Nessel Rides Progressive Enthusiasm To AG Nomination
April 18, 2018
(DETROIT) — Progressives and previously uninvolved Democrats braved the icy conditions outside to flood the Michigan Democratic Party (MDP) endorsement convention inside Cobo Hall, giving civil rights attorney Dana Nessel the party’s backing over union-backed Patrick Miles, the former U.S. Attorney. MDP officials reported 3,300 new registrants to a convention featuring a record-number 6,704 delegates, propelling the blunt, unapologetic progressive to what would have been 55 to 45 percent victory if a gracious Miles hadn’t asked a unanimous ballot be cast for Nessel, which he did. The race highlighted the most anticipated MDP convention since the 2013 party chair race and punctuated the type of marked split in the growing Democratic Party that Republicans saw eight years ago, where the “establishment” is running crossways with a spirited ideological fringe. It also marked organized labor’s first convention loss since at least 1996 when Supreme Court candidate Marilyn Kelly won the party’s nomination over fellow appellate court Judge Kathleen Jensen. However, in that case, labor was split. “The energy is real,” said MDP Chair Brandon Dillon. “(People) are horrified with what’s going on in Washington with Donald Trump. We’ve had eight years of Republican control and people recognize we have a real good opportunity to change the nature of the state from the top of the ticket all the way down.” In other action from the convention, voting rights attorney Jocelyn Benson won the Secretary of State endorsement uncontested, although a former legislative candidate, Vanessa Olive, made a late attempt to garner support. National civil rights attorney Sam Bagenstos and Megan Cavanagh won the party’s backing for Michigan Supreme Court. The MDP is legally required to nominate their general election slate at a late summer convention, but Sunday’s action all but assures Nessel, Benson, Bagenstos and Cavanagh will get their respective slots. Sunday’s enthusiasm for Nessel was due, in part, to organization. Nessel’s team says it registered 2,000 folks for the MDP, while Nessel allies were allegedly responsible for another 1,000. Her visits to 69 of the state’s 83 counties tapped into a general anti-Donald Trump, pro-woman theme activists called a “Blue wave” that’s claimed 39 legislative seat victories for Democrats across the country. “There’s a lot of enthusiasm for the party in a way that we haven’t seen for a while and I’m very, very hopeful that these same people will get out and be excited and energized and engaged and sweep us to victory in November,” Nessel said. The new energy appeared to be universal. She was warmly embraced by the Progressive Caucus and given a warm welcome in the Labor Caucus and the 13th Congressional District caucus, where she was the attendees’ less-than-unanimous choice. But in places like the 6th Congressional District, Nessel was given a rock star welcome. Miles’ enthusiasm seemed limited to his own supporters, said delegate Tim Beck, who watched it all happen. “Nobody responded to Pat Miles. It was astounding. This is a mega change within the Democratic Party,” Beck said. After Convention Chair Nancy Quarles announced Nessel the victor and officially adjourned the convention, hundreds of supporters crowded the stage and refused to leave until Nessel addressed them. The enthusiasm for Nessel, however, isn’t universal and there’s concerns in the labor caucus that Republicans will filet Nessel in a general election with the type of clientele she’s represented and defended over the years. African-American delegates walked away from Sunday’s convention dejected, seeing two Caucasian women winning nominations, a third — U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Delta Twp.), headlining the ticket and a fourth – Gretchen Whitmer, the presumed front runner in the gubernatorial race. “This is a disaster for the Democratic Party,” said MDP Black Caucus Chair Keith Williams. “Black folks are not going to be enthusiastic about this ticket.” While Whitmer has moved her campaign offices to Detroit, polling still doesn’t show the former Senate Minority Leader connecting in the motor city, home of the state’s highest concentration of Democratic voters. Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon, at one time the presumed frontrunner to be Whitmer’s running mate, is telling people his enthusiasm in being on the ticket has waned, further limiting the possibility for Lieutenant Governor if some sort of geographical, gender and racial diversity on the ticket is a priority. “Question: How do you get Detroit excited about a 100 percent White female ticket?” asked political consultant Steve Hood. “Answer: You don’t.” At least one Republican is enjoying watching the developing split in the Democratic Party. Former House Speaker Jase Bolger said he’s sick of hearing the “establishment v. Tea Party” split in the GOP when “the Berniecrats have clearly taken over the Democratic Party.” “In the battle of the UAW versus the Berniecrats, it’s the Berniecrats by a Nessel,” he quipped. Otherwise, both parties appear to have candidates in districts where they could realistically compete. Right To Work Repeal Top On Ananich’s List If Democrats take control of the governor’s office, the state House and state Senate in the fall, Minority Leader Jim Ananich (D-Flint) made it clear that the first bill he’ll send to the governor’s desk will be a repeal of the state’s right to work law. Speaking to the Democratic endorsement convention, Ananich also said initiatives that make water a basic human right, mandating paid sick leave and “fixing the damn roads” will also be high on his priority list.