Michigan’s political circus

The primary elections for governor are only six months away, but a front-runner from either party has yet to appear

The 2010 election may still be months away, but the governor’s race is heating up as both the Democratic and Republican candidates are preparing for the long political battle ahead of them.

Numerous names continue to appear, all possible contenders to replace Governor Jennifer Granholm and right now the Michigan gubernatorial race looks like a free-for-all with no clear front-runner from either party emerging with just over six months until the primary elections.

As it stands now, the race is a toss-up. Neither party holds a solid lead or advantage in the polls leading up to the election, nor has a stand-out candidate emerged for either party’s nomination.

With the announcement that Lieutenant Governor John Cherry would be ending his bid for the governor’s seat, the Democratic Party is left with no clear front-runner and a mess of names to choose from.

Cherry’s announcement came last week and he claimed that lack of raising money led to him abandoning his run for governor. Several points allude to the fact, however, that he was too closely tied to Gov. Granholm and the prospects of his beating any Republican candidate were slim.

The only Democrat that has formally announced her run for governor is state Representative Alma Wheeler Smith; yet now that Cherry is out of the race, the doors are wide open for other prominent state Democrats. Speaker of the House Andy Dillon and Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero have both formed exploratory committees into running.

Other Democrats that are considering running are U.S. Rep. Bart Stupack, University of Michigan Regent Denise Ilitch, former Genesee County Treasurer Dan Kildee, Michigan State University Trustee George Perles and possibly former state Treasurer Robert Bowman.

With all the different names that seem to want to throw their hats into the political ring, if the potential Democratic candidates don’t start making the hard decisions, it may spell disaster for them in November.

For the Republicans, candidates for the Grand Old Party (G.O.P.) nomination include U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra, Attorney General Mike Cox, Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard, and Michigan businessman and capitalist Rick Snyder.

Republican candidates are expected to begin running political ads as early as February.

Before Cherry’s departure, polls revealed that the G.O.P. would most likely take back the Governor’s Mansion in the fall. Hoekstra, Cox, and Bouchard all held a considerable lead over Cherry.

However, if Dillon decides to formally announce his bid for governor, the G.O.P. may not be in such good shape come election day. Dillon’s ability to pull Independents and middle-of-the-road voters and his anti-abortion voting and Catholic background may mean defeat for the Republican nominee.

Although Michigan has been a traditionally liberal state in recent years, the election will still be wide-open when the primary elections occur on Aug. 3. The result of this election may be one that surprises just about everyone.