Schuette leads, but attorney general's race tightens

Leonard N. Fleming; and Chad Livengood
The Detroit News
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The race for the Michigan attorney general is tightening with the Republican incumbent Bill Schuette holding onto a four-point lead over Democrat Mark Totten in the closing days of the campaign, according to a new statewide poll.

Schuette leads 37.8 percent-33.5 percent lead over Totten, with 21 percent still undecided about who they will support in the race that has slung some arrows over Totten's qualifications for the office and Schuette's effectiveness in his job. The Detroit News-WDIV (Local 4) poll has a margin of error of plus-minus four percentage points

"This is a race to keep your eyes on," said pollster Richard Czuba, president of the Chicago-based Glengariff Group.

Undecided voters could decide the race, Czuba said, given the high undecided vote between Schuette — a career politician and former judge — and Totten, a law professor at Michigan State University.

In the secretary of state's race, GOP incumbent Ruth Johnson has opened a 8.5-point lead over Democratic challenger Godfrey Dillard with 41 percent for Johnson and 32.5 for Dillard. At least 20.8 percent of voters remained undecided.

The Schuette campaign attacked Totten as inexperienced and a resume exaggerator because the Democrat tells voters he's an ex-federal prosecutor on the west side of the state. Schuette claims Totten's unpaid status and low case load doesn't allow him to make that claim — a charge Totten rejects.

"Voters consistently place Bill in the lead because he fights to protect families from violent crime and is solving problems with pensions, human trafficking and the unsolved rape crisis. Michigan families make you earn your vote and Bill relishes the opportunity to make his case," said John Sellek, Schuette's campaign manager.

Totten has sought to define Schuette as a right-wing ideologue, which may be an area he could exploit among independent voters, more than a third of whom remain undecided, Czuba said.

"Bill Schuette's in trouble because voters want their attorney general to protect them, not waste taxpayer funds crusading against contraception and marriage equality," said Totten campaign manager John Keig. "Schuette distorting Mark Totten's record as a federal prosecutor is a ploy that proves Mark Totten has the momentum in this race."

Linda Herchenroeder, 65, of Redford, participated in the News poll and said she was initially going to vote for Schuette because she hasn't really heard anything bad about him.

But she was troubled to learn of Schuette's allegations that Totten was not a federal prosecutor. She has a relative who was unpaid in a Ohio prosecutor's office and she considered him to be a prosecutor.

"If you can't win on your record and on your honesty," Herchenroeder said, "then you don't have my vote."

To defeat Schuette, Totten has to rely on the Michigan Democratic Party's strategy of targeting about 995,000 Democratic-leaning voters who don't normally vote in mid-term elections to turn out on Election Day or vote absentee, Czuba said.

"If something develops where there's a higher Democratic turnout, (Totten) would be the beneficiary," he said.

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