By Sam Gringlas, Daily Staff Reporter
Published September 15, 2013
With this November’s ballot lacking a statewide race, Detroit’s mayoral contest is likely to grip political focus throughout the fall. But more than a year from midterm election season, state political organizers are beginning to mobilize forces around two crucial decisions in 2014: the election of a U.S. senator and governor.
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Though Republican Gov. Rick Snyder said he wouldn’t announce whether or not he would seek a second term until early 2014, Michigan Democrats have been rallying prospective Democratic nominee Mark Schauer for much of the summer.
Schauer, a former state and U.S. representative from Battle Creek, announced his candidacy last spring and will likely glide through primary season without another Democratic challenger.
Schauer has spent most of the summer attempting to build statewide familiarity, a challenge faced by most non-incumbent candidates. It’s especially crucial for Schauer to gain recognition because he hasn’t previously competed in a statewide race.
In an interview with The Michigan Daily Thursday, Schauer said a unified Democratic Party has provided him the chance to construct a solid campaign organization much earlier in the election. He also noted that there has only been an unopposed Democratic primary once since 1970.
“I can focus on 2014, and that’s a fantastic position to be in,” Schauer said.
Schauer has already racked up significant millage crisscrossing the state over the past few months, recently making stops in several Michigan communities, such as Escanaba, Manistee, Leland, Southfield and Detroit.
Aaron Kall, director of the University’s debate program, said an uncontested primary presents a rare situation that can greatly influence the strategy of a race, as Schauer will likely have the full support of Democrats across the state.
At this stage in the race, Kall said a new candidate’s best strategy is visiting counties and districts — and shaking as many hands as possible — in an effort to garner name recognition and positive media attention.
“Nothing can replace good old-fashioned campaigning,” Kall said.
In addition, Schauer has the opportunity to focus all of his energy on his likely general election opponent, Snyder, rather than dueling in a brutal primary battle.
Primaries tend to force candidates to shift to one side of their ideology, Kall said, in order to differentiate themselves from other challengers.
“Not having primary opponents allows both candidates to be who they are, who are very moderate, in a state that kind of leans blue, but is purple and could go either way,” Kall said.
Kall said some of Snyder’s policies, such as Medicaid expansion and the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, have angered many subscribers to the Tea Party faction of the Republican Party. An issue that could greatly differentiate Snyder and Schauer may arise with debates concerning labor, referenced by Snyder’s support of Right-to-Work legislation.
Snyder has also refrained from speaking on an array of social issues, instead choosing a narrative centered on economic growth for families and businesses.
Kelli Ford, press secretary for the Michigan Republican Party, emphasized Snyder’s commitment to rebuilding the economy.
“Right now, Governor Snyder is focused on doing the job he was elected to do: build Michigan’s comeback,” Ford wrote in a email interview. “New jobs are being added because Governor Snyder and the Republican legislature know what it takes to get our economy back on track.”
In a January op-ed published in the Detroit Free Press, Snyder cited multiple economic reforms initiated under his administration that he said contributed to Michigan ranking as the sixth fastest-growing economy in the nation.
However, Schauer said Snyder’s economic policies, which he believes cater to corporate special interests, have made it difficult for communities to remain viable and retain young people.
“I see Rick Snyder talking about those things, but his actions don’t back them up,” Schauer said.
Education, it seems, may also arise in potential debates as the electorate begins to pay more attention to the gubernatorial race.
Schauer has dedicated multiple recent op-eds and social media posts to education-related issues. Though Schauer has not laid out a specific policy platform, he has a track record from his time in the state legislature and has recently railed against Snyder for large-scale budget cuts in both higher and k-12 education.
“We need to fundamentally reconnect to our constitutional promise of a quality public education for every child,” Schauer said. “We need to recommit to supporting our universities. We have seen consistent cuts in state support for higher education.