Former Michigan Court of Appeals Judge Bill Schuette and state Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop have the next two weeks to sway party faithful in their campaigns for the Republican nomination for Michigan attorney general.
Schuette has the endorsement of GOP gubernatorial nominee Rick Snyder and the backing of a large number of party activists on his side, but there’s no guarantee how delegates will vote at the party’s Aug. 28 convention.
Both Schuette and Bishop are crisscrossing the state in a final push before a pick is made and the winner launches his two-month-long general election campaign.
“Going into the convention, Schuette is the guy to beat,” said William Rustem of Public Sector Consultants, a nonpartisan Lansing think tank. “He’s done a significant job in reaching out across the state.”
The Democratic race, which in the past would see similar intensity, was essentially settled in April at an endorsement convention. Delegates chose Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton as their favorite over attorney Richard Bernstein, giving Leyton the chance to run a six-month campaign before the Nov. 2 election.
Leyton has been balancing time on the campaign trail with a high-profile investigation into a suspected knife-wielding serial killer, who was arrested late Wednesday in Atlanta as he was trying to leave the country on a flight to his native Israel.
“It’s taken up most of my time,” Leyton said of the case. “I’m still the Genesee County prosecutor and I’m still doing my job.”
The early endorsement has helped his campaign raise money and build support, Leyton said. But he notes it also has given the GOP a target to attack earlier in the election cycle.
Schuette has locked up endorsements from GOP activists ranging from former House Speaker Newt Gingrich to current Attorney General Mike Cox and gubernatorial candidate Snyder, who backed Schuette even before winning the Aug. 3 primary election.
But political conventions are full of their own political moves, and unexpected results can occur. In 1998, for instance, GOP delegates nominated John Smietanka for attorney general over Scott Romney, the favorite of Republican Gov. John Engler and the son of former Gov. George Romney.
Some say that move opened the way for Democratic newcomer Jennifer Granholm to beat Smietanka and use the attorney general’s post to launch her successful 2002 run for governor.
Bishop sees his State Capitol experience as an asset that shows proven leadership and an ability to win. He said he hasn’t sought endorsements during the campaign, and he’ll continue to stress a commitment to states’ rights and individual rights as he courts delegates in the next two weeks.
“This is about the grass roots, this is about the delegates,” Bishop said. “Delegates resent the top-down approach. I have been a delegate in the past. … I have been on the receiving end of political elites.”
Schuette said the backing from Snyder is important, but he’s not leaving anything to chance ahead of the convention. He said he plans to earn every vote and endorsement possible leading up to the convention and is stressing that he has the experience to do the job.
“Conventions will be decided by the delegates themselves,” Schuette said. “I’ve been involved in grass-roots politics in Michigan for 25 years. … We have a grass-roots organization of committed Republican activists.”
As Bishop and Schuette court the party faithful ahead of the convention, the Michigan Democratic Party has been concentrating its attacks on Schuette, who it considers the likely nominee. It has called on Schuette to release a list of his law firm’s legal and lobbying clients to reveal potential conflicts of interest, a move Schuette’s campaign has said amounts to “political tricks.”
Earlier this month, the state’s Democratic party nabbed the website www.schuetteonduty.com. It plans to use it as the featured site for its criticism of the candidate. Schuette has used the slogan “Schuette on Duty” throughout his political career, which spans his time in the U.S. House to stints in the Michigan Senate, as state agriculture director and as a judge.
Schuette’s campaign manager says he’s sure voters will find Schuette’s official www.billschuette.com website despite the Democratic maneuvers.
Those tactics, Schuette said, represent the “old politics” voters no longer want.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)