Obama’s endorsement missing in 2 key Mich. races


Democrat Suzanna Shkreli this week celebrated her endorsement by President Barack Obama in Michigan’s 8th Congressional District, but her colleagues in two of the state’s most competitive congressional races appear to be keeping their distance from the president.

Obama has not endorsed Democrat Lon Johnson in the 1st Congressional District, and Johnson is not asking him to despite their strong personal ties: Johnson’s wife, Julianna Smoot, was deputy manager of Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign.

Johnson is taking on Republican Jack Bergman in the northern Michigan district, where then-GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney defeated Obama by eight percentage points in 2012 despite losing the state to the Democratic incumbent.

“Lon is completely focused on seeking the endorsement of a majority of the voters in the 1st Congressional District to serve as their next member of Congress and has not sought the president’s endorsement,” spokeswoman Jen Eyer said in an email.

Likewise, Democratic state Rep. Gretchen Driskell is not trumpeting any Obama support as she seeks to unseat Republican Rep. Tim Walberg in the 7th District, which Romney narrowly won in 2012.

Obama is backing Driskell, campaign manager Keenan Pontoni said, but neither the president nor the campaign has made any official announcement to that effect.

“We are really focused on just the contest between us and Walberg,” Pontoni said.

Shkreli, who may need the attention because of her late entrance into the race, was one of 30 Democrats that Obama endorsed Monday. Romney narrowly beat Obama in her district four years ago, too.

Dingell finds faith in care act

U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, brought up the Ten Commandments when CNN asked her Tuesday to defend the 2017 premium increases by insurers under the Affordable Care Act.

Chris Cuomo, a host for CNN’s “New Day,” asked Dingell about the news that nationally premiums are increasing an average 22 percent for mid-level plans on the government exchanges. In Michigan, the average increase is 16.7 percent.

“Am I happy about the latest news? No. None of us are,” Dingell said. “It’s really hard to understand those numbers because we’re using averages, and there are 50 sets of different numbers because each state is different.”

“Cost is going up,” Cuomo said. “How complicated is that?”

“Well, not in every state,” Dingell replied. “I want to go straight forward with you: No law is perfect. John Dingell used to say the last perfect law was the Ten Commandments and, in today’s day and age, we probably wouldn’t even approve that.”

Dingell, who supports Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, told Cuomo that Clinton would work across party lines with Republicans to “tweak” the law to improve it so it works “more in favor of the people.”

“We need to go in and look at making changes but we need to do it together,” she said.

Standing firm on selfie ban

A federal judge on Wednesday refused to reverse her order that would allow Michigan voters to take “ballot selfies” for the first time on Nov. 8, a decision the state is appealing with less than two weeks until Election Day.

Michigan’s blanket ban on ballot exposure and polling place photography is likely unconstitutional, ruled U.S. District Court Judge Janet Neff, who halted enforcement of the law and related rules on Monday.

In a new three-page order released Wednesday, Neff rejected Secretary of State Ruth Johnson’s emergency request to “stay” her injunction pending appeal.

The judge wrote that she disagreed with Johnson and Attorney General BillSchuette’s suggestion that a last-minute change to familiar voting procedures would create “chaos” and confusion at local polling places around the state.

“The administrative tasks necessary for (Johnson) to accommodate the First Amendment rights of Michigan voters do not, in this court’s opinion, warrant a stay of the preliminary injunction in this case,” Neff wrote.

Johnson filed a notice of appeal to the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday, the same day Neff’s original ruling came down. It’s not immediately clear how fast the higher court could act.

“As with any lawsuit that may affect our elections, we want this matter to be resolved expeditiously,” said Secretary of State spokesman Fred Woodhams.

“If the order stands, we will need to develop new policies and procedures about when photography is allowed in a polling place and when it’s not, and then communicate those new policies to 30,000 election workers in addition to the millions of voters heading to the polls.”

Michigan law generally prohibits voters from showing their ballots to third parties, directing election workers to mark those ballots “rejected for exposure” and not allow the voter to cast another. Related rules prohibited most forms of polling place or voting booth photography.

Contributors: Melissa Nann Burke and Jonathan Oosting