Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder is in the eye of the right-to-work storm, signing legislation making Michigan a right-to-work state into law amid big protests. The governor, who built his brand on being a technocratic "tough nerd," not an ideologue, is up for reelection in 2014. His support was lukewarm in a poll taken before the right-to-work controversy fully heated up, but the Democratic bench in the state is relatively thin.
"Democrats are kind of floundering in terms of having any major names," to challenge Snyder, said Inside Michigan Politics editor Bill Ballenger. But he noted that if the controversy doesn't make the race attractive to Democrats, "nothing will." (The Michigan Democratic Party's homepage proclaims "2014 Starts Now").
After the November election, the Detroit Free Press listed off potential Democratic challengers to Snyder. Here's a look at how plausible these four officeholders are as gubernatorial candidates.
-- State Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer: It's unclear whether the lawmaker wants to run, though some read into a new splash page on her website saying "2014 is our year" and hitting Snyder for "waging war on Michigan's middle class."
Whitmer, who one Michigan political observer called combative and aggressive in her leadership role, has been outspoken during the controversy. "It is absolutely repulsive that this governor is such a coward he had to announce it from behind locked doors, cut off debate, lock people out of the capitol, and now he's signed it behind a wall of armed police officers," said Whitmer on MSNBC.
She also said people were protesting because the bill "is anti-family, it's anti-union, it's anti-woman and the way they are going about it is anti-American."
"We know that unions are people," she said.
-- Rep. Gary Peters: The Detroit-area congressman hit Snyder on MSNBC after the governor's meeting with the congressional delegation, saying he was "amazed by the lack of understanding he has about this issue."
"After spending years telling us that 'right to work for less' legislation was off the table, Governor Snyder has created an embarrassing national spectacle by doing a full flip flop on this issue," said Peters, per the Detroit Free Press. "Perhaps most disturbing of all, Governor Snyder and his right wing allies used every trick in the book to prevent the people from being able to hold a referendum vote on this issue."
-- Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero: The polarizing mayor (he was dubbed "America's Angriest Mayor" after talking union workers and the auto industry on Fox, a title he embraced) lost badly to Snyder in 2010 but hasn't ruled out another bid. He's been vocal during the right-to-work battle. "I think that there will be repercussions," he said on MSNBC last week. "I pray to God this governor won't be back." He also called it an "attack on all working people" and an "attack on Democracy."
“This governor ran as a moderate and he ain’t acting like one,” Bernero told Bloomberg.
-- Former Rep. Mark Schauer: The former 7th District congressman, who lost his seat in 2010, likely has a unique claim among potential candidates: He got pepper sprayed during a protest.
"Unfortunately while people were exercising their first amendment rights, I among them got pepper sprayed by police officers," Schauer said in a MIRS news service video, in which he is wearing sunglasses. Asked if this makes him "want to run again," he responds, "I'm angry. What the legislature is doing is wrong, it's cowardly... I'm angry, because this is going to hurt families and weaken our economy."