Democratic chair visits Houghton

HOUGHTON – Only a couple of weeks after the election, Michigan Democrats are getting ready for 2014.

State Democratic Party Chair Mark Brewer visited Houghton Wednesday as part of his annual tour of northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula.

Brewer said there are several strong contenders to run against Gov. Rick Snyder, who has yet to formally seek a second term.

While State Sen. Gretchen Witmer announced Wednesday she will not run, Brewer said there has been interest from people such as former U.S. Rep. Mark Schauer, and state Board of Education President John Austin.

“That’s one of our top priorities in 2014, is beating Governor Snyder,” he said.

Democrats are also looking to unseat U.S. Rep. Dan Benishek, R-Iron Mountain, who won a second term in November.

Brewer assailed Benishek for a recent vote against aid for Hurricane Sandy.

“This is a Congressional district that gets its fair share of disasters and gets disaster relief,” he said. “It’s really the height of hypocrisy, and I think he risks hurting this district in the long run by opposing disaster relief for other areas.”

Another priority is finding a candidate to run against State Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba. Brewer noted a recent report showing unemployment was rising again in the Upper Peninsula.

“The question to Senator Casperson and Governor Snyder is where are the jobs?” he said. “We were promised that if we raised taxes on the middle class and seniors, cut taxes for big corporations, the economy would recover, and we’d get jobs, and those promises have not been kept.”

Brewer said the party is also working hard to ensure the re-election of State Rep. Scott Dianda, D-Calumet.

Part of Brewer’s tour is also to mobilize party members against a state House bill that would allocate the state’s Electoral College votes not by the current winner-take-all method, but primarily through the winners’ Congressional districts. Similar bills have also been proposed in other states won by President Obama where Republicans have Congressional majorities.

Brewer called the idea “nothing more than election rigging.”

“The Republicans have not carried this state in six straight presidential elections,” he said. “They basically have concluded that they can’t win elections the old-fashioned way, with good candidates and issues, so now they want to rig the rules. Under their plan, even though the president won Michigan by 10 points last year – almost half a million votes – he would have lost the Electoral College vote in Michigan.”

Brewer said he would urge local Democratic party members to contact their representatives to campaign against the bill.

On Tuesday, Snyder signaled he would not support such a bill at a time when it overtly favors one party over the other. However, Brewer said Snyder has signaled his intent not to do other things in the past before pursuing them.

On one recent issue, the “right to work” legislation signed by Snyder last year, Brewer said labor unions are considering their opinions, including lawsuits, recalls or ballot proposals.

Brewer is also running for a 10th term as party chair at the state Democratic convention in February. Recent reports have said unions such as the United Auto Workers and the Teamsters have dropped their support for Brewer.

“No opposition so far, but I’m not taking anything for granted,” Brewer said.