K3080 BC-CAMPAIGN-MICHIGAN 03-20 0706 routed by dwight

Flawed options are last shot at primary do-over


By Dawson Bell

Detroit Free Press



LANSING, Mich. — The huffing and puffing is over: Michigan Democrats dropped plans Thursday for a June 3 do-over presidential primary, conceding it had no chance of winning approval in the state Legislature.

The decision leaves unresolved for the foreseeable future the question of what role, if any, Michigan Democratic delegates will play in selecting the party’s nominee.

The remaining options — chief among them holding some form of party caucus election or challenging a national party decision to take away Michigan’s delegates to the nominating convention — have drawbacks of their own.

Michigan Democrats were stripped of their 156 delegates to the August convention in Denver for violating party rules by holding their primary too early — on Jan. 15.

The June 3 do-over — proposed last week by a group of state party leaders — died Thursday in the state Senate, where opposition from backers of Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois kept the issue from even coming up for a vote.

Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York forcefully backed the proposal, even taking a break from her national campaign schedule to come to Detroit on Wednesday to challenge Obama to endorse it and the state Legislature to enact it.

On Thursday, Clinton’s campaign said "there will be implications for Democrats in the general election" if Michigan’s delegates are not seated based on the will of state voters.

But in the heartless logic of hardball politics, Clinton’s embrace of the Michigan do-over primary made it less attractive to Obama.


His campaign never took a formal position on the proposal, but it cited a litany of potential problems, including the exclusion of some Democratic voters who participated in the Republican primary Jan. 15, the propriety of using private funds to pay for a government-administered election and the burden the June 3 election would place on the people who run elections for counties and cities.

The Associated Press reported that Obama was questioned at a campaign stop Thursday in Charleston, W.Va., by Jeff Lynch, 48.

"When am I going to get to vote for you in Michigan?" Lynch asked.

"Probably in the general election," Obama replied. "A redo vote is very complicated."


State Democratic Party spokeswoman Liz Kerr said Thursday, after it became clear the Legislature would not act, that the four party leaders who hatched the June 3 plan — Sen. Carl Levin, U.S. Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, National Committeewoman Debbie Dingell and UAW President Ron Gettelfinger — will be asked to "work on another solution."

Kerr said party officials remain confident that the Michigan delegate question, and a similar controversy over the status of Florida’s delegation, will be resolved before the national convention in Denver in late August.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm, a Clinton backer who also supported the primary legislation, said in a statement she was "deeply disappointed" by the failure to enact new primary legislation.


Other options will be pursued, she said, because "there is no road to the White House that does not go through Michigan."

However, the experience with the primary legislation this week demonstrated how difficult finding a solution will be.

A do-over primary election, even one that did not cost taxpayers anything because of private funding, presented multiple obstacles; Granholm was among those saying only last month that it was a bad idea.

But after several weeks of discussions, meetings and negotiations involving the state and national parties, as well as the two campaigns, it was embraced as the least-bad option in an array of bad alternatives.

Just not quite good enough to get through the Legislature.


(Detroit Free Press staff writer Chris Christoff contributed to this report.)


(c) 2008, Detroit Free Press.

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