Flooding Quickly Becomes a Michigan Campaign Issue, Then Washes Out for Democrats
A 103-year-old woman found floating dead in her basement that had been flooded by a tsunami from the suburban Detroit sewer system was one of three people who died as the result of torrential rains that flooded thousands of basements in Detroit and its suburbs on Aug. 11.
Two other people died of apparent heart attacks, one while her car sat in three feet of water. Another succumbed to cardiac arrest while trying to push a vehicle out of the water.
Every one of the Detroit area’s major highways turned into rivers with water deep and fast enough to cover a car and then carry it away just before the afternoon rush hour.
Michigan Democrats did their best to turn the flood into a new campaign issue in the state’s gubernatorial election.
While their candidate for governor, Mark Schauer, was in Grand Rapids accepting the endorsement of a firefighters union, his fellow Democrats were criticizing Gov. Rick Snyder for not touring the destruction left by record flooding in the Detroit area.
Schauer used the floods to highlight the portion of his jobs plan that calls for upgrading Michigan’s sewer and storm water infrastructure.
“Michigan motorists, homeowners and businesses need swift action to repair the damage from this week’s historic floods. The response by our local first responders and state troopers has been truly admirable, but now it is time for the State of Michigan to declare a state of emergency and immediately request federal disaster assistance,” Schauer said in a campaign statement.
“With one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation, any unnecessary delay in re-opening our major highways puts our economy at risk. Families and businesses that have been hurt by this storm need immediate action.”
As luck would have it, all of the major highways were opened a few hours after Schauer issued that statement. Snyder did declare a state of emergency, and did eventually say he would visit the area.
Still for a few hours, Democrats were able to portray Snyder as being out of touch with the misery brought about by the storm that dumped a month’s worth of rain on the Detroit area in less than six hours.
The first-term governor who billed himself as “one tough nerd” when he won the Republican gubernatorial primary and then the general election probably shouldn’t have tried to tell WJR radio host Frank Beckmann that he understood what people in the Detroit area were going through, because he has lived through a similar experience.
"I've been through a lot of things like that, Frank," Snyder said. "We just recently had holes in our roof from storm damage to our lake house. We have a vacation place and we had a limb come down on the roof and had water running through the whole place.”
Just before the storm hit Detroit, Schauer released his first TV ad of the 2014 election. The ad features Schauer speaking directly to the camera, telling viewers he played a part in rescuing Michigan’s auto industry, and promising to reverse cuts in education funding and cut taxes for the middle class.
The ad was scheduled to run in TV markets across Michigan.
“This is a chance for Mark to introduce himself to voters and highlight his record of fighting to save Michigan’s auto industry,” said Cathy Bacile Cunningham, spokeswoman for Schauer’s campaign. “It also showcases Mark’s priorities for Michigan, which include reversing Governor Snyder’s education cuts, ending tax breaks for companies that outsource jobs, and cutting taxes for the middle class.”