Letter: GOP primary fight for governor nears end

By Dennis Lennox

It seems as if a day can’t pass without Attorney General Bill Schuette and Lt. Gov. Brian Calley trading broadsides in the race for the Republican nomination to succeed term-limited Gov. Rick Snyder.

Calley trotted out an endorsement from a Larry Nassar victim as part of a reoccurring attack that Schuette puts politics ahead of justice. But the attack backfired when it was reported that Brian Breslin, the Michigan State University board chairman and a senior Snyder­­-Calley political appointee who may or may not still be on a leave of absence, colluded with other board members to prevent disclosure of otherwise releasable records.

GOP gubernatorial candidates Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley, left, and Attorney General Bill Schuette participate in a televised debate at the WOOD TV8 studios, in Grand Rapids on May 9.

Schuette responded by reminding everyone about Calley unendorsing then-candidate Donald J. Trump in the closing weeks of the 2016 presidential campaign. He did so by challenging Calley and also-rans Jim Hines and Patrick Colbeck to promise they would endorse the eventual Republican nominee, regardless of who wins. Then there was the ad against Calley for secretly attending graduate school at Harvard University. Yet instead of criticizing Calley for playing hooky out-of-state — a major lack of judgment, given the lieutenant governor is first in the line of succession — the best Schuette’s campaign could come up with was a juvenile attack against intellectualism and Ivy League elitism.

Of course, it’s no coincidence that the race intensified just as township and city clerks started to mail absentee ballot applications.

What is most remarkable is just how little has changed in almost a year other than the failure of Calley’s campaign for a part-time Legislature, which he hoped would prove his bonafides with the truest of true believers that dominate the GOP primary, and Schuette getting the endorsement of Trump.

Schuette, the sometime judge, state senator, gubernatorial appointee and congressman from Midland, remains comfortably ahead of the banker-turned-career politician in his own right from Ionia County.

Being the governor’s heir apparent and holding the Snyder coalition together won’t be enough for Calley. He needs Hines, the Saginaw physician, and Colbeck, a state senator from Canton Township, to each get at least 5 percent of the vote. That’s because a vote for Colbeck or Hines is one less vote for Schuette.

Meanwhile, Schuette has broad support with the Republican rank-and-file. Yes, some of this is because Schuette has built a base over his many campaigns, but much of it is also because Snyder was uninterested in being the titular head of the Michigan Republican Party. As a result, it gave Schuette an opening that he’s filled for nearly eight years now

Then there is the Trump card. If needed, Schuette can count on the president coming back just before August to make sure Calley, who the Trumpists despise, doesn’t win.

With absentee voting underway the campaign now enters the stage when it becomes less about persuasion and more about turning out supporters. This is critical as most Michiganians would rather be somewhere up north than standing in line to vote at their local precinct.

Dennis Lennox is a political commentator and public affairs consultant.