Romney tries to nationalize Mich.'s Senate race

Chad Livengood
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Livonia — Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney sought to nationalize the importance of Michigan's Senate race Thursday, saying the election of Republican Terri Lynn Land would end a stalemate on energy policy and lead to repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

Speaking at a rally organized by the Michigan Republican Party, Romney said a Land victory over Democrat Gary Peters would ensure Nevada Democrat Harry Reid is no longer Senate majority leader and could not hold up a vote on the Keystone XL pipeline.

"We'll have legislation that has an energy policy which encourages the use of natural gas and resources in this country so that your heating bill is lower and your gasoline bill is lower," Romney said. "When he's no longer majority leader and Terri Lynn Land is there, it will be voted on and that will get done."

The Michigan native later added: "If Terri Lynn Land's opponent were to get elected, instead of building the Keystone policy with an energy policy that encourages using our resources ... we'd have cap and trade that causes energy prices to go up."

The 2012 GOP presidential candidate was referring to Peters of Bloomfield Township, who in 2009 voted for a cap-and-trade bill that would have set a limit on carbon dioxide emissions and allowed companies to buy and sell permits for the emissions. Business groups and Republicans have contended it would have cost thousands of jobs if it had been signed into law.

Proponents of cap and trade argued it would havecreated clean-energy jobs and driven competition in the energy marketplace. Peters has said America needs to address climate change.

Romney headlined a rally at the Laurel Manor conference center in Livonia that featured Land, Attorney General Bill Schuette, Secretary of State Ruth Johnson and Republican candidates for Congress and state education boards. Gov. Rick Snyder did not attend.

Romney, the GOP's 2012 presidential candidate, also said Land's vote in the Senate would help Republicans repeal and replace President Barack Obama's health care law.

"If Terri Lynn Land is elected ... you're going to actually see the promise you were given (by Obama) fulfilled," Romney said. "What I mean by that is if you like your health insurance and you like your doctor, you can keep them."

Romney said Land's experience as a two-term secretary of state shows she has "the capacity to lead" Michigan in the U.S. Senate.

The Peters campaign fired back by noting Romney opposed giving General Motors Corp. and Chrysler Group LLC federal aid in 2008 unless they first went through bankruptcy — a position Land expressed sympathy for in 2012 but this week said she would have voted in 2008 for an auto bailout.

"Terri Lynn Land is on the wrong side of history by opposing the auto rescue, and standing with Mitt Romney again today just proves that she can never be trusted to fight for Michigan jobs," spokeswoman Haley Morris said Thursday. "If Terri Lynn Land had gotten her way, the auto industry would have been left to fail, hundreds of thousands of Michigan jobs would have been lost, and our middle class would have been devastated.

"Gary Peters helped fight for Michigan's auto rescue when folks like Romney and Land were content to turn their backs, and he is the only candidate Michiganders can count on to fight for them in the U.S. Senate."

Peters ran for Congress but was not in it in 2008 when the House approved a $14 billion aid package but the Senate failed to act.

With a crowd of about 350 people, the Michigan Republican Party dubbed the event the "ComMITT to the Comeback Rally," playing off of Romney's first name.

Land used the event to make a rare public speech in her campaign for retiring Democratic Sen. Carl Levin's seat. She renewed attacks on Obama and Peters for debunked claims by Democrats that patients could keep their doctors and insurance plans under "Obamacare."

"I'll tell you what's a war on women — not being able to keep your doctor when you're going through a (health) crisis," Land said.

Bobby Schostak, chairman of the Michigan Republican Party, kicked off the rally by continuing the GOP's theme of contrasting Michigan's economic recovery under Snyder compared with his Democratic opponent, Mark Schauer, who was in the state Senate when Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm was in office.

"Democrats had their opportunity (to run state government), and they failed," Schostak said.

The rally was open to members of the public who pre-registered with the state Republican Party.

Democratic activist Bruce Fealk of Rochester Hills got admitted into the GOP event, three days after being denied access to a Snyder town hall event in Kalamazoo because of his party affiliation. Fealk was part of a group that mounted an unsuccessful recall campaign against Snyder in 2012.

"All they did was ask me not to cause a ruckus, which I'm not here to do," Fealk said in a room at the conference center where the rally was being held. "It seems like Snyder is more afraid of people that don't agree with him than Land is, I guess. But she hasn't been in public as much."

About 100 protesters associated with MoveOn.org Political Action, CREDO SuperPAC and People For the American Way protested outside of the conference center on Schoolcraft Road.

Their protests centered on Romney's opposition to the 2008-09 bailout of GM and Chrysler, which has recently popped up as an issue in Land's campaign against Peters. Romney said the automakers should have filed for bankruptcy and restructured before receiving government aid.

The son of a former Michigan governor,Romney twice ran unsuccessfully for president: in 2008, when he lost the GOP nomination, and in 2012 against Obama. He has repeatedly said he's not interested in running for president again in 2016, even as he has traveled the country this year helping Republican candidates get elected.

In June, Romney raised money for GOP congressional candidate Dave Trott in Troy and for Schuette in Bloomfield Hills, where he grew up.

Snyder's campaign has said he had a scheduling conflict and could not attend the rally.

The governor plans to hold his second campaign town hall meeting Thursday night at the American Polish Cultural Center in Troy.

The Snyder campaign initially said Lt. Gov. Brian Calley would attend instead of the governor.

But Calley said Thursday on Twitter that he stayed in Lansing to preside over the state Senate.

clivengood@detroitnews.com

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