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Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg hasn’t campaigned yet in Michigan, but his husband is set to speak next week at an annual fundraiser for the Ingham County Democratic Party in East Lansing.

Chasten Buttigieg, a Michigan native who grew up in Traverse City, is set to deliver a keynote address at the 2019 “victory dinner” on Thursday, June 13.

Tickets to the dinner, the local party’s “premier fundraising event,” start at $80. Supporters can pay $200 for access to a VIP reception — and photos with Chasten Buttigieg. Donors can purchase a sponsorship, including complimentary wine at a table for eight and a full-page program ad, for $1,250.

Pete Buttigieg, a military veteran and mayor of South Bend, Indiana, was little known nationally when he began his presidential campaign but has gained ground in recent polls and emerged as a significant force in the 23-candidate Democratic primary field.

A May 28-30 Glengariff Group poll found Buttigieg was ahead of President Donald Trump 47% to 41% among 600 likely Michigan voters in a hypothetical match-up.

Chasten Buttigieg, whose parents still live in the Traverse City area, is a teacher who was studying for his master’s degree in Chicago when he met his future husband, whose election could make him the first “first gentleman” in United States history.

While the husbands of other Democrats like Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris could also earn that distinction, the Buttigieg relationship has sparked significant attention and interest amid increasing normalization of same-sex marriage.

Slotkin joins Problem Solvers 

Freshman Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Holly, has joined the congressional Problem Solvers Caucus, which has sought bipartisan solutions for sticky issues including health care, tax reform and House rules. 

The caucus already has a few members among the Michigan delegation, including Reps. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, and Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph. Slotkin's predecessor, former Rep. Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, was also part of the group. 

Membership in the group is evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans, and Slotkin joined the caucus along with a small bipartisan group of members, a spokeswoman said. 

"Throughout my 14 years working in national security, no one ever asked if I was a Democrat or Republican –– because we were focused on the mission,” Slotkin said in a statement.

“I’m so proud to be part of the Problem Solvers Caucus, a group of lawmakers with equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans who employ that same bipartisan mission-focus by working together on legislation that matters to people’s families and to their pocketbooks.”

College Democrats' suit settled

Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson on Wednesday announced plans for a college-age voter participation push expected to resolve a lawsuit College Democrats filed last year over “restrictive” Michigan voting laws.

Initial steps include the creation of a website dedicated to advice for first-time voters and college students, a written update for local clerks in college towns suggesting voter registration drives and more frequent deployment of a mobile SOS office to campuses.

“Going away to school shouldn’t complicate a student’s ability to vote,” Benson said in a statement. “Michigan has made great strides recently in improving access for all voters, and this is just the beginning of our work to ensure college-age voters have the information and opportunities they need to vote as engaged citizens.”

The Michigan Federation of College Democrats and campus groups in Ann Arbor and East Lansing sued Republican then-Secretary of State Ruth Johnson in the run-up to the 2018 election, alleging a combination of GOP-sponsored laws created “nearly insurmountable” barriers to voting for many young people.

College Democrats targeted two statutes, including a 1999 law that requires matching addresses for voter registration and driver’s licenses, which prevents college students from voting at school unless they changed their permanent address.

That law will stand, but another part of the complaint was rendered moot by a voter-approved ballot initiative allowing same-day voter registration and no-reason absentee voting, making it easier for college students to vote in their hometown from campus.

College Democrats alleged disenfranchisement by a 2004 law requiring voters to vote in person for the first time if they registered by mail, but Benson told local clerks in February that Proposal 3 made that law unenforceable.

The constitutional amendment “provides all Michigan voters the right once registered to vote an absent voter ballot without giving a reason,” said spokesman Shawn Starkey. “Accordingly, the secretary determined that the must-vote-in-person requirement, which prohibits some registered voters from voting an absent voter ballot, was unenforceable.”

Court filings indicate Benson and attorneys for College Democrats had been working toward a settlement, and her office anticipates the new initiative will resolve the case.

“It is our understanding that upon receipt of this letter, counsel will take steps to dismiss the pending lawsuit without prejudice,” Assistant Attorney General Heather Meingast wrote in a memorandum of understanding letter to plaintiff attorney Marc Elias.

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