Michigan Democrats have unleashed a never-ending series of accusations against Gov. Rick Snyder (R-Mich.) in 2014, but have not been able to do much more than dent the “Tough Nerd’s” armor.
Snyder continued to lead Democrat Mark Schauer in polls released the first three weeks of October, albeit by single digits. But still the Republican first-term governor is ahead of the former one-term congressman and Michigan legislator, exactly where he has been for most of the campaign.
But Democrats continue trying to convince voters Snyder is bad for Michigan.
The Office of Inspector General of HUD opened an investigation Oct. 20 into a complaint filed by the Michigan Democratic Party that Scott Woosley, the former director of the Michigan State Housing Development Authority, was allowed to oversee a state agency while it was providing more than $1 million in government funding to Woosley’s private real estate consulting firm.
Lon Johnson, chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party, filed the complaint in September. He alleged a conflict of interest that potentially violated federal law and continued for months.
Johnson accused Woosley and his top staff of more than $200,000 in controversial travel expenses that included dining at expensive restaurants. The travel records and expense vouchers showed the state of Michigan was billed for dinners that included filet mignon, escargot and expensive rum, among other items.
Woosley resigned in August, one day after the Detroit Free Press reported the story.
“This federal investigation underscores the pattern of mismanagement we’ve seen in the Snyder administration,” said Schauer. “Ultimately, the decision to put Scott Woosley in charge of managing a federal grant that he stood to profit from rests with Rick Snyder himself.”
The Snyder administration called the allegations “baseless” when Democrats filed the complaint in September.
Snyder officials received the news of the HUD investigation in October and said they “welcomed the review.”
Michigan Democrats have also accused the Snyder administration of being responsible for maggot-infested prison food and increasing a campaign contributor’s $17.4 million no-bid state contract by more than $390,000 the day after the contributor’s family hosted a fundraiser for the governor’s re-election campaign.
There was also a charge that a company co-owned by Snyder’s cousin had received a sweetheart deal involving the installation of furniture in state government offices.
“While parents and seniors were being told by the governor they must sacrifice to balance the state’s billion-dollar budget deficit, Rick Snyder’s family and political friends were being taken care of,” Lon Johnson said.
Sara Wurfel, the press secretary for the Snyder administration, said at the time there was no truth to the allegations.
In August, Michigan Democrats called on Snyder to fire one of his top aides, Rich Baird, in the wake of a report saying he had simultaneously claimed principal residence tax exemptions for thousands of dollars on homes he owned in Michigan and Illinois.
“Baird should be fired, without delay. Scandal and controversy has surrounded the Snyder-Baird relationship from the beginning. Everyone remembers the NERD Fund, Snyder’s cousin’s $41 million furniture contract, lavish travel reimbursements, and 90 percent pay hikes for Snyder’s Wall Street investment executives at Treasury,” said Johnson in a statement released by the Michigan Democratic Party.
The double primary tax break turned out to be a clerical error.
Allegations are just allegations, until they are proven. But allegations make news, especially when there is a steady stream of them like the Democrats have been able to produce in Michigan.
However, while Snyder’s Tough Nerd armor may have been dented and some of the polish has worn off, he still did well in October polling.
Not only was Snyder still leading Schauer, but the Republican’s lead grew to 8 points, 47-39 percent, in the EPIC-MRA poll conducted for the Detroit Free Press and released Oct. 21.
An EPIC-MRA poll released in late September had Snyder leading Schauer by 6 points, 45 percent to 39 percent.
As if that wasn’t bad enough news for Schauer, the latest EPIC-MRA poll also showed Snyder with a 22-point lead among voters who identified themselves as independent.
Most surprising — or maybe least surprising to those who believed the “gender gap” that Democrats were clinging to so tenaciously would never hold up — Snyder now has a 42 percent to 39 percent lead among women over Schauer.
But what about Snyder’s favorability rating? With all the scandalous spaghetti being thrown in Michigan, some must have stuck, right?
Wrong. Or at least not enough for the Schauer campaign.
The October EPIC-MRA poll showed Snyder’s favorability rating was 52 percent, the first time he has gone above 50 percent in that category.
It must all come down to this.
Scandals aside, the EPIC-MRA survey shows 56 percent of Michigan voters believe their state is heading in the “right direction,” and 66 percent believe the state’s economy has “bottomed out and is starting to improve.”
Beyond scoring on the rebound of the economy, the Snyder squad has also been able to link Schauer, and Lisa Brown, the Democrat’s candidate for lieutenant governor, to former Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D-Mich.) and Michigan’s Great Recession that crushed the state’s middle class.
The Michigan Republican Party launched the video ad Blown Away on Sept. 25 that knitted the three Democrats together as being responsible for the worst 10 years in Michigan’s history.
It begins with a clip of Granholm telling the Michigan Legislature during her 2006 State of the State address that they would be “blown away” by the economic improvements her administration would bring about within five years.
An announcer then reminds Michigan voters of the next five years that included 600,000 jobs lost, an unemployment rate of more than 14 percent, a per capita income drop of 1.5 percent, and two government shutdowns when Granholm and the Legislature could not agree on budgets.
It’s all juxtaposed with a comment from Lisa Brown during a radio interview in which she said, “I think, you know, the Granholm years weren’t as bad as we think.”
(For complete 2014 midterm coverage, get your campaign fix on The Grid.)