While the state’s U.S. Senate race has nearly faded into a far corner of the 2018 Michigan election landscape, some rock-ribbed Republicans continue their 18-year effort to bounce Democratic incumbent Debbie Stabenow from office.
So, when Candice Miller, whom many of the GOP faithful would have been thrilled to see making a run for Senate, participated in a celebratory event with Stabenow on Monday, it caused some rumblings/grumblings within the GOP.
Miller, the Macomb County public works commissioner, organized a joint press event with Stabenow to hail the completion of a new fishing pier on the Clinton River Spillway, just outside of Mount Clemens. The Spillway, an unheralded prime fishing spot, has received funding in recent years for some sprucing-up projects. Stabenow, as co-chair of the Senate Great Lakes Task Force, was obviously interested in trumpeting the new pier during an election year.
Miller, a Republican from nearby Harrison Township, obliged. A bipartisan group of elected officials were also on hand.
If this Monday event had taken place in October at the peak of a tight Senate race, Miller would have been publicly grilled by the GOP faithful. Instead, I’m told that some Republican loyalists quietly demanded an explanation. I doubt they expected much.
After all, savvy GOP political observers like Miller can obviously see how this Senate race has gone south for the Republicans. An early entry into the campaign, Robert Young, former Michigan Supreme Court chief justice, quickly dropped out. Congressman Fred Upton declined to run. Foul-mouthed musician Kid Rock embarrassed the GOP by suggesting he would run – which quickly gained him large numbers of Republican Party supporters — only to denigrate those who took him seriously.
What’s more, a top Senate candidate, well-connected businesswoman Lena Epstein, soon changed directions and chose to run for the 11th Congressional District opening in Wayne and Oakland counties. That leaves Republicans John James and Sandy Pensler. James, a businessman and Iraq War veteran, has a fantastic resume. Pensler, also a businessman, retains his lone political experience as the loser of a Michigan congressional race 26 years ago. Neither have spent the past several months building up an impressive Senate campaign operation that could legitimately worry Stabenow.
As a result, Miller, a fan of President Trump, should be forgiven for engaging with the Democratic senator on a local project that appeals to people of every political stripe.
The fishing pier and surrounding projects were financed by $4 million in grants from the federal Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) program in Washington. The grants paid for habitat restoration, bank stabilization and erosion control and the removal of invasive species, primarily those towering plants with the wispy top known as phragmites that have nearly wiped out the cattails across the county.
These and other GLRI projects along the Great Lakes shoreline represent ecological progress that Stabenow can bring – if Trump does not eventually succeed in decimating the GLRI program.
In the end, this was not a close call for the public works commissioner. This was vintage Miller – ready to put progress and success ahead of election-time partisan party politics.
Photo: Miller, Stabenow and a bipartisan group of elected officials praise a new fishing pier.