Bernstein ‘very seriously’ considers run for governor

Attorney Mark Bernstein confirmed Wednesday he is “very seriously” considering a run for governor now that U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee has opted against seeking the Democratic nomination.

If he entered the race, the University of Michigan regent of 1-800-Call-Sam family fame would join a Democratic field that includes former state Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer and former Detroit health director Abdul El-Sayed.

A gubernatorial run would be a “very different direction in life in many ways, but it’s something I’m very seriously considering right now because I think there’s a lot at stake in this campaign, not just for Democrats but for everybody in this state,” Bernstein said in an interview with WJR-AM 760’s Paul W. Smith.

“And the opportunity to be able to talk about these things and make a difference, to try to make a difference, is really rare and something you just can’t pass up that easily.”

Kildee’s decision not to seek the nomination cemented Whitmer’s front-runner status in the 2018 Democratic primary, but she is facing an aggressive challenge from El-Sayed, who has been courting liberal supporters of 2016 presidential primary candidate Bernie Sanders.

“Gretchen’s obviously an accomplished and thoughtful person, but there’s lots of other people out there who have a lot to contribute in this campaign,” Bernstein said. “I don’t think a primary is bad for a candidate.”

Bernstein chairs the U-M Board of Regents and is president and managing partner of The Sam Bernstein Law Firm, founded by his father. He is the brother of Michigan Supreme Court Justice Richard Bernstein.

Democrats believe they have a good chance to win the 2018 race, in part because of term-limited Republican Gov. Rick Snyder’s lackluster approval ratings, which plummeted when the Flint water crisis made national news.

Snyder “fell short in a lot of ways and is an example of what happens when you lead with a calculator instead of a compass,” Bernstein said.

He applauded Snyder for approaching government and campaigning “with dignity,” saying he would hope to model that approach in his own campaign, “but I think I would lead and manage in a very different way.”

Schuette unfazed by Calley tease

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has a time line for when he intends to launch his expected run for governor, and Lt. Gov. BrianCalley’s pending May 30 announcement won’t change those plans, he said last week.

Schuette and Calley are considered the frontrunners for the Republican nomination in 2018 — assuming they both enter the race. But Schuette told reporters he’s not worried about Calley getting a head start.

“Not at all. Listen, my focus and responsibility is as attorney general,” Schuette said before pivoting to a gubernatorial-like soliloquy on job creation, which has little to do with being the state’s top law enforcement official.

“The future of Michigan is going to be about jobs and paychecks and how you make Michigan a jobs state,” he said. “…We have to rebuild the population of the state, and to do that we’re going to need a jobs governor in 2018.”

Schuette was a prominent supporter of President Donald Trump during the general election last year, and the Republican’s first two years in the White House could affect the national mood heading into 2018.

Asked about Trump’s first 100 days in office, Schuette declined to give the president a grade, but he praised his nomination of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch and predicted Trump and Congress will successfully repeal and replace “Obamacare,” a controversial effort he supports.

“The real issue is not grading our president, it’s how do you move our country forward,” Schuette said.

Online ad hits Walberg for health care vote

Democrats last week warned House Republicans their votes to repeal and replace “Obamacare” would come back to haunt them in 2018 elections, and at least one liberal group is putting their money where their mouth is.

Save My Care this week launched a series of ads targeting 24 House Republicans who voted for the health care overhaul, including an online spot criticizing Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Tipton, in Michigan’s 7th Congressional District.

“Congressman Walberg just voted for a disastrous health care repeal bill opposed by the American Medical Association, AARP and the American Cancer Society,” a narrator says in the ad. The spot also notes concerns over the cost of pre-existing condition coverage and highlights a Congressional Budget Office projection that 24 million fewer people would have health insurance by 2026 than if the current law remained in place.

“Congressman Walberg — how could you do this to us?”

The group is reportedly putting more than $500,000 behind a national ad buy, which includes television commercials in some other parts of the country.

After voting for the health care legislation last week, Walberg said “Obamacare is on the brink of collapse and has failed to live up to its many promises,” pointing to increasing premiums and insurers leaving federal marketplaces where policies are sold.

“We told our constituents we would fix the mess Obamacare created, and this legislation is an important step towards undoing the damage and providing relief,” he said in a statement.

“It moves power away from Washington, gives flexibility to states, and puts doctors and patients at the center of their health care decisions. It brings back choice and competition, drives down costs, and provides protections for patients with pre-existing conditions.”

Michigan prison food woes drag on

Food problems continue to plague Michigan prisons even after Gov. Rick Snyder replaced Aramark with a new private vendor over similar issues in 2015, according to documents obtained by a liberal advocacy group through the Freedom of Information Act.

Inmates at the Upper Peninsula Kinross Correctional Facility picked through “maggot infested potatoes” to find still-intact spuds for prison meals, according to documents Progress Michigan obtained from the Michigan Department of Corrections.

Prison staff noted an “overwhelming stench” from the rotten potatoes and “yellowish/white liquid seeping from the bags” as they attempted to unload the produce in preparation for prisoners’ meals, the documents show.

The report shows the potatoes were discovered less than two months before a costly riot broke out amid prisoners’ complaints about food quality.

Progress Michigan is asking Snyder to scrap the second private vendor — the Florida-based Trinity Services Group — and urges the state to instead provide services without the aid of a private contractor.

“Gov. Snyder and Republicans in the legislature have chosen to ignore these problems for too long and it’s time they canceled the contract and returned prison food service to state employees,” said Lonnie Scott, executive director of Progress Michigan.

The state has fined Trinity more than $2 million for unplanned meal substitutions, delays, staffing shortages and contract violations in the past.

Contributors: Jonathan Oosting and Michael Gerstein