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Election 2014: The running season is here

This week’sIt’s Just Politics deserves a little running music (we’re thinking the theme to Chariots of Fire would fit well) because we’re looking at who’s in, who’s out, who’s thinking of getting in and who’s thinking about who’s thinking about getting in when it comes to Election 2014.

This week Detroit Mayor Dave Bing announced he’s out; won’t seek another term as Mayor. He delivered this lengthy apologia that seemed about as long as the entire Bing administration to the people who had to sit through it before he made the big announcement. In journalism, we call that burying the lead. There was some question as to whether Mayor Bing could actually win reelection, but clearly this breaks open that race. Twenty two people running, the biggest slate in almost two decades.

The candidates getting the most attention are Mike Duggan, former Detroit Medical Center CEO and Wayne County problem-solver, and Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon. The other candidates are in a race right now to make themselves the top alternative should one or both of them falter. Kind of like what we saw last year in the Republican presidential primary as it seemed like a different candidate every month became the alternative to Mitt Romney.

So, we have this big race for Detroit mayor, while the filing deadline for Michigan’s big statewide races – governor and U.S. senator – is still a year away. We’re at that weird stage of the gubernatorial race. Let’s start with Rick Snyder, who says he’s not ready to announce that he’s running but, really, he’s running. “I’m not formally announcing anything. I’m honored to be governor. And I’ve got a lot of things I’d like to do over the next few years,” Snyder said this week.

Those “things” he’d like to do: it’s a good bet those are governor-things. Incumbents are in an awkward place because as soon as they declare for reelection, everything they do is seen in that context. And they still have jobs to do. Not so however, for challengers. There is this Kabuki dance surrounding Democrat Mark Schauer. We’re seeing news stories of how he’s acting like a candidate for governor, even though he’s not one yet. But, we’re calling foul on this. It’s time to just declare he’s a candidate. There’s this artifice in political journalism where we talk about candidates who are acting as candidates like they’re somehow prenatal. Mark Schauer is doing the things that a candidate does, collecting endorsements, granting media interviews. His paperwork will be filed before the end of the month. And, that’ll be in time for the big Detroit Regional Chamber conference on Mackinac Island, where there’s a lot of talking politics and a lot of prospective donors. A campaign committee will give him a place to put those checks.

But, we should mention the path has not been entirely cleared for Schauer. State Representative Vicki Barnett says she’s still in the hunt, “I’m still exploring, like I said I would through this summer. Mark and I have been in communication. He’s a wonderful guy, and we both want the same thing, and that is to make sure this state is led by a different governor in 2014.” Barnett says she’s still in mostly to make sure the Democrats have the strongest possible candidate. She says a woman from Oakland County with background in government and business would be a strong contender. And, if she’s not the candidate for governor, she would be willing to run on a Schauer-led ticket as the candidate for lieutenant governor.

Let’s pivot, now, and talk about the Senate race; an open seat in 2014 with the retirement of Carl Levin. Democrats, again, appear to have their candidate in Congressman Gary Peters. Republicans: not so much.  Everyone is waiting to see what Rogers does. Will he give up a safe congressional seat and the influential chairmanship of the House Intelligence Committee for a no-guarantees Senate race? The Rothenberg Political Report still puts Michigan’s Senate seat in the “safe Democratic” column and Rogers does seem to be a man with options; he’s been mentioned as a possible next FBI director.

Meanwhile, Congressman Justin Amash from Grand Rapids is still weighing a bid for the seat. He represents a libertarian-leaning alternative to Rogers; he’s from the Ron and Rand Paul wing of the Republican Party. And, there’s also former Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land. She’s set an informal deadline of June 1st because she says the Republican nominee will need two summers to fundraise and campaign.

Zoe Clark is Michigan Public's Political Director. In this role, Clark guides coverage of the state Capitol, elections, and policy debates.
Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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