Finley: Calley, Schuette — knock it off

Nolan Finley
The Detroit News

Those who wondered whether future elections would be influenced by the gutter-style campaigning employed by Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential contest need only look to Michigan for the answer.

From the tone and the language of the Republican gubernatorial primary race, you might think Trump had loaned the two major candidates his book of insults.

Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, who if nothing else is a decent human being, is now “Lyin’ Brian” Calley, accused of inflating his record and purposely distorting that of his opponent.

Attorney General Bill Schuette, who has spent four decades in public service without being touched by scandal, is tagged “Shady Schuette” by the Calley camp, which falsely claims of the fact that the AG is collecting two public pensions from his past government jobs and is in line for one more.

Every day brings another missive from the warring camps seeking to destroy the reputation and tar the character of the other guy.

It’s sleazy business, unworthy of two men who have had laudable careers and served both their constituents and their party with integrity.

Now, they’re painting themselves as win-by-any-means-necessary, cut-throat politicians who have decided gaining the governor’s office is worth cashing in their honor.

They’ve obviously also made up their minds that if they can’t win in November, they’d rather hand the office to a Democrat than see their Republican opponent prevail.

Makes sense, I guess, given the personal animosity they hold for each other. There is no love lost between Gov. Rick Snyder — and by extension Calley — and Schuette. The administration believes the attorney general scapegoated top Snyder appointees in the Flint water crisis to boost his own political ambitions.

There’s also bad blood between their campaign advisers, John Yob for Calley and Stu Sandler for Schuette.

So I didn’t expect this to be a cordial contest. But I did hope the two would stop short of mutually assured destruction.

Whoever the Democratic nominee is won’t have to spend a dime on attack ads, because by the time the general election campaign begins Calley and Schuette will be covered in slime paid for by Republican dollars.

Voters won’t forget monikers like “Lyin’ Brian” and “Shady Schuette” just because the primary is over and the hard work of electing a Republican begins.

I put the onus for ending this juvenile brawling on the GOP funders. Those donating to the candidates and the political action committees operating on their behalf must establish some ground rules before they give to assure Calley and Schuette don’t damage the Republican brand in November.

These natural adversaries don’t have to celebrate each other on the campaign trail. But keep the attacks fair and in bounds, and be mindful that any mud slung during the primary will be picked up by Democrats and tossed again in the general.

Run campaigns that tout their own ability to keep rolling Michigan’s Republican-orchestrated comeback. Calley and Schuette should think of something bigger than themselves and knock off this crap.

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