While Republicans and Democrats made headlines at their national conventions over the past few weeks, the state parties also gathered in Grand Rapids and Lansing, respectively, last weekend to nominate candidates at their state conventions.
The Michigan Republican Party nominated University alum, cardiologist Rob Steele, the 2010 Republican challenger to U.S. Rep. John Dingell (D–Mich.), and Dan Horning, a University Regent from 1994 to 2002, for the two open seats for the University’s Board of Regents. The Democrats nominated Mark Bernstein, a University alum and president and managing partner of the Sam Bernstein Law Firm, and Shauna Ryder Diggs, a dermatologist and also a University alum. University regents are elected for eight-year terms.
State Rep. Jeff Irwin (D–Ann Arbor) attended the Democratic convention this weekend and said he emphasized University issues when speaking to attendees.
“My part of the event was really to talk to people about what’s going on in the Michigan Legislature and how they can be active in elections this fall,” Irwin said. “Those issues that I was talking to the delegates about … were issues that affect our University community very closely.”
Irwin also spoke to disappointing advances in higher education funding, which has been slashed in recent years.
“Republicans, in the last two years, cut higher ed. by 15 percent, which was an unprecedented cut to higher ed.,” he said.
Irwin also had warm words for Bridget McCormack, a University law professor and one of the Democratic candidates for the State Supreme Court nominated at the convention.
“She’s one of the Supreme Court candidates I’ve been most excited about in my entire life, frankly, because here you have somebody who’s not just from our community but someone who’s done great things in our community,” he said.
Irwin said McCormack’s involvement in the Innocence Project, a group in the Law School dedicated to exonerating innocent people wrongly jailed, makes her an even more attractive candidate.
“Sometimes mistakes are made,” Irwin said. “And it’s people like Bridget Mary McCormack and the folks who she works with — the students that she works with at the Law School — that make sure that those mistakes are ferreted out … and make sure that justice is done.”
LSA junior Matt Jones, co-chair of the state of Michigan College Republicans and the state of Michigan director of Students for Romney, attended the Republican state convention as a delegate for Kalamazoo, Mich.
Jones said he was pleased with the Republicans’ nomination of Steele and Horning because of their past involvement with the University and specifically with the College Republicans.
“Steele and Horning both, we have a history with working on various different projects,” Jones said. “I guess you could say they’re the students’ regents because they really have worked closely with us over the years.”
Jones also noted that he enjoyed the change in political climate from Ann Arbor to the convention.
“Living in Ann Arbor, one of the most liberal places in the country … we are indeed the minority,” he said. “I think being around people that are ready to elect Mitt really gets us fired up.”
LSA senior Rachel Jankowski, chair of the University’s chapter of College Republicans, volunteered at the convention. She said while the convention was informational for her, it will also be beneficial to those who couldn’t attend.
“We also wanted to make sure we were educated on the issues so that we could come back and teach our peers about it,” she said.
Jankowski added that despite the higher average age of convention attendees, gaps across age groups were successfully bridged.
“I truly enjoyed being around so many like-minded energized people,” she said. “They tend to be an older crowd at the convention, (and) they were excited to see that young people were interested in the party.”
LSA senior Sean Walser, vice president of the Student Association of Michigan, also attended the Democratic Michigan convention, which he described as diverse, yet focused.
“I think it was cool to see so many people in one room working on a lot of different issues but really united behind one common cause,” he said.
Walser stressed the importance of students taking part in the nomination of the University’s Board of Regent candidates. He said the election process is readily overlooked by most people, but remains especially important because there is no primary election for regent candidates.
“People don’t realize that this campus is getting run essentially by those individuals that are nominated at the party convention,” he said.