Budgets without roads, vaping without flavors, Enbridge without Snyder, and Lavora Barnes is our guest.

September 10, 2019

Michigan Policast for Tuesday, September 10 2019

  In this episode:

  • Michigan budget: Did Gretchen Whitmer just lose her first showdown?
  • Governor Whitmer action on e-cigarettes and vaping
  • Enbridge kicks Line 5 PR campaign into high gear
  • State Rep Larry Inman
  • Mandating financial disclosures by state officials and candidates
  • Presidential primary – the next debate and latest polls
  • Update on conservatives vs the Michigan Bar Association
  • Pete Buttigieg burns Donald Trump. In a nice way. Kind of.
  • Interview: Michigan Democratic Party Chair Lavora Barnes
  • Transcript

Jump to:

Michigan budget: Did Gretchen Whitmer just lose her first showdown?


They've got to get this funding in place fairly soon, because they need time for bids and planning. You can't just call these companies say hey, we got the money, can you start tomorrow? @MichCurmudgeon #FTDR #ShirkeyFeelsNoTimeframe @SenMikeShirkeyClick To Tweet

Governor Whitmer action on e-cigarettes and vaping

'We have to take action right now. It would be great if .. there was a Surgeon General warning on all #vape products, that they were treated like tobacco .. but none of that is happening.' @GovWhitmer on @Morning_Joe https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jEXOyAt36sMClick To Tweet
The number of deaths linked to #vaping is now up to five as the Centers for Disease Control investigate the 450 cases of severe lung illness reported nationwide. http://bit.ly/2lJA8wT via @julietmazz @peopleClick To Tweet




“The governor’s decision to circumvent the democratic process by executive privilege evades any chance for legislative oversight, open hearings and public testimony on what she described as a growing health epidemic,” ~ @Mc1hall of @mi_republicans ignoring that the ban is temporary so that the #MILeg can act. via http://bit.ly/2k9mwupClick To Tweet


Enbridge kicks Line 5 PR campaign into high gear

To understand the @Enbridge efforts to keep #Line5 in the straits, read this amazing piece by @CraigDMauger @MichiganCFN - http://bit.ly/2lIEBjoClick To Tweet
Since the start of 2018, Enbridge has paid about $63,000 for sponsorships and advertisements with the @MIcounties according to a voluntary disclosure made by the association. @CraigDMauger @MichiganCFN http://bit.ly/2lIEBjo #Line5 @EnbridgeClick To Tweet
.@Enbridgeincreased its lobbying at the state level in MI. Over the first seven months of 2019, it reported spending $105,728, more than it spent over an entire year in Michigan previously. @CraigDMauger @MichiganCFN http://bit.ly/2lIEBjo #Line5 Click To Tweet
Now that @OneToughNerd is not in office to take care of @Enbridge, the leaky-line company is spending more on lobbying the state and contributing to @MIcounties #Line5Click To Tweet

State Rep Larry Inman

.@leechatfield says @mi_republicans caucus believed Larry Inman has “shown conduct unbecoming of a representative to serve in our caucus.” Chatfield is the dude who invited @realdonaldtrump to give #SOTU in Lansing. http://bit.ly/2lMFiIm Click To Tweet

Mandating financial disclosures by state officials and candidates

“We absolutely have to restore voter confidence in elected officials,” said Rep. David LaGrand, D-Grand Rapids. “And this is going to be a huge part of doing that.” @DavidLagrand via @detroitnews http://bit.ly/2m1XuxQClick To Tweet
“The current lack of disclosure fosters mistrust in government,” she continued. “This is a step we must take in order to assure the residents of Michigan that we’re focused on their best interests and not our own.” @JulieCalley via @MichiganAdvance http://bit.ly/2kC0uRaClick To Tweet

Presidential primary – the next debate and latest polls

Qualification for the September debate closed Aug. 28, leaving Steyer out. This led to Steyer, Gabbard and other candidates who did not qualify to complain that the rules for debate qualification were unfair.

But thanks to a quirk in the debate rules, the October debate stage will likely end up larger than that of the September debate. Those who missed out on September — like Steyer — had more time to qualify for October. Qualification for the October debate closes Oct. 1. ~ Politico

I tell candidates MI is a better representation of the country than some of the early states. Coming here and talking to these voters will serve them well in the general election. @LavoraBarnes @MichiganDems #MIDems Click To Tweet
I tell candidates you have to be careful on #Flint. If you just want some pictures next to some water bottles, then don't go. @LavoraBarnes @MichiganDems #MIDemsClick To Tweet

Update on conservatives vs the Michigan Bar Association

The lawyer who represented Fleck, Timothy Sandefur of the Goldwater Institute, told Law360 that they would be “returning to the Supreme Court to ask it to take this case and uphold the First Amendment right of attorneys not to be forced to join bar associations against their will.” ~ ABA Journal


Pete Buttigieg burns Donald Trump. In a nice way. Kind of.


Interview: Michigan Democratic Party Chair Lavora Barnes

'In 2016 we were caught flat-footed, we didn't have a field team in place to do the work we needed to do. We were counting on a national campaign to come in and set one up. And we're never going to do that again.' @LavoraBarnes @MichiganDems #MIDemsClick To Tweet
'The @DNC recognize that the way to victory for 2020 is through the state parties .. So they've been sending money, they sent bodies to us. ... that's been a terrific partnership that we're proud of.' @LavoraBarnes @MichiganDems #MIDems Click To Tweet
It's all about voter access. We've been door to door talking to voters about voting absentee in MI and encouraging folks to get on the list so that they can get that valid application every time. @LavoraBarnes @MichiganDems #MIDemsClick To Tweet
I'm not watching polls go up and down, I'm just staying focused on our plan, which is all about talking to voters and making sure they know the importance of getting out to vote @LavoraBarnes @MichiganDems #MIDems Click To Tweet




Walt Sorg 0:18
The pen is mightier than the sword but the Sharpie is mightier than the National Weather Service, at least in the tiny hands of a man who never admits a mistake. This is the Michigan podcast. I'm Walt Sorg.

Christine Barry 0:29
I'm Christine Barry. On this episode, the Governor shifts on the budget to avoid a government shutdown. We will wildly speculate on what's happening behind closed doors.

Amy Kerr Hardin 0:39
I'm Amy Kerr Hardin. I'll have an update on the lingering political battle over in bridge line five and we'll take a look at the new political battle over e-cigarettes.

Christine Barry 0:48
And we will have odds and ends from the national political scene, including Pete Buttegeig showing some compassion for Trump and the field of debate eligible democrats has increased by one but not until October. And our guest this week is Michigan Democratic Party Chair Lavora Barnes. We may not know who that presidential candidate is yet, but Barnes and her team are getting ready much earlier this cycle than ever before.

Walt Sorg 1:12
But let's begin with the state budget situation. We're about three weeks away from the start of the new fiscal year. On Friday. Governor Whitmer now should be holding a news conference on Monday morning, presumably the land base republicans once again for wasting away most of the summer, and not coming up with a plan to do anything about our roads. Then on Sunday, late in the day, she called off the news conference and Monday morning first thing issued a joint statement with the republican legislative leaders. It says the people of Michigan deserve leadership in Lansing that will work to continue providing them with services they depend on every day. in conversations over the weekend, we've agreed that the best course of action is to immediately begin target setting with legislative and executive leadership to get a budget passed by October 1. We've all agreed to continue conversations about road funding in a meaningful way and table all associated issues for the time being. Right now. Our number one priority is getting a budget passed. We look forward to rolling up our sleeves negotiating on behalf of the people of Michigan.

You know the governor has been insisting from day one that she would not accept a budget that didn't include two and a half billion dollars give or take to fix the damn roads. Now she says she can wait. Did Gretchen Whitmer just lose her first showdown with the Republican legislative leadership?

Christine Barry 2:24
Well, I don't know. It certainly feels like she did. But I think there's still some good that comes out of this because look at the position she was in going into this. She had put a plan out on the table 45 cent gas tax increase, that she wasn't necessarily stuck to, you know, she that wasn't necessarily what she had to have. She just wanted the total revenues, when the republicans simply didn't come up with an alternative. So she would have gone into this shut down with them saying they had done everything but a 45 cent gas tax increase, which our own democratic caucus in the house, Christine, Greg said was already dead in the house. So she didn't have the support of the caucus, either. I don't know where she could have gone with that. But look, she's been all over the state talking to people. She's assured people, she would get education budgets done, school is open, we have to have money for that. She just took action on vaping. So she's got like a net positive. I think I don't think the shutdown would have been a good course of action right now. But I do think the GOP will call it a win for them.

Amy Kerr Hardin 3:31
I agree. But if they had shut down the government or if that ended, that's still a possibility. I mean, Gretchen Whitmer could you know, this could be a boxing fan to basically if they did shut down the government, I think Susan Demas at Michigan Advance call it correctly that it would be a lose for the GOP, they would be blamed.

Christine Barry 3:48
Is that really true, though with a 45 cent gas tax on the table?

Walt Sorg 3:53
My sense is that the Republicans had they wanted to really put her in a box would have said okay, you want 45 cents, gas tax will take a vote on the bill and let your members go on record about your gas tax. And it would have been a huge embarrassment for because it wouldn't have gotten any votes at all.

Christine Barry 4:10
Lee Chatfield actually suggested putting it to a vote and showing that it wouldn't get any support. That was a while ago. The thing is now they can get through this budget deal. And then, you know, hopefully, they'll get to the roads. But Chad Livengood had a really good article out today that quoted Mike Shirkey saying that he doesn't feel there's a time frame on the roads. He said all along, we'll get to the roads later when we get to it. From here, if we can get the budget done, and education and all the other needs are met. And the Republicans still won't play ball on the roads, then she's got a win.

Walt Sorg 4:46
They consistently say they don't want to raise taxes, although some have admitted Shirkey has admitted (the senate majority leader) that there is a need for additional revenue. But it gets harder and harder the closer we get to next year because of course, you've got most of the House members, the ones that aren't term-limited will be up for reelection. And that's the last thing they want to have to deal with in an election year. The other challenge we've got to is they've got to get this funding in place fairly soon because they need time to get the bids out to do the construction next year. It's not like you pass the money. And next week, you can call up a construction company say hey, we get $50 million to fix this road. This is something that they have to plan for

Christine Barry 5:24
when you talked about it's going to be harder next year. You know, if they had gone into a shutdown and then came to an agreement on road funding, they would have had that political cover that they needed, that Governor Granholm talked about last week, and others have been talking about how they had to put up a fight and say they did everything they could not to raise taxes, but then the government shut down. So it's kind of interesting that they didn't take that. I wouldn't think they'd want to do that again next year.

Walt Sorg 5:51
Adding to the problems with the republicans and the negotiations. So new polling from Epic MRA, which is generally considered the top polling firm in Michigan. 77 10% of the people responding, say it's essential, very important for the legislature and governor to make sure road funding plans do not risk funding for Teacher Retirement pensions. That is in direct contradiction to the thing that the republicans have been pushing, which is jeopardizing teacher retirement in order to divert the money into the roads. So I would say they've got kind of a problem there.

Another controversy arose from an unlikely corner of public policy in the last few days, Governor Whitmer issued an emergency executive order curbing the marketing practices for E-cigarettes, particularly as it impacts minors, but also stopping them from claiming that e-cigarettes are healthier than regular cigarettes.

Gretchen Whitmer 6:44
This is a health crisis that we're confronting, and would never be permitted. If it was cigarettes, for letting these companies target our kids appeal to our kids and deceive our children. And they're showing up with respiratory illnesses. No one can explain. This is why we're taking bold action here in Michigan, it's time for us to leave. I talked to my kids, I asked them about the ban. They said so many kids in school are doing it. And they're using all of these attractive candy flavors that are sold right next to candy. And they're told that they're safe, and they are not.

Walt Sorg 7:15
Christine, Whitmer made national headlines is Michigan became the first state to take action against what appears to be a new insignificant health risk for young Americans. What's the risk? And why are republicans up in arms about Whitmer's action?

Christine Barry 7:27
Yeah, there are a couple of things that they don't like about how this came about. And what this is, what it comes down to is there are these little adorable little tech gadgets that allow you to inhale what's called vape juice and this vape juice. There are as of this year, over 15,000 different flavors. And you can customize these flavors and create your own. And you inhale them through these little tech gadgets, which are they look like little USB drives and they're small. They're cute. Kids love them. Some of them you can sync with your phone. They're very customizable. kids think they're very cool. And this is from a Yale study, a couple days ago, more than 3.6 million middle and high school students currently use these devices. A number of them are actually using these devices with nicotine in them. And of that group, Walt, 81% of the kids who started vaping started with these flavors. So recently, we've seen a number of respiratory illnesses come up on young people and they're unexplained but vaping is what they all have in common.

Walt Sorg 8:34
It seems like every time I turn on the national news of the evening, there's another story about somebody who's in the hospital or even in the ground as a result of vaping.

Christine Barry 8:43
Yeah, and all of these incidents are a little bit different. And because there are so many different kinds of vape juice and vape devices. It's very difficult for health officials to nail down anything in particular, but what they do know is that what you're inhaling  … a lot of kids, when they get into these flavored vapes think they're inhaling just water vapor …  And that's not the case. It's an aerosol that includes many chemicals that it's just difficult to nail down which in particular chemical or which particular combination is causing all of these illnesses.

Last week, the Michigan Department for Health and Human Services issued a release saying they were investigating six cases of vaping associated respiratory illnesses. The same kind of illnesses have been reported in 23 other states. And then and then on September 4, Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, who is the Chief Medical Executive and Chief Deputy Director for Health, she issued a finding that youth vaping constitutes a public health emergency. And at that point, the Governor stepped in and ordered that that department to issue emergency rules. And that's how we got to the ban of these flavored vaping products. So what the republicans don't like about this is one, she did something on her own. And you know, Republicans don't want the governor acting without them. Now, in June, she signed a couple of Senate bills that clarified that selling vaping products to minors was illegal. But we didn't have a public health crisis in June. So Republicans want to know why we didn't get any public input in on this before she went ahead and issued the order to ban these things. But it's a public health crisis. So you don't wait for public input on that.

Walt Sorg 10:27
I find it really hilarious to these are that this is the same party that's all too happy with Donald Trump saying I don't care, the Congress one funded I don't care that people don't want it. I'm building my damn wall. And I'm doing it by declaring an emergency and issuing an executive order stealing money from the Pentagon. So they can't build schools or daycare centers, or repair military facilities of any kind. They don't have a problem with that. But when it comes to vaping, which is truly a crisis, and something that's come up immediately, they're up in a tizzy, because they can't have an input on it before the governor acts. It's kind of ridiculous.

Amy Kerr Hardin 11:00
Yeah, the public input if the majority of the users of these vaping products, which I'm not really familiar with, if they are minors, then I don't know that their public input would carry as much weight. I don't want to be ageism there, but I really feel that it should be the adults in the room that handle this health crisis.

Walt Sorg 11:18
The other thing I found really hilarious, too, and one of the news accounts of the backlash on this and an industry spokesperson basically threatened to recall the governor over vaping, which I thought was really a good good for a giggle.

Christine Barry 11:31
Well, the Republicans when it comes to public input, they wouldn't be asking about the vape users they might be bringing in or you know, allowing adults who have used vaping to quit smoking to come in and testify how important that product was to them. But the governor hasn't asked for a ban on vaping just on these candy flavors that appeal to kids.

Walt Sorg 11:58
While, the state budget and e-cigarettes get most of the state headlines right now. There's a quiet but massive drive by Enbridge to save their line five pipeline that runs at the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac. Amy there's been some new reporting this week I just how far Enbridge is going and how local governments especially in your area are responding

Amy Kerr Hardin 12:17
Craig Mauger, the Executive Director from the watchdog group Michigan campaign finance network reports the Enbridge is playing a prominent role as a partner at the Michigan Association of Counties annual conference. That's where the organization adapted a pro- line 5 amendment over the past year Enbridge has spent up to $63,000 for sponsorships and ads with Michigan association of counties and amount that equals 5% of the association sponsorship revenues and bridges using the argument that shutting down live five would cut Northern Michigan off from the propane that provides yet the Sierra Club and other environmental groups are they beg to differ. They say that's not the case, Enbridge is leaning hard on Michigan lawmakers to spending north of $100,000 on lobbying just this year. Additionally, they've been taking out ads in a lot of major news newspapers across the state full-page ads, so they're not inexpensive ads. And then they've also been offering model legislation very similar to what Alec does the American Legislative Exchange Council, the type of legislation they offer, but these are for referendums for different counties and municipalities to pass referendums in support of building the tunnel and keeping line five in the meantime,

Christine Barry 13:31
Fascism in a box.

Amy Kerr Hardin 13:33
There you go.

Walt Sorg 13:39
Okay, time for some quick political takes. Not that we can do anything quickly on this podcast. Let's try. First of all, Republican state representative Larry in men returned to the Capitol last week still facing multiple federal charges of soliciting bribes. The House passed a resolution that's basically toothless. Ask him to please go away. Amy, you are wonderful presenter of Edmonds constituents. I know you're really pleased with that. How do you all feel about your man in Lansing?

Amy Kerr Hardin 14:06
I think that we've got a bipartisan consensus in this area and the hundred and forth that Larry has to go because he's just not an effective representative of the people whose he's can't represent his constituents that he's basically locked out. And he can't even approach a staff. He's not allowed to talk to them. But he's holding out. And I'm sure the only reason he's holding out is because his attorney told them to do so. Because if you didn't hold out, then it could possibly make him look a little bit more guilty in front of a jury. It's just it's a loss for the hundred and forth.

Walt Sorg 14:36
It was same lane. There's some movement on cleaning up state government by mandating financial disclosures by state officials and candidates. Christine, what's the status?

Christine Barry 14:45
I think it's going to be widely supported in the house. These things usually are, but it won't go anywhere in the Senate. Mike Shirkey, according to his spokesperson hasn't really looked at it, but doesn't really like it. He isn't sold on the idea.

Walt Sorg 15:00
And the idea would be basically, that public officials would have to do things like reveal where their income comes from, maybe release their tax returns. Something that right now everything is secret.

Christine Barry 15:11
God forbid, we know how people who make the laws are influenced by the laws they make.

Walt Sorg 15:17
We need to know if any of them own golf resorts in Ireland or anything like that, too, I suppose. What's interesting, though, is there's a little bit more pressure on the legislature this time because lurking in the background are a couple of groups that are talking about ballot proposals to make this happen instead. And you could be sure if there's a ballot proposal, it is going to be a lot tougher than anything the legislature passes and I'd be willing to bet that it gets 70 to 80% of the vote if it actually gets to the ballot.

Amy Kerr Hardin 15:42
I would take that bet too

Walt Sorg 15:43
Amy. We've got 10 candidates in the presidential debate stage this week with new polling showing that Elizabeth Warren is building her support. But Biden and Sanders seem to be holding their own. And over the weekend, we got another qualifier for the October debate. What's the status of all this fun?

Amy Kerr Hardin 15:59
Oh, yeah, some of the polling is pretty interesting. Warren is surging in the numbers in the polls. A CBS poll found her at the head of the pack in New Hampshire. So that's pretty significant. And a bit of disturbing news, one and for Bernie supporters would turn to Trump if they didn't secure the nomination for Bernie. That's something very disturbing about his space. I think. Tom Steyer has qualified for the debate. He will bring an interesting narrative because he's such a strong proponent for impeachment, especially in light of this week's House Judiciary Committee's move to solidify impeachment proceedings. So I think that people will, you know, sit up and listen to him a little bit and hear what he has to say. He's a strong speaker, too.

Walt Sorg 16:40
Yeah, I thought that the two polls that were really the probably the most important or the two smaller polls, one are the Iowa Democratic presidential caucus and the other one for New Hampshire, the first two punches in this battle. And in Iowa, Joe Biden still got a pretty good ladies up three points. on the field right now, the EC 29. Sanders at 26. Warren way back at 17. But then you get over New Hampshire, which is the next door neighbor for both Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. And you've got Sanders on top with 25 Biden with 26. Warren with 27, basically a three way tie. And between the three of them that's 78% of the democratic vote, that doesn't leave a whole lot for anybody else.

Christine Barry 17:24
I don't think that's much of a surprise, though, is it? It's been months since they've been just owning the top three, isn't it?

Walt Sorg 17:32
It's been that way from the beginning, ever since Joe Biden announced they've been 123. And there's been some back and forth for who's number two, between the two progressive candidates, but it's been Joe Biden, leading wire to wire so far. One other poll that's really interesting comes from Rasmussen, which is a very republican polling operation, and always has the best results for Republicans. And even they find the Trump's approval rating is upside down by seven points. 46 53. So if Rasmussen can make him come up with 50%, nobody can.

Christine Barry 18:04
I think he's just he just keeps narrowing that base down. There are people who will stay with him no matter what. But at some point, you do end up with a layer of people who just can't take things like sending the Air Force and all these people to his own his own resorts or defending this Alabama thing. And NOAA coming out and saying, Oh, well, we have to investigate to see if he interfered with a statement from the National Weather Service. How can you stick with it if you're sane?

Walt Sorg 18:34
and an update on something we discussed last month, we talked about the efforts of conservatives to end the requirement that Michigan lawyers be member of the State Bar Association, that would among other things, mangle up the lawyer discipline system in the state. I mentioned back then that the bars political action committee has traditionally supported candidates from both parties, based on their positions on issues like access to justice rather than their partisan views. I should have pointed out that the bar dissolve their packet ways back as the result of pressure from groups including the state Chamber of Commerce. In fact, that pressure started when I was working at the State Bar 25 years ago. So that finally went away. And then in the last couple of weeks, a federal appeals court has upheld the dismissal of a similar case involving the North Dakota Bar Association. If you're interested in more on that there will have a link to that ruling on our website.

Christine Barry 19:21
And finally, the ultimate burn for Donald Trump and the aftermath of Sharpie gate. Mayor Pete Buttigieg offered for the would-be climatologists a shoulder to cry on,

Speaker 19:31
I feel sorry for the President. And that is not the way we should feel about the most powerful figure in this country, somebody on whose wisdom and judgment our lives literally depend. This is an unbelievably sad state of affairs for our country. If our presidency is not in good shape, then our country is not in good shape. And on one level, it's laughable on another, it is exactly why we've got to do something different. This is humiliating. This is an embarrassing moment for our country. And we seem to see a new national embarrassment every day.

Speaker 1 20:07
Donald Trump, you aren't fired. You're just on fire because you burnt.

Walt Sorg 20:18
Michigan Democrats were stunned in 2016 when Donald Trump squeaked out a 10,000 Road victory here over Hillary Clinton and outcome that resulted in part from depress turnout. And the reality that everyone took a democratic victory for granted. They took the lessons of 2016 as well as the successes of the 2018 midterm elections to heart. Michigan is a critical state for Democrats in 2020. The organizing is well underway to avoid a repeat of 2016 disaster, leading the charge the state democratic party chair lavor Barnes, I talked with her recently about the game plan for 2020

Lavora, every two years, we hear about how the democrats are going to do a better job getting the vote out and turning out for Michigan. And then we ran into 2016. What's going to be different about 2020.

Lavora Barnes 21:03
And the big difference for 2020 is that we started the work for 2020. Frankly, in 2017. When we woke up in 2016, and realized what had happened to us, the first thing we did was start building an organizing plan that would make sure we didn't run into that 2016 problem. Again, we were caught flat-footed, we didn't have a field team in place to do the work we need to do we were counting on a national campaign to come in and set one up. And we're never going to do that again. So we've got organizers on the ground already. They've been on the ground since 2017. And we've got our folks that are local and county parties out there talking to voters constantly. We're not waiting for 2020 to roll around to do that work. We're doing it all the time now.

Walt Sorg 21:45
And you've got some resources coming nationally, both in terms of the DNC and Stacey Abrams, how is that interface working?

Lavora Barnes 21:52
It's been terrific. You know, the DNC recognize that the way to victory for 2020 was through the state parties and has followed up that belief with funds. So they've been sending money they sent bodies to us. This summer, we partnered with them on a program called organizing core where we had 43. College students work for us as paid interns over the summer where we train them. And they did voter contact in all aspects of campaigning so that when they come back in 2020, they're ready to go. And that's been a terrific partnership that we're proud of. And then we have Stacey Abrams, who set up this organization that's all about voter protection and making sure that everyone has access to the vote. And they've partnered with us to help us fund the Voter Protection Plan. And a program here in Michigan that we're already up and running into the crowd of

Walt Sorg 22:39
something we heard from Stacy Abrams, we heard her from federal O'Rourke, we heard it from Alyssa Slotkin is don't eliminate anybody as a possible vote talk to everyone, which is really kind of different,

Lavora Barnes 22:50
It is very different. And I think a part of that speaks to all of us understanding that the electorate is changing and who our voters are, is changing, and that we can't make the decision that we used to think we could make about who is a potential voter. So we expand the electorate a little bit, we expand our base of voters that we can talk to, because our conversations, I think we can cross party lines sometimes because we're talking about issues that people care about that are near and dear to their hearts that are close to their wallets, and that are not about the D or the R.

Walt Sorg 23:22
One of the things I've heard from Jocelyn Benson in the aftermath of the 2019 elections that we've already had. Is the proposal three is having a big impact is there going to be a major emphasis on making sure that people understand they can vote from home, they don't have to go to the polls, and they don't need a reason to vote for a home.

Lavora Barnes 23:40
Absolutely. Our program this summer has been all about that. We've been going door to door talking to voters about the new way to vote absentee in Michigan and encouraging folks to get on their clerk's absentee voter permanent list so that they can get that valid application every time. And then we're going to help them walk through that process of filling out the application, and then getting the ballot and filling up the ballot when that time comes where we're really excited about this program. We've knocked tens of thousands of doors, talk to thousands of voters and gotten thousands of people signed up on these absentee ballots.

Walt Sorg 24:14
voter suppression has certainly been a part of the Republican game plan and a lot of states, it probably beat Stacy Abrams in her campaign for governor of Georgia. Is it that big a problem in Michigan.

Lavora Barnes 24:24
So we see sporadically some some odd things happen around election day like flyers show up on car windows, sometimes on college campuses, sometimes in the city that says that it's the wrong date and the election or those little things like that our voters are smart, we do a good job educating our voters to combat against that sort of thing. But there's a little bit of that. And then occasionally we see some attempts at intimidation at the polls. We see, you know, folks standing there asking questions of voters, asking voters, you know, do you have all your warrants paid or your bills paid or do you have any warrants or those sorts of questions, try to intimidate folks. But we've got a good team of folks led by our Voter Protection director Eric and Paris Erica Peresman who are on the job and on the case and there to protect our voters from that sort of intimidation as much as possible.

Walt Sorg 25:12
One of the big factors in flipping the eighth congressional district and getting Elissa Slotkin elected was voter turnout on the Michigan State University campus with proposal three and with the seems like growing activism among students is that a particular target for the party?

Unknown Speaker 25:27
It is it's one of our next big things that kids are coming back to campus now is to start rolling out our campus programs where we're helping folks register voters who are not registered and helping folks figure out absentee ballots where they need them. We're going to practice this year, and then we're going to be really good at it for next year, we're excited about it.

Walt Sorg 25:44
What's the one thing that the average democratic supporter can do? Other than obviously give you money to support the campaign, but where do you need help?

Unknown Speaker 25:53
I appreciate your saying give us money. Because that's the thing, but but you know, show up at your local Dem club and walk with them, go on the doors, help them make the phone call, help them have the conversations with voters, not only about the issues and the candidates we care about, but about the importance of voting and about the difference that our vote makes. I think one of the things that we find is that a lot of people don't think their vote matters. And we need to be having conversations all year round all cycle mom about the importance of voting and the difference you can make by showing up to vote.

Walt Sorg 26:24
One of the things we found in 2016 was the turnout and Wayne County was down specifically in the city of Detroit. Is that another major target to make sure that doesn't happen again.

Unknown Speaker 26:34
Yeah, we've got staff in the city of Detroit working knocking doors, making phone calls now, we will have a very strong voter turnout program in Detroit, led by Detroiters so that we can make sure that we've got those turnout numbers up as high as we can get them in 2020.

Walt Sorg 26:50
I had the opportunity on our podcast last week to talk with Jennifer Granholm a little bit about what she thought about the Michigan race one thing that she's very strong on, is that really the you the presidential candidate has to run a campaign and Michigan very similar to what was successful for Gretchen Whitmer.

Lavora Barnes 27:05
Yes, that's exactly right. And that's what I'm telling all of the presidential candidates, oh, whatever number we're at right now of them, is that they've got to set up shop here in Michigan, I'm encouraging them to do it. Now. They need to be in Michigan talking to the voters all through the primary. And then once we have a nominee, that nominee has to set up a real campaign here in Michigan, you know, I say a lot to them that Michigan is a better representation of the country than some of the early states. And so coming here and talking to these voters and learning about the issues that matter and will serve them better and the general election been spending a lot of time. And some of those early states, I'm hoping are listening because they do need to get here.

Walt Sorg 27:45
know, some of the feedback I've heard coming out of Flint is that people there feel like they're being used as photo ops rather than really having sincere support coming from the presidential candidates is that one of the things you've warned them about,

Lavora Barnes 27:57
that I've been very careful about they when they call and ask for advice about where to go been very careful with them about how they, how they interact with the people of Flint, there are some great community organizers there and I encourage them to go and have conversations with those folks, but not to show up just do a town hall or to take some photos. Because these issues that folks are dealing with a very real and it's not about electing you, it's about making them whole, it's about fixing the problems in Flint. And if you're not willing to go in and have that conversation, but just want to stand near some bottles of water, don't go.

Walt Sorg 28:33
Another part of the national scene really is flipping the senate because if mitch mcconnell remains a Senate Majority Leader, nothing will get done regardless, who was elected president. And with Gary Peters, you've got a special challenge. He's a very low visibility, senator who gets a lot done, but very few people seem to know about it.

Lavora Barnes  28:50
He get so much done. And we're we're doing our part here at the party to make sure we're telling as many people as possible about the great record that Gary Peters has. And I know Team Peters is going to do the same. They're out there now. He's a terrific US Senator we're real proud of and he'll be fine in this election because of that, because we've got a great story to tell about the senator. We're going to tell it I but but he is our main focus, we have to make sure we return Senator Peters to the Senate.

Walt Sorg 29:15
And it seems like you're having great fun telling stories about his opponent, John James.

Lavora Barnes 29:20
It is enjoyable. Yes, it is. He makes it easy. He said he said things and he cozy up to President Trump in a way that makes it easy for us to to talk about.

Walt Sorg 29:30
The current polling shows the President Trump is probably upside down by about 10 points in Michigan. Are you anticipating that that gap is going to narrow as we get closer to November of 2020?

Lavora Barnes 29:40
I'm going to ignore the polls and assume that that President Trump is in good shape and Michigan and we're going to run a campaign that assumes that. We're going to work hard for every vote, we're going to talk to the voters about the importance of turning Trump out and replace him with which ever the democrat gets the nomination. I'm not gonna watch these polls go up and down because that's what they do. I'm just gonna stay focused on our plan, which is all about talking to the voters and making sure they know the importance of getting out to vote and turning out this president.

Walt Sorg 30:11
Lavora Barnes sounds like you're having fun.

Lavora Barnes 30:13
I am enjoying it. I am. I'm thrilled to be here, but it's a good time to be Chair of the Michigan Democratic Party.

Walt Sorg 30:19
Thanks so much for joining us on the podcast.

Lavora Barnes 30:21
My pleasure.

Amy Kerr Hardin 30:24
That's it for this week's Michigan Policast. For more information on this week's topics, we've got links, videos, and even a few tweets over at the MichiganPolicast. com.

Christine Barry 30:34
You can reach out to us directly by email at mipolicast.com. And make sure to follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Walt Sorg 30:40
And you can help the pod grow by sharing your comments and ratings for the pod over on iTunes. We'll be back next week with more fun and games. On behalf of Amu and Christine I'm Walt Sorg. Thanks for listening

Transcribed by https://otter.ai


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