Lennox: Could Gov. Calley be in cards?

Dennis Lennox

It’s time for Gov. Rick Snyder to resign.

Not because he has done a bad job. Far from it. Snyder, who has two years to go in his second and final four-year term, has actually done a commendable job.

After all, let’s not forget just how bad things were seven years ago when the then-largely unknown Ann Arbor businessman was taking to hustings across the Wolverine State in his campaign for the Republican gubernatorial nomination.

Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm presided over double-digit unemployment. Businesses were leaving for states with friendlier dispositions to innovators, entrepreneurs and job creators. Central cities, like Detroit, were a national embarrassment. Not only was Lansing basically bankrupt to the point where bureaucrats faced payless paydays, but the Legislature was incapable of exercising its primary constitutional duty: the passage of an on-time state budget. Known as the Lost Decade this was also when too many sons and daughters of Michigan left for a brighter future elsewhere.

Now, the state is unquestionably on the rebound. Other than managing what he has already put into motion there is little else Snyder can do between now and January 2019, when his successor takes office.

This is the perfect opportunity for Snyder to resign, not least because it would put Republicans in a much better position to keep the governor’s mansion.

The only problem? Snyder has never been a partisan, despite serving as titular head of the Michigan GOP. One could even argue Snyder would have more political capital left today had he used the power of patronage to appoint Republicans to offices, including the hundreds of sinecures.

If he doesn’t wake up and smell the coffee then Lieutenant Gov. Brian Calley and Attorney General Bill Schuette, the two presumed candidates for the Republican nomination, will spend the next 16 months firing broadsides at each other. That only helps the Democrats.

All Snyder has to do is resign, citing his record of accomplishments.

Calley would then become governor, putting him in a much better position to win, as no first-term GOP governor has lost since Kim Sigler in 1948. Being the loyal Republican partisan that he is Schuette would be unlikely to challenge an incumbent, even if was a so-called accidental governor. Schuette and Calley have their flaws, but the 39-year-old Calley is a better standard-bearer for Republicans moving forward.

At 63, Schuette is approaching the end of his career in politics as a presidential campaign staffer and party apparatchik, congressman and U.S. Senate nominee, state senator, director of a state department, appellate judge and now attorney general. He could defeat Gretchen Whitmer, one of two Democrats who have declared their candidacy. However, Whitmer, a rabble-rousing ex-state senator from East Lansing with no legislative or executive accomplishments to her name, is a fundamentally weak candidate. Abdul El-Sayed has also declared.

Democrats, desperate to win after a series of embarrassing losses, really want now-former U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade to run. McQuade, whose seven-year tenure as federal prosecutor in Detroit was applauded by Democrats and Republicans alike, would be formidable.

Not only would she neutralize Schuette’s law-and-order appeal, but she hails from vote-rich southeastern Michigan, where the GOP wins statewide by carrying the suburbs and exurbs of Macomb, Oakland and western Wayne counties.

Another concern for Republicans is Mark Hackel, the twice-elected executive of Macomb County. Yes, Hackel would have difficultly winning a primary against Whitmer, who is popular with the hard-left that dominates today’s Democratic Party, but his electoral appeal in blue-collar Macomb County and name recognition across Metro Detroit could be enough to convince Democrats to broaden their tent if McQuade doesn’t run.

Regardless of Snyder’s past misgivings over intervening in party politics now is the time for the governor to be a partisan, if only to ensure that his many accomplishments aren’t undone by a Democratic successor.

Dennis Lennox is a GOP public affairs consultant.