Plans to press for a voter initiative to put the affirmative action issue on the state ballot next year are well underway. At a recent press conference in Lansing, just weeks after launching the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, American Civil Rights Coalition Chairman Ward Connerly named several Republican legislators to a steering committee to head up the effort.
“The purpose of today was to show to those who said ‘You have no political support’ … we do have. There are 21 legislators supporting us,” Connerly said. Both the Democratic and the Republican chairs in the state have declared their opposition to the initiative.
Connerly also announced that he and his supporters are hiring National Petition Management to collect signatures starting in September, at a cost of around $800,000-900,000.
Rep. Jack Brandenburg (R-Harrison Twp.) and Rep. Leon Drolet (R-Clinton Twp.) were chosen to be co-chairs of the committee.
“We’re glad to be working with them,” ACRC spokesman Justin Jones said. “They will oversee the effort statewide and everything that entails,” he said, adding their duties will include organizing fundraising, signature gathering, and coalition building.
The steering committee’s “responsibilities are to bring insight, advice and support to the initiative,” Drolet said.
Brandenburg said he first became interested in working with Connerly after the Supreme Court handed down its decision on whether or not the University could use race-conscious admissions.
“It was brought to my attention that we could put this to the ballot test. Let the people vote on this. It is tax dollars — our tax dollars, that’s funding (the University),” Brandenburg said. The University declined to comment on Connerly or the MCRI.
Brandenburg said he and Drolet are planning to meet with Connerly and his supporters in the next week or so to further plan the campaign.
“Ward Connerly’s people will be sending in volunteers themselves. What we would like to do on a county by county basis is get somebody who is a politically elected person with some volunteers and signatures — as many signatures as possible from each county,” Brandenburg said.
While getting the issue on the ballot only requires that they collect around 317,000 signatures, Brandenburg said they would aim at collecting between 400,000 and 500,000, because of the possibility of invalid signatures. Also, he said the more signatures they collect, the more voters will know that the public stands behind the initiative.
Steering committee members include Rep. Dan Acciavatti (R-Chesterfield), Rep. Matt Milosch (R-Lambertville), Rep. John Garfield (R-Rochester Hills), Rep. David Robertson (R-Grand Blanc), Rep. Tom Meyer (R-Bad Axe), Rep. Scott Hummel (R-DeWitt), Rep. Jack Hoogendyk (R-Portage), Rep. Joe Hune (R-Fowlerville), Rep John Stahl (R-North Branch), Rep. Craig DeRoche (R-Novi), Rep. Susan Tabor (R-Delta Township), Rep. John Pastor (R-Livonia), Rep. Stephen Ehardt (R-Lexington), Rep. Fulton Sheen (R-Plainwell), Rep. Tom Casperson (R-Escanaba), Rep. John Stakoe (R-Highland), Rep. Kenneth Bradstreet (R-Gaylord).
Tim O’Brien, the executive director of the Small Government Alliance and Charles Nunez Jr., executive director of the Character Resources of Michigan were also named to the committee.
Hoogendyk said the committee is still in its early stages and he is not sure how involved he will be. He said he was disappointed by the manner in which opposition to the MCRI voiced their protest.
“They certainly had a right to be there, but I think they would have done themselves better by being a little more respectful,” he said.
Connerly also commented on BAMN’s saying, “They’re troublemakers. They don’t respect civility.
“Anyone who criticizes racism and segregation in this country as strongly as we do is likely to become criticized,” LSA senior and BAMN member Neal Lyons said in response. “What’s so civil about segregation?” he added. Once legal language of the ballot is finalized, BAMN plans to boycott any company or organization that signs on as a sponsor.