Just Minor Blips, Or Harbingers Of Future Headaches?

Editors' Note: MIRS asked a panel of political pundits to opine on four recent situations that might or might not be remembered as "an early sign" of future problems.

Q. New Michigan Republican Party Chair Laura Cox ruffled the feathers of some delegates to this past weekend’s convention when her campaign for the post was considered by some to have been unnecessarily negative in its treatment of her opponent Gina BARR. Is this an example of an "inside story" that probably has no legs or is it a sign of rough roads ahead?

Jen EYER, Vanguard Public Affairs Senior Vice President, argued that what this reveals about the Cox camp doesn’t bode well for the Michigan GOP going forward. "Laura Cox's aggressive and negative campaign against Gina Barr tells me one of two things: Either her campaign wasn't organized enough to know they were way ahead, or she doesn't care about building bridges," Eyer said. "Either scenario spells trouble for the Michigan Republican Party."

Q. Attorney General Dana NESSEL drew fire from some quarters for her statement encouraging the public to "ask to see their badge and not their rosary" if investigators knock on their door in the context of investigations into allegations of sexual abuse by clergy. Should this be classified as a P.R. mistake or did it only anger those who didn’t like Nessel anyway?

"AG Nessel’s comment probably only ruffled the feathers of those who are predisposed to not appreciate what she has to say," Eyer said. "The phrase was catchy and made an important point: It's always good for members of the public to question whether clergy sexual abuse allegations are indeed being referred to the proper legal authorities."

Q. The legislature is now accepting the E.O. that creates Gov. Whitmer’s new department, EGLE (Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy) to replace the DEQ. But this acceptance comes after it rejected her first try due to a dispute over oversight boards. Overall, should this story be seen as a harbinger of tough going ahead between the Governor and the legislature, or should it be seen as evidence that the two sides are capable of compromise?

Eyer said it demonstrated that the Governor is willing to work with the legislature. "Gov. Whitmer showed herself to be a skilled negotiator in this situation," Eyer said. "Donald Trump could learn a thing or two from her."

Q. Did the Governor wander into a potential conflict of interest hornet's nest by naming Orlene Christie HAWKS, the wife of multi-client lobbyist Mike HAWKS, as her new LARA (Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs) director? Or will the fact that Orlene Hawks was already director of the Office of Children’s Ombudsman probably assure that the topic will be raised at her Advise and Consent hearing, but is ultimately destined to be no more than a tempest in a teapot?

According to Eyer, there’s no reason this should be a problem. "I assume that Ms. Hawks will be vigilant and recuse herself from any matters where there may be a conflict of interest," Eyer said. "By the way, this is not the first time a governor has appointed a director who has a spouse 'in the business,' though in the past the gender roles have been reversed. In light of that, some might say it’s sexist to assume she can't be ethical and professional while men in the same position haven't been question in the same way."


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