EAST LANSING – The major-party candidates for Michigan attorney general questioned each other’s experience, honesty and priorities in a debate Friday, televised by WKAR-TV’s “Off the Record.”

Entering the final stretch of a race marked by large differences of opinion and close polling numbers, the opponents faced off over contentious issues.

The major policy matter most dividing Livonia Republican Mike Cox and Democratic state Sen. Gary Peters of Bloomfield Township is the extent of resources the attorney general should devote to consumer protection.

Peters, generally approving of the direction the office has taken under more than 40 years of Democratic control, supports a continued emphasis on consumers. Cox wants to turn the official’s duties toward battling violent crime.

The attorney general should protect people victimized by fraud, Peters said.

“If you are the victim of a telemarketing scam, if you have gas gouging, where do you go? You turn to the attorney general’s office,” he said. “Mike Cox is not going to stand up as the people’s advocate.”

Michigan’s high violent crime rate requires that the next attorney general take on criminals, Cox said.

He said he will nonetheless “enforce the law on the books. That’s what I’ve done for 13 years.”

Peters lied when he said Cox would end the office’s consumer protection duties, Cox said.

Citing a television ad that he said misrepresented his views on gay marriage, Peters also accused Cox of lying.

Peters said while he supports gay civil unions such as are legal in Vermont, his votes in the Senate show he does not want legal gay marriage as the ad indicated.

Cox returned again and again throughout the debate to the topic of qualifications, stressing his legal experience as a prosecutor and the head of the homicide division in the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office.

His opponent “has never appeared in court. He has never written a brief,” Cox said, as his opponent rushed to dispute that claim.

“He’s made his profession as two things, as a stockbroker and as a career politician,” Cox said.

Peters, who used his law degree as a securities arbitrator before his election to the Senate, said legal experience is not the crux of the job.

“The attorney general is the lead person leading a major state department and having an understanding of the whole range of laws in which we deal with,” Peters said.

He touted endorsements by police organizations, newspapers and environmental groups that he said show he has what it takes to run the office.

Ending insurance companies’ “redlining” practices that charge different premiums for residents in different areas has been an important part of Peters’ platform.

But Cox said determining rates using territorial divisions makes sense because some regions in Michigan are more dangerous than others.

“People in Warren don’t want to be paying more because there’s higher crime areas somewhere else,” he said.

The candidates did agree on several issues.

While Cox in general opposes the state making class-action lawsuits, he said former Attorney General Frank Kelley’s action against tobacco companies that resulted in a large settlement was probably appropriate. Peters also said Kelley was correct to join the suit.

Neither candidate favors the decriminalization of marijuana in Michigan, they said.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.