Candidates hold first debates

A rare treat last week as voters and the political media got not one but two extended looks at the candidates running for governor and if you watched the WOOD-TV debate good for you and if you read about the appearance in front of about 150 newspaper editors, another good for you.

But alas, the betting money is most of you didn’t know about the events or didn’t give two hoots if you did.

Just in case you are feeling a tinge of guilt, read on for the highlights and in some cases the lowlights of what we learned as a result of the two hours of exposure to these would-be governors in waiting.

Dr. Jim Hines, Sen. Patrick Colbeck, Lt. Gov. Brain Calley and state Attorney General Bill Schuette appeared together for the first time. In previous joint gigs, Mr. Schuette found something else to do. But under the auspices of the state Republican Party, it got the quartet to show up at the same place at the same time.

Adding Mr. Schuette to the mix gave underdog Mr. Calley a chance to unload his criticisms in person instead of through a news release.

“Bill Schuette will say or do anything to get elected,” Mr.Calley looked his opponent in the eye.

“Brian you go around the state with these false accusations because you are behind,” Mr. Schuette returned the eye look.

This, of course, is nothing new for these two as they have been at this for several months. It may have been entertaining to watch, but for voters who wanted something of substance to digest,this was not it, the critics contend.

We learned these two and candidates Sen. Patrick Colbeck and Dr. Jim Hines oppose legalized pot but days after the debate Mr.Schuette opined that if Michigan lawmakers legalized pot and couple that with a rollback in the state income tax,“that would be terrific.”

Or put another way despite his long-time opposition to pot, Mr. Schuette thinks reducing taxes is more important. Make of that what you will.

Mr. Schuette’s objective was to play to the Trump voters in TV land. Not once, not twice but eight times he squeezed into his patter the fact that the president has endorsed him. He left out the na-na-na-na-na-na to his opponents.

Mr. Calley countered that even though he did un-endorse Mr. Trump after the Access Holywood sex tapes were released, in the end he voted for Mr. Trump.

The outsider and non-career politician Dr. Hines, watching all this pandering for Trump supporters, may have delivered the line of the night accusing both gentlemen of being somewhat hypocritical in that Mr. Schuette first supported Jeb Bush and Mr. Calley first supported John Kasich long before they got Trump fever.

Sen. Colbeck joined the fun suggesting that “Mr. Trump got bad information to endorse Schuette and he should change it.”

Not to be outdone in the Trump-fest, Dr. Hines blurted out, “I love the guy” and then mysteriously added, “I don’t know why.” Make of that what you will, too.

The next day at the Michigan Press Association gig, the three Democrats running for governor joined the conversation and we learned that Gretchen Whitmer, Shri Thanedar and Abdul El Sayed think Donald Trump is receiving fair media coverage while, surprise, surprise, none of the GOP candidates disagreed. Not exactly a stop the presses moment.

And that was pretty much the story line on all of the issues.

Mr. Calley did raise a new issue accusing Mr. Schuette of hiding financial transactions regarding some “off shore” property in the Virgin Islands when the A.G. had earlier said all of investments were in a blind turst.

Mr. Schuette countered, “I’m not hiding anything” but when asked if he owned property in the Virgin Islands he did not confirm it although hours later his campaign reported he did but had done nothing wrong.

But it was Mr. El Sayed who captured the quote of the day.

Mr. Colbeck has talked about the Muslim Brotherhood in one breath and mentioned Mr. El Sayed in the next. Let’s just say the El Sayed camp was not amused and the candidate looked at the senator and told him that “Muslims hate you.”

The audience gasped.

During the two events none of the candidates delivered a knockout punch that could have changed the course of the campaign but there were enough jabs exchanged that foretell of worse stuff to come.