinton also opposes the TPP but praised the potential of the then-unfinished deal when she served as secretary of state under Obama.

clivengood@detroitnews.com

Nominated candidates

The Michigan Republican and Democratic parties nominated candidates for statewide posts Saturday at their state conventions. Asterisks identify incumbents.

State Board of Education

*John Austin, Democrat; Ishmael Ahmed, Democrat; Tom McMillin, Republican; Nicolette Snyder, Republican

Michigan State Board of Trustees

*Diane Byrum, Democrat; *Diann Woodard, Democrat; William Deary, Republican; Dan Kelly, Republican

University of Michigan Board of Regents

*Denise Illitch, Democrat; *Laurence Deitch, Democrat; Ron Weiser, Republican; Carl Meyers, Republican

Wayne State University Board of Regents

Mark Gaffney, Democrat; Yvette Anderson, Democrat; Dr. Michael Busuito, Republican; Kim Shmina, Republican

Michigan Supreme Court, partial term

Judge Deborah Thomas, Democrat; *Justice Joan Larsen, Republican

Michigan Supreme Court, full term

Judge Frank Szymanski, Democrat; *Justice David Viviano, Republican