Stabenow nabs key policy post for Senate Democrats


Michigan’s senior senator, Debbie Stabenow, was selected Wednesday to chair the Policy and Communications Committee for Senate Democrats, replacing New York Sen. Chuck Schumer who next year will become the new minority leader.

“Our caucus is unified and committed to fighting for middle-class families every day in an economy where too many people feel that they have been left behind,” Stabenow said in a statement.

“This is an important leadership role that will continue to give Michigan families a strong voice at the table as we work to ensure that every family has a fair shot to get ahead.”

She will also continue as the ranking Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Committee, following leadership elections held Wednesday. Stabenow has served in the Senate since 2001.

Dems to do election autopsy

Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Brandon Dillon said Wednesday he is “inclined” to seek re-election at the party’s February convention but will first focus on how to move the party forward following devastating losses on Nov. 8.

“It’s going to take a while. It’s a big cadaver to autopsy,” Dillon said of the election, which saw Donald Trump become the first Republican presidential candidate to win Michigan since 1988.

“We’re going to go through it, and we’ll do it as quickly as possible, but we want to make sure we diagnose the problem.”

Trump’s narrow Michigan win highlighted a dominant day for Republicans, who also managed to retain their majority in the state House in a year where Democrats had hoped to regain control or at least pick up seats.

The party has to be smarter about messaging and work to appeal to a broader group of voters, according to Dillon, “but I think those are pretty obvious takeaways.

“We’ve got to do some rebuilding and rethinking. We still have a lot of Democrats in the state, and I think we just need to be deliberate and focus on how we fix the problems we have and come out stronger.”

Weiser gets inaugural role

President-elect Donald Trump on Tuesday appointed a committee to plan and raise money for his inauguration and related events in January.

Among other committee members, Trump tapped GOP financier Ron Weiser, the Ann Arbor real estate developer who also helped raise money for Trump’s campaign. Weiser, a former chairman of the Michigan Republican Party, last week won a seat on the University of Michigan Board of Regents.

Other finance vice chairs on the Presidential Inaugural Committee include the conservative billionaire Sheldon Adelson. The committee will be chaired by Thomas J. Barrack Jr., the founder and chairman of the investment firm Colony Capital who served as deputy undersecretary of the Interior under Reagan.

Michigan Dems rip Bannon

Michigan Democrats are among the chorus of critics objecting to Trump’s appointment this week of former Breitbart News head Steve Bannon as chief White House strategist and senior counselor and asking Trump to reconsider.

Rep. John Conyers Jr., D-Detroit, described Bannon as the “standard-bearer for the worst instincts in American society.”

“Whether or not Mr. Bannon personally trades in violence, racism and bigotry, he allowed his media organization to become a platform for white nationalism, misogyny, anti-Semitism and anti-immigrant sentiment of the worst kind. He encouraged it. He bragged about it. His appointment validates the views of the so-called ‘alt-right,’ and we cannot allow him to use the White House to the same ends,” Conyers said in a statement.

Rep. Sandy Levin, D-Royal Oak, said Bannon’s selection runs counter to Trump’s statement that he will be president of all Americans.

“This is a deeply disturbing appointment through which to launch his presidential inner circle and simply continues the divisive negativity of his campaign,” Levin said.

Rep. Brenda Lawrence, D-Southfield, called Bannon’s appointment an “alarming step in the wrong direction.”

Trump spokesman Jason Miller told reporters in New York City on Wednesday that those with concerns about Bannon are “bitter the election’s over.”

“He’s someone I’ve had the opportunity to work with over the past three or four months — someone I’ve seen very high character from. Someone who’s been a fantastic example of really being inclusive. Someone who’s embraced diversity at every step,” Miller said, adding, “there’s one boss, and that’s the president-elect.”

Contributors: Melissa Nann Burke and Jonathan Oosting