The greatest Livingston County political debate of all time took place in the fall of 2000. That’s the gold standard; the one that all debates before and after are compared to. It had fireworks and high-stakes seats up for grabs, and candidates who weren’t afraid to slug it out.
You had Democrat Dianne Byrum and Republican Mike Rogers squaring off in the main event – a battle for the open 8th Congressional District seat. They went at it tooth and nail all night, exchanging haymakers and zingers, and when the voting machines were turned off on Election Night, Rogers had escaped with a winning margin of just over 100 votes. It was the closest Congressional election of the year. And the debate was just as intense as the election ended up being.
The undercard on the 2000 debate – another barn-burner – was the 44th Circuit Court battle between incumbent Judge Stanley Latreille and challenger Theresa Brennan. This was, at the time, the most expensive local race in Livingston County history, and it was nasty.
Brennan and her people tried to make an issue out of Stan’s age (he was nearing the retirement age of 70), saying he wasn’t up to the job. Brennan lost, but her day as a judge was coming.
Immediately after the election, Brennan – who had loudly tried to convince everyone in Livingston County that she was a non-partisan person who didn’t favor either side, came out and said, “Nah, I’m a Democrat, I’m a big Democrat.”
So she went to work for the campaign of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jennifer Granholm, serving as Granholm’s Livingston County chair.
Three years later, Gov. Granholm rewarded Brennan with a District Court judgeship. Judge Brennan then rewarded all of us, her Livingston County constituents, by sleeping with murder witnesses, taking part in naked pool parties with assistant prosecutors and cops, having her employees do her personal tasks (like staining her deck and paying her bills) on county time and being rude to seemingly every person who came before her on the bench.
And it all started back with that epic 2000 debate.
And all of those sequential events taught me two things:
1. I sure am glad Stan Latreille won that election in 2000.
2. We don’t want the governor appointing our judges.
In any case, the 2000 debate was a doozy, and I have a feeling that tonight’s debate is shaping up to be just as good, if not better.
That’s right, folks – tonight’s 2018 Livingston County candidate forum might be the greatest Livingston County political debate ever. So you should plan to be there.
It takes place this evening (Oct. 18) at the Hartland Educational Support Services Center (known to most of us as the old Hartland High School). It starts at 6:30 p.m.
There will be five debates in all, and I’m going to rank the top three in terms of interest and intrigue.
I’m expecting that two of the debates are going to be relatively mild. The 22nd District Senate match-up between Republican Lana Theis and Democrat Adam Dreher is unlikely to produce any fireworks. Theis has a huge lead and should win this seat easily, and as a politician, she’s a true policy wonk. She loves reading bills. She does not love making speeches. That’s exactly the kind of person we want as a Senator, but it’s also the kind of person who does not make fiery debate speeches.
Likewise, I’m not expecting a lot of fire in the the 47th District state rep debate between incumbent Republican Rep. Hank Vaupel and Democrat Colleen Turk.
Not that both of those debates won’t be filled with substance; they will. And that’s a great thing. I’m just not expecting a lot of zingers.
So, let’s move on to the three debates that ARE likely to produce some fireworks. I see these as the top three match-ups of the night:
1. Mike Bishop vs. Elissa Slotkin, 8th Congressional District
This is the marquee match-up of the night. Rep. Bishop is the incumbent Republican and Slotkin is his extremely well-funded Democratic challenger. This is rated as one of the true toss-up districts in the country, and it could very well decide which party controls the U.S. House.
(Note: Libertarian Brian Ellison, who has no chance of winning, will also be participating in this one, so that added dynamic will be interesting.)
Bishop and Slotkin have already had two debates, and both of them have been barn-burners. This will be their final debate, so you can expect a whole bunch of fireworks.
Is past is prologue, we can expect Slotkin to make health care her main focus, while Bishop will repeatedly point out that Slotkin was recruited by Nancy Pelosi to move back to Michigan to run for the seat, and that she’s never voted in the district before.
2. Dennis Brewer vs. L. Suzanne Geddis, 44th Circuit Court
Dennis is a friend of mine and I’m strongly supporting him in this election, so I won’t say much here – other than to say that based on recent developments, this one should be memorable.
3. Ann Bollin vs. Mona Shand, 42nd District State House
This is the Brighton/Pinckney-area state rep seat currently held by Lana Theis. She’s giving up the seat to run for Senate.
As I’ve written before, the Democrats feel this is by far the best chance they’ve ever had to win a statewide partisan election in Livingston County. Mona Shand is a well-funded, well-spoken former TV and radio journalist who has been working incredibly hard on this race. If she doesn’t win this, the Democrats should give up in Livingston County, because they’ll never have a better shot.
So that’s the backdrop for this debate. Shand’s Republican opponent is Ann Bollin, the highly well-regarded Brighton Township clerk.
(Note: I know both candidates personally, and they’re both very nice, smart, personable people.)
I’m expecting this to be a memorable and intriguing debate for several reasons. First, I believe this is their one and only head-to-head debate, so they’ll have to leave it all on the line.
Second – and most importantly – unlike a lot of other Livingston County state rep races in the past, this one features two very different candidates. Mona Shand has traditional liberal views on most of the hot-button issues, and Ann Bollin is very conservative, and neither one of them is hiding that fact.
I applaud Shand for being who she is, because a lot of other Livingston County Democratic candidates in the past haven’t done that. She’s a proud Democrat who is proud of her Democratic views. She’s very pro-union and pro-gun control.
Likewise, Bollin is a rock-solid Republican conservative. She’s pro-life, pro-school choice and pro-Second Amendment. There’s a picture of her firing a pistol that’s all over Facebook, touting her NRA endorsement.
So in this debate, you have two very nice people who hold two very different sets of views on the issues. I expect they’ll be extremely civil to each other during the debate, and I also expect they’ll agree on almost nothing. So this one should be interesting.
The bottom line? YOU NEED TO BE THERE!
I’ll see you at the debate tonight.