Lansing Watchdog: Primary Season Round-Up

July 30, 2014

If you take a trip to Lansing this summer, don’t expect to see much.

With the primary election on August 5, it’s pretty quiet in the Capitol.

Both House and Senate members are either living on the campaign trail to  retain their seats or planning to move on to their next gig.

The legislature is scheduled to be in session only two days in August, coming back for a full month in September, and then return in October and November with only a few session days scheduled in each month.

Everyone I know has grown tired of the incessant political phone calls and literature. Anyone brave enough to sit on their front porch runs the risk of being approached by political operatives carrying a clipboards and a list of questions: “Will you be voting in the primaries this August?” “Who will you be supporting?” What are your major issues?”

To be fair, there is a lot at stake. 

Currently, the Republican Party controls the Governor’s office and both the Michigan Senate (with a super-majority of 26 Republicans to 12 democrats) and the House (with a slimmer margin of nine seats with 59 Republicans, 50 Democrats and one Independent).

The Democrats are desperate to take over at least one of the three areas that controls Michigan’s legislative process, while the Republicans seek to retain and increase their majority.

Races to Watch: The House

As we draw closer to August 5th, the competitive nature of the House races is becoming more apparent, and the electorate is becoming engaged.

Of the 40 House seats that will turn over this year, there are eight truly competitive seats and another four that may come into play.

The top House races being targeted for a turnover are:

There are four additional races worth watching, and these could decide the leadership of the House for the upcoming legislative session:

Races to Watch: The Senate

Most political analysts concede that the Senate will retain its GOP majority. There are ten seats in which the incumbent is not seeing re-election and two of those Republican-held seats could be competitive.

Senate District 13, held by John Pappageorge (R), has a crowded Republican primary with five (mostly) experienced hopefuls running, and a Democratic primary featuring two newcomers. Although this district has not been represented by a Democrat in many years, Ryan Fishman (D), is mounting a very ambitious campaign while the Republican primary candidates are hardly distinguishing themselves from one another.

Senate District 17, currently held by term-limited Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville (R), is being eyed by the Democrats for a flip. The challenge there will be between the experienced Doug Spade (D) and two-term House member Dale Zorn (R).

The other seats up this year are:

Legislative Priorities

The ACLU of Michigan is non-partisan, but there is no doubt that leadership matters to our issues.

There are a host of legislative priorities we are championing and we encourage our supporters to ask their candidates to where they stand.

Reforming Juvenile Life without Parole Laws

A critical issue that is currently playing in both the courts and the legislature is reform of life without parole laws that mandate life sentences without parole for juveniles convicted of certain crimes. The U.S. Supreme Court found such a mandatory sentence unconstitutional.

This past year, our laws were amended to prohibit a mandatory life sentence without first considering a term of years that puts the minimum sentence at 25 years. However, this solution did not provide any remedy for the over 360 people currently serving life sentences for crimes they committed as juveniles. In this past legislative session, we have seen bi-partisan support increase to reform our harsh and counter-productive sentencing structure.

Help us encourage candidates to support reform that would give those serving life sentences for crimes committed before they were even old enough to vote a chance to prove they can be contributing citizens.

Prohibiting Discrimination in Michigan

Michigan needs to reform our state’s civil rights laws, known as the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in hiring, firing and housing. Over 70% of Michigan citizens agree that no one should be fired just for being gay – and this year, a good number of Republicans have joined with many Democrats who want to make sure our laws prohibit such discrimination.

Ask your candidate to support non-discrimination legislation that includes sexual orientation and gender identity. It’s the right thing to do and the right thing for our state, especially at the very time Michigan is pushing hardest toward economic recovery.

Ending the War on Women

Women’s issues have been thrust to the fore as the National debate over health care, the provision of birth control, and the obsession with controlling a woman’s access to abortion care has led to draconian laws that truly put women and their families at risk. Reproductive health care coverage, including abortion and miscarriage care, is basic health care and should not be relegated to the whim of elected officials beholden to election year politics.

Ask your candidate to support overturning a dangerous law that prohibits insurance companies from covering abortion related care, even in the case of rape, incest, and a threat to a woman’s health, unless the woman purchases an additional insurance rider.  

Questions about our work in Lansing? Contact us at aclu@aclumich.org.

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