Just two weeks after the Nov. 5 general elections, transition efforts are heavily underway at both the national and state levels to replace the numerous lawmakers and executives who are leaving their posts.
State Sen.-elect Liz Brater (D-Ann Arbor), while acknowledging that her party will be in the minority in both houses of the Michigan Legislature, said the state budget will likely be one of the tougher issues state lawmakers face.
“It’s going to be very painful – all the easy (solutions) have already been done so everybody’s going to have to examine priorities,” she said.
Numerous governorships and seats in the U.S. Congress and state legislatures are being turned over. There will be at least 10 new U.S. senators and 50 new members of the House, pending special elections and runoffs in a few races around the country.
For example, Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu’s runoff in Louisiana will determine whether Republicans pad their new 51-seat majority in Congress upper house. Landrieu, who faces Republican challenger Suzanne Haik Terrell, was forced into the Dec. 7 runoff after failing to get more than 50 percent of the vote in the November election.
Reps.-elect Candice Miller (R-Harrison Twp.) and Thaddeus McCotter (R-Livonia) will be sworn in at the beginning of the year. Combined with the departure of Democratic Reps. James Barcia of Bay City, David Bonior of Mount Clemens and Lynn Rivers of Ann Arbor, their swearings-in will give Republicans a 9-6 majority in Michigan’s congressional delegation.
In Michigan, all four state executive officers will be new, although the race for attorney general has not yet been certified. Democratic Gov.-elect Jennifer Granholm and Lt. Gov.-elect John Cherry Jr. announced yesterday a chief of staff for the administration, though no appointments to the governor’s Cabinet have been announced yet.
Kelly Chesney, spokeswoman for the Department of Management and Budget, which oversees transition efforts between Granholm and departing Gov. John Engler, said “the Engler administration is working with the transition leaders to familiarize them with the agencies and agency issues that may be coming up in the working year,” like dealing with an expected budget shortfall of more than $1 billion in the 2004 fiscal year.
Republican Mike Cox is currently clinging to a 6,500 margin over Democrat Gary Peters in the attorney general’s race, and a recount still is possible but unlikely. Cox named a transition team yesterday, as did Republican Secretary of State-elect Terri Land on Monday.
“Everyone’s having to look at their departments and where they’re being efficient and where they can trim back,” said Eileen McNulty, spokeswoman for Land’s transition team. “Terri doesn’t want to make any cuts that would relate to customer service.”
The state Legislature will also consist of numerous new members, many of whom served there in previous capacities or are related to present or past officeholders. In the Senate, all but 10 of the 38 members will be new to that body.
Chosen to lead majority Republicans in the Senate was Sen. Kenneth Sikkema of suburban Grand Rapids, a former minority leader in the House, and Sen. Robert Emerson of Flint will serve as the Democratic minority leader. Republicans will have a 22-16 majority in the Senate after losing one seat this month.
Among the new legislators are current Kentwood Mayor and Sen.-elect Bill Hardiman, who will be the first black Republican serving in the Legislature since the early 1930s.
“I don’t know what the governor will propose,” he said. “But we are hopeful that we will cooperate and come together for the people of this state.”
Republicans gained five seats in the state House, bringing the party split there to 62-48. They reelected Rep. Rick Johnson of LeRoy for a second term as speaker and Democrats in that chamber chose Rep.-elect Dianne Byrum, a current state senator from Onondaga Township, as their leader.
The Legislature will also include some familiar names. Among them: Rep.-elect Virgil Smith (D-Detroit) is the son of former Sen. Virgil C. Smith; Rep.-elect Glenn Steil Jr. of Cascade Township is following in the steps of his father, a retiring senator; Reps.-elect Frank Accavitti Jr. (D-Eastpointe) and Daniel Acciavatti (R-Chesterfield Twp.) are cousins; and former Rep. Michelle McManus (R-Lake Leelanau) will succeed her father, Sen. George McManus Jr. Former Rep. Alma Stallworth (D-Detroit) is returning to the House for one more term to succeed her son, term-limited Rep. Keith Stallworth, and the lieutenant governor-elect’s sister, former Rep. Deborah Cherry of Burton, will take over his seat in the Senate.