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Attorney general candidate now supports pot legalization

Democrat attorney general hopeful Pat Miles said Wednesday he has “decided to take a stronger stance on marijuana legalization” and now supports the proposal likely to make the Michigan ballot this fall.

The former U.S. attorney from Grand Rapids had initially taken a hands-off approach to pot legalization, saying only he would enforce any law voters approve.

But as he competes for the attorney general nomination against outspoken legalization advocate Dana Nessel, Miles said he came around on the issue after careful consideration and dialogue with activists and voters across the state.

“As many leaders on both sides of the aisle have recognized, the war on drugs has failed,” Miles said in a statement. “The classification of marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug is ridiculous, and has done a great deal of harm to communities in our state and around the country, particularly communities of color.”

Nessel, a Plymouth Township attorney best known for helping overturn Michigan’s same-sex marriage ban, said she recognized long ago how “disastrous the war on marijuana has been” and accused her opponent of changing his position to score political points.

“I stated my unequivocal support for legalizing recreational marijuana the day I launched my campaign,” Nessel said in a statement. “I've never needed to evolve my position to meet what recent polling showed to be politically expedient.”

Michigan Democrats will formally nominate an attorney general candidate in August, but the party is planning an April 15 early endorsement convention. The Michigan Education Association this week backed Nessel.

Lt. gov, AG debate debates

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette and Lt. Gov. Brian Calley are locked in a heated debate as they compete for the Republican gubernatorial nomination. The issue? How many debates to have.

Schuette is calling on his fellow GOP candidates for governor to agree to three debates in the run-up to the August primary, including two sponsored by the Michigan Republican Party and a third that could include Democratic candidates at the annual Mackinac Public Policy Conference in May.

But Calley, who helped organize a series of town halls that Schuette has skipped, says the Michigan GOP actually proposed four televised debates and affirmed he’s willing to participate in each one. His campaign privately proposed seven debates, Calley said in a statement.

Schuette, who is leading in early polls and so has less incentive to share a stage with Calley, said “Michigan voters deserve a fair, well-planned and issue-based series of debates as they make their choices in the Republican primary this year.”

But the attorney general is trying to cut the number of GOP-sanctioned debates in half, Calley said, accusing his primary rival of “sending Republican voters a clear message that he doesn’t think their questions matter.”

Calley, state Sen. Pat Colbeck of Canton Township and Saginaw obstetrician Jim Hines have been participating in a series of town hall meetings across the state that Schuette has called a form of coordinate “political gimmickry” by his opponents.

Gay-Dagnogo drops out

Democratic state Rep. Sherry Gay-Dagnogo said recently she won’t run for Congress and plans to seek an eighth and final term representing Michigan’s 8th District in northwest Detroit.

Gay-Dagnogo said in early February she was “exploring a run” for the U.S. House seat vacated by her mentor and longtime Rep. John Conyers Jr. in December.

“I’m focused on unity within the Democratic Party, ensuring the collective victory of Detroit Caucus members in 2018, and finishing the work that I’ve started to advance quality education for all students, affordable auto insurance for communities that continue to be discriminated against due to redlining, serving our seniors and working to build safe thriving communities, and I can do that reserving my final term as State Representative,” she said in an email to supporters.

The primary race in the 13th District includes Conyers’ 27-year-old son, John Conyers III, and great-nephew, state Sen. Ian Conyers, as well as state Sen. Coleman Young III, Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones and Democratic activist Michael Gilmore. Detroit NAACP executive director Donnell White is also reportedly considering a run.

Walberg touts less division

U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Tipton, headlined the annual UM Congressional Breakfast on Wednesday in Washington, where he lamented the political divisiveness apparent in today’s news and his own town-hall meetings with constituents.

Walberg said while society today is more connected digitally, people are “further apart than ever.”

“We don’t talk to each other, do we? We don’t accept meetings like this. We don’t engage with people with differing opinions,” Walberg said.

“We watch the news and reinforce our own believes – I’m guilty of that in many cases. We go to our respective corners, instead of seeking common ground and common good. It’s a recipe for even further division unless we change our present course.”

Spotted at the breakfast were UM President Mark Schlissel; Sen. Gary Peters; Reps. Dan Kildee, Mike Bishop, Brenda Lawrence and Jack Bergman; former Rep. Dennis Hertel; Michigan GOP Chairman Ron Weiser, who is also a UM regent, and Cynthia Wilbanks, UM’s vice president for government relations.

The charity breakfast is sponsored by the UM Club of Washington to raise money for its scholarship program.

NOW backs Greimel

The National Organization for Women chose not to endorse the two female candidates seeking the Democratic nomination in Michigan’s 11th District and instead backed state Rep. Tim Greimel of Auburn Hills this week.

NOW, which advocates for women’s rights, cited Greimel’s support for equal pay for women, reproductive rights and gender equality when he served as House Democratic leader.

“I know Tim will be a tireless advocate for women in Washington,” Kim Beebe, president of Oakland/Macomb NOW, said in a statement provided by Greimel’s campaign.

Greimel said he is proud of his record on women’s issues and that in Congress he would “amplify the voices of women fighting on the front lines to protect the equal rights of all women and girls.”

Other Democratic hopefuls running for the seat of retiring Republican U.S. Rep. Dave Trott of Birmingham include Haley Stevens of Rochester Hills, Fayrouz Saad of Northville, Dan Haberman of Birmingham and Suneel Gupta of Birmingham.

Contributors: Melissa Nann Burke and Jonathan Oosting

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