Political Insider: Trump loyalists line up behind Cox for Michigan GOP chair

Laura Cox, R-Livonia

State Rep. Laura Cox is rounding up key endorsements in her bid to chair the Michigan Republican Party but has not yet won over some grassroots supporters hoping an alternative will emerge.

Meshawn Maddock and Diane Schindlebeck, who co-founded the Michigan Trump Republicans group, this week announced they’re backing Cox, following the lead of Trump’s 2020 campaign manager Brad Parscale.

“Over the last week, I’ve spoken with many people in Michigan, Washington and within the Trump campaign,” Maddock said in a statement. “They need us to work together, not against.”

Scott Hagerstrom, state director for President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, is also backing Cox, according to her campaign.

Hagerstrom ran for the state party post in 2016 but bowed out after Trump’s team backed current chairman Ron Weiser, who is not seeking re-election. Cox launched her party chair campaign less than one week after losing her bid for the state Senate on Nov. 6. 

But some grassroots activists remain on the fence ahead of the February convention and continue to float the names of other potential candidates, including state Sen. Patrick Colbeck, who did not respond to a call seeking comment, and tea party leader Wes Nakagiri.

Nakagiri said Tuesday he does not intend to run for state party chairman. He had a 45-minute phone conversation with Cox last week but is not yet ready to endorse anyone in the race.

“I had a couple conversations with grassroots people that I’m close with, and I think one of the things that causes angst is they would characterize this as a coronation of an election,” he said.

“Why are people lining up when you don’t even know who will be running against Laura, if anybody? The grassroots people I’ve talked to, they don’t like being told what to do without a reason.”

Dow gives to Trump group

The Midland-based Dow Chemical Co. was among the financiers last year of the dark-money group America First Policies — a nonprofit group aligned with President Donald Trump’s agenda.

The Center for Responsive Politics reviewed corporate disclosures and tax records and found Dow gave $100,000 to America First, among other corporate donors to the group: Reynolds American ($1.5 million), Southern Co. ($1 million) and CVS Pharmacy ($500,000).

Dow DuPont is preparing to clean up the last section of a mid-Michigan river contaminated with dioxin from past operation of a Dow Chemical Co. plant in Midland.

Together their contributions accounted for accounting for over a quarter of the group’s funding, CRP reported.

It noted that Dow Chemical, CVS and Southern announced in June that they would no longer give money to America First Policies after news reports of racist and anti-Muslim comments made by America First staffers.   

"Dow was not aware of any discriminatory actions by staffers at America First Policies. The company does not support organizations that demonstrate discriminatory language and/or actions and will not contribute to America First Policies going forward," Dow Chemical spokesman Jarrod Erpelding told CNN.

"Dow actively participates in policy-making and political processes, including political contributions to candidates, parties and causes, in compliance with all applicable federal and state laws. Dow maintains and is committed to the highest standard of ethical conduct in all such activity. Respect for people is one of Dow's core values. We do not tolerate discrimination in any form."

Dow's other top donations last year included $1 million to the Michigan Republican Party's Administrative Account and $150,000 total to GOP gubernatorial nominee Bill Schuette's Administrative Account and nonprofit On Duty For Michigan. 

Dow also gave $250,000 in 2017 to the conservative American Action Network, whose subsidiaries include the Congressional Leadership Fund super PAC that has ties to House Republican leadership and works to elect a GOP majority in Congress.

Group opposes tunnel authority

A northern Michigan group plans to oppose the involvement of the Mackinac Bridge Authority in an agreement that would construct a utility tunnel beneath the Straits of Mackinac.

The Friends of the Mackinac Bridge formed this month and includes former bridge authority chairman Bill Gnodtke, current authority member Barbara Brown and Chris Shepler, of Shepler’s Mackinac Island Ferry.

The citizen-led campaign will work to prevent lame duck legislation that would give the Mackinac Bridge Authority the power to agree to and oversee the construction and operation of the planned tunnel for Enbridge’s Line 5 oil pipeline.

In a statement, Gnodtke said he was alarmed at the diversion of the authority’s focus on the bridge and believed it would “seriously compromise the MBA’s effectiveness in managing Michigan’s most significant asset.”

The bill introduced by Republican state Sen. Tom Casperson of Escanaba was introduced weeks after GOP Gov. Rick Snyder appointed four new members to the 7-member authority.

“All of this has been hastily prepared and negotiated out of public view in an attempt to finalize a contract before Michigan’s newly elected governor and attorney general take office in January,” the state said.

While on the campaign trail, Gov.-elect Gretchen Whitmer and Attorney General-elect Dana Nessel said they believed Line 5 should be shut down, but the proposed agreement between Enbridge and the state would allow it to operate for another 10 years while tunnel construction takes place.

Benson's transition team

Former U.S. Sen. Carl Levin and former National Football League Commissioner Paul Tagliablue will lead the transition team for Secretary of State-elect Jocelyn Benson.

“Their integrity and commitment to excellence are unrivaled,” Benson said in a statement.

Retired U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, right, announces the Michigan Democratic Party's endorsement of Jocelyn Benson,  left, for secretary of state.

Benson will take office on Jan. 1, after beating her GOP opponent Mary Treder Lang in the Nov. 6 election. She will replace term-limited Republican Secretary of State Ruth Johnson.

A former Wayne State University law school dean, Benson campaigned on election security, government transparency and a 30-minute service guarantee.

Among those who will serve on her team are marketing agency CEO Dennis Archer Jr., Strategic Staffing Solutions President Cindy Pasky, Detroit Office of Immigrant Affairs Director Fayrouz Saad and former state elections director Chris Thomas.

Others include Detroit religious and civic leader Bishop PA Brooks, Wayne State University Board of Governors member Kim Trent and lawyer Elizabeth Welch.

The transition team director will be directed by Liz Boyd, past press secretary to former Gov. Jennifer Granholm and senior adviser to Secretaries of State Richard Austin and Candice Miller.

Contributors: Jonathan Oosting, Melissa Nann Burke and Beth LeBlanc