Editorial: Midterm stakes are high in Michigan


Vice President Joe Biden spent Labor Day in downtown Detroit addressing a crowd of union folks. It’s his second visit to Detroit in the past two months. He also visited to headline the progressive conference Netroots Nation in July, and attend local fundraisers.

Biden’s increased interest in Detroit — Mayor Mike Duggan even called him “Detroit’s very best friend” — and other actions from the White House signal the stakes are high for Michigan in this fall’s national midterm elections.

With several high-profile congressional races, and one critical Senate seat open, the White House and outside groups of both parties are making a strong push to secure votes.

The race between Rep. Gary Peters and Terri Lynn Land for retiring Sen. Carl Levin’s seat has drawn national attention, and has the potential to tilt control of the Senate if Land wins. Labor votes are important to push Peters over the edge. Unions are also intensely interested in the gubernatorial contest because of Gov. Rick Snyder’s signing of a right-to-work law.

Biden visited last weekend to rally those labor votes, as President Barack Obama’s proxy to that important constituency.

Despite Michigan’s rich labor history, unions have had little to celebrate here in recent years.

This year’s midterm elections will be the first since the state passed right to work in 2012, and will be a test of labor’s political relevance. There has been less outrage since the bill’s passing than was promised by state Democrats.

The White House isn’t the only player getting involved in Michigan. The Senate race has drawn huge amounts of money from outside groups on both sides. Of the $21 million spent on the race, $13 million has been from outside groups such as conservative Americans for Prosperity, Freedom Partners, billionaire Tom Steyer and progressive Senate Majority PAC.

The Republican Governors Association and the Democratic Governors Association have also both gotten involved in the race for Michigan’s governor.

Michigan’s national focus as a swing state will bolster its importance in Congress and in future presidential elections. And with so many senior congressional members from Michigan retiring this year, that’s a good thing.