Insider: Pelosi expected at Michigan fundraiser, though some candidates staying away

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi is expected at a fundraiser Friday in Bloomfield Hills, although few Democratic U.S. House candidates in Michigan say they are attending. 

Many Democratic challengers have sought to distance themselves from Pelosi during their campaigns for Congress this year — an effort in part to curb attacks by Republicans who are putting her image in television ads and trying to link Michigan candidates to the California Democrat. 

Friday's fundraiser, held at a private home, benefits the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. The invitation says Pelosi is a special guest of Andy Levin, a Democratic candidate who is anticipated to win in the 9th District. 

"Andy is committed to winning his race and further, he’s committed to the national effort to flip the U.S. House and help strong candidates up and down the ticket get across the finish line," Levin spokeswoman Jen Eyer said. 

"This event is an opportunity help achieve those goals."

Other Democratic candidates, such as Elissa Slotkin, Haley Stevens, Matt Longjohn, Rob Davidson and Matt Morgan, are not attending the fundraiser or weren't invited, according to their campaigns. 

Each has said they don't plan to vote for Pelosi as speaker or minority leader, often saying it's time for a new generation of leadership. 

Even if they're not attending the fundraiser, Democrats in competitive House races could benefit from it, as the DCCC has spent over $2 million in Michigan this year, including at least $1 million each to boost Slotkin and Stevens in suburban Detroit races. 

The party committee has also spent over $125,000 to help Longjohn in southwest Michigan against GOP Rep. Fred Upton.

By comparison, the National Republican Congressional Committee has spent at least $3 million on the 8th District, where Slotkin is challenging GOP Rep. Mike Bishop

Rashida Tlaib, who is poised to succeed U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Detroit, in Congress also won't attend. She'll instead be at a rally with U.S. Reps. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, and Linda Sanchez, D-California, in Dearborn. 

Tlaib had previously indicated she wouldn't support Pelosi, but on Wednesday said she would address leaderships votes "if or when the opportunity arises."

"I have spoken to Leader Pelosi twice, and we both agree that working to gain the majority in the House will help our residents the most important right now," said Tlaib, who has concentrated on helping other women get elected. 

Levin — who is running to succeed his father, retiring Rep. Sandy Levin — also won't say whether he intends to vote for Pelosi. 

"I have to get elected first, so I’m not even thinking about that. But I do think Nancy Pelosi is an amazing person, a pioneer, a breaker of glass ceilings," Levin said in a statement.

"And it concerns me that our society is so much more critical of a woman who’s been successful than a man. So whether she’s the speaker or not in the future, she was a great speaker in the past, she had a great track record, and I have a huge amount of respect for her.”

Pelosi, who has led House Democrats for 15 years, through June had raised over $83 million for the DCCC this election cycle. 

She told CNN on Monday that she is "pretty comfortable" she will be speaker again if Democrats win control of the House in November.

"It is up to them to make that decision, but I feel pretty comfortable where I am," Pelosi said. 

Michigan's current House Democrats weren't eager this week to discuss Pelosi's future in leadership, insisting they are focused on the election.  

"I am not writing off Nancy Pelosi, and I’m not saying who has my vote. I’m waiting to see who comes up, who puts their name in contention," said Rep. Brenda Lawrence, D-Southfield. 

"Right now we have to concentrate on this election and winning. I’m not going to sit here and say who I’m voting for. I’m trying to get a majority of Democrats elected."

Ad exposes Social Security number

The Michigan Democratic Party this week was forced to edit an attack ad that had featured close-up shots of a Republican state House candidate’s Social Security number, along with that of her ex-husband, in documents related to a bankruptcy case.

The Michigan Republican Party blasted the ad as a “new low” for Democrats and demanded an apology for the candidate, Christine Barnes of Grand Ledge, who filed a complaint with the Michigan State Police.

Michigan law makes it a misdemeanor crime to intentionally put someone’s Social Security number on display. Michigan Democrat Party spokesman Paul Kanan said the numbers were “inadvertently made public” in the ad and a related website.

“The information was immediately removed from the ad in question and redacted from all documents currently available to Michigan voters for the purpose of fact-checking and transparency,” Kanan said.

Barnes, who is running against Democrat Angela Witwer of Lansing in the 71st state House District, said on Facebook that she is working to change her credit cards and other numbers in order to avoid identity theft as a result of the ad.

While the ad was changed, Republicans continue to call on Democrats to apologize to Barnes and to hold “accountable” and party officials or staffers who were responsible for the ad.

“This is despicable,” said Michigan GOP chairman Ron Weiser.

New details emerge on Schuette tape

Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Schuette was an unmarried, 35-year-old congressman in 1989 when he spoke in sexual innuendo to a camera woman before an interview about the upcoming inauguration of incoming President George H. W. Bush.

Schuette’s campaign two weeks ago disclosed a short video clip of what he called an “embarrassing” exchange with the unseen camera woman in an apparent attempt to downplay potential publication of the footage by political opponents or national media.

The Detroit News obtained a full seven-minute video of the interview. The clip that Schuette suggested was "heavily edited" accurately depicts a brief exchange between Schuette and the camera woman before a male interviewer chimes in and begins asking questions.

The woman asked Schuette to move closer to a nearby lamp. “I’ll do anything you want,” he responded, adjusting his tie. “Some things I may not let you run the camera on.”

The interview, conducted in January 1989, took place in Washington, D.C., during the run-up to Bush’s inauguration. Schuette, a Midland Republican, worked on Bush’s first presidential campaign in 1979-80 “when we couldn’t fill up a room for him” on some days, he recalled in the interview.

“It’d be George Bush and me and my mom’s Jeep, and now he’s president of the United States. So I’m excited personally, and there’s a feeling of excitement in the air.”

Contributors: Melissa Nann Burke and Jonathan Oosting