GOP strategist defends ‘un-American’ comment
Correction: Political consultant Stu Sandler was heard on a live microphone calling crowd booing of military funding comments at a Saturday town hall meeting "un-American crap." He did not say "un-American crowd," as initially reported. He also said it was not his voice later heard discussing "bounced" questions with Rep. Dave Trott.
GOP strategist Stu Sandler is standing by his comments caught on microphone Saturday after Republican U.S. Rep. Dave Trott’s spirited town hall in Novi, where the congressman was repeatedly booed by a crowd that included activists from the Indivisible liberal group.
“We’re going to take that part where they’re booing funding and military. I’m going to get somebody to write a story. We’re going to blow the sh-- out of that,” Sandler said backstage, where his comments were picked up by a WDIV-TV microphone and live streamed on Facebook.
“It’s un-American crap.”
The boos in question came as Trott responded to a question from an audience member, who asked why it was necessary to make “so many cuts” in other areas of the budget to fund the military.
It was an apparent reference to President Donald Trump’s budget plan, which would boost military spending by $54 billion and cut domestic agencies by a similar amount.
Trott, a second-term Republican from Birmingham, answered by noting the growing national deficit but made clear, “I support more funding for our military,” prompting boos.
Backstage comments by Sandler made national news Tuesday. His description, along with a subsequent discussion between an unidentified person and Trott about a couple of "bounced" questions, prompted outcry from Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Brandon Dillon, who suggested Trott would rather “smear the people he’s supposed to serve” than explain his support for policies that could hurt them.
Sandler called Dillon’s reaction “disingenuous” and acknowledged responsibility for his description of the crowd. “First and foremost, those were my comments,” he said Wednesday.
“This was not meaningful discourse,” Sandler said. “This was people who were hooting and hollering about everything they could, including the mere suggestion of increasing funding for the military. I didn’t like it. It upset me.”
‘Gang of 12’ a regular posse
The so-called “gang of 12” Republicans who voted against a failed income tax cut plan last month in the Michigan House have forged a close bond and meet weekly, said Rep. Mike McCready, R-Birmingham.
During a taping of WKAR-TV’s “Off The Record” set to air this weekend, McCready said the group remains willing to consider reducing the income tax from 4.25 percent to 4.15 percent but feared the budget implications of legislation that would have cut the rate to 3.9 percent by 2021.
While he and his 11 colleagues aren’t on the same page as House Speaker Tom Leonard, R-DeWitt, when it comes to the cut, McCready said they still appreciate his leadership.
However, McCready argued it would be a mistake for House Republicans to use completion of the budget as a point of negotiation with GOP Gov. Rick Snyder, who also opposed the tax cut plan but prides himself on finishing early budgets each year.
Conyers’ water bill
Rep. John Conyers Jr., the Detroit Democrat, on Wednesday reintroduced his bill to spend $35 billion a year on water infrastructure improvements in the wake of Flint’s lead contamination crisis.
“It would help places like Flint, where lead has made the water undrinkable – or Detroit, where outdated infrastructure makes water unaffordable,” Conyers said in a statement. “In the richest country in the world – safe, affordable water in every home is a basic human right.”
Conyers would fund the bill by taxing corporate incomes earned abroad through a process typically referred to as repatriation. Rep. Brenda Lawrence, D-Southfield, is a co-sponsor.
The proposed legislation, first introduced last year during the 114th Congress, follows a Detroit News report that nearly 380,000 Michigan residents get their water from systems that would fail to the tough new lead-safety standard proposed by Gov. Rick Snyder.
More than three dozen public water systems currently have tested lead levels exceeding the safety threshold Snyder plans to implement by 2020, which would be the nation’s most stringent standard.
The Water Affordability, Transparency, Equity and Reliability (WATER) Act would allow states to issue grants to replace lead service lines. It would also would establish a grant program to provide funding to public primary and secondary schools that want to test or replace infrastructure used for drinking water foundations or bottle filling stations.
Vet to challenge Bergman
Michigan Democrats have tapped a Iraq veteran with a long career in the Marines to challenge freshman Republican Rep. Jack Bergman – also a retired Marine officer – for his seat representing northern Michigan in 2018.
Retired Marine Lt. Col. Matthew W. Morgan said Wednesday he filed the paperwork. It will be his first bid for office.
Bergman defeated Democrat Lon Johnson last fall to succeed former Rep. Dan Benishek of Crystal Falls, who retired. Bergman, 70, is a retired Marine lieutenant colonel who worked as a commercial airline pilot for Northwest Airlines.
Morgan, 45, retired from the Marine Corps in 2013 after 24 years, starting as an infantry officer but spending his last four years in the service as the director of public affairs for the U.S. Marine Corps Forces Command out of Norfolk, Virginia.
Prior to that, Morgan spent time as a strategic communications officer in the office of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates during the administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama. He spent a total 18 months on the ground in Iraq, in addition to time he spent supporting counter-terrorism operations in the Horn of Africa, he said.
“After the (fall) election, I was left searching, and in early January when Congress took to the floor and started running this anti-EPA agenda, I got really concerned,” Morgan said in an interview.
“Then discussions turned to repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act. I got into several conversations with some local folks who had been searching for a viable candidate. When I was offered the opportunity to consider it, it struck me as an opportunity to get back into public service.”
In addition to health care, issues that concern Morgan include protecting funding for cleaning up the Great Lakes and comprehensive immigration reform, noting the population of migrant workers that farmers in the district rely on.
Asked about his new challenger, Bergman spokeswoman Farahn Morgan said his priority is working “to get things done for the 1st District.”
“That’s a promise he made during his campaign, and it’s a promise he’s keeping as he serves the First District in the House of Representatives,” she said by email.
“As a member of Congress and a general in the Marine Corps, his commitment has always been to people and to public service. That’s where he’s focusing his energy.”
Contributors: Melissa Nann Burke and Jonathan Oosting