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Talk to politicians, the top 10

August 24, 2009 - Steve Murch
One of the perks of working at a newspaper, and having an editor's position in particular, is getting the opportunity to sit down with politicians and ask them questions. While town hall meetings and appearances by politicians offer citizens that opportunity, sitting down around a table and spending time to follow up questions or issues.

State and national officials stop in for a talk many of them have someone (or a couple of people) to hand out material and keep track of the time so they can move on to the next appointment. While they want to get their message out during their stops, it's still a great opportunity to ask questions and get a feel for what might be happening in Washington or Lansing, or what they might be hearing from the people on the street.

Here are my 10 favorite politicians – some successful, some not as much – who stopped in over the years to talk to us here at the newspaper.

10.Howard Viegelahn. Howard unsuccessfully ran for 106th state representative a couple of times, and I wouldn't be surprised if he ran again. He's passionate about his beliefs and sticks to them. He also understands that there are people who might not see the same way as him.

9.Bill Schuette. He's a former congressman who just finished as a judge on the Fourth District Court of Appeals. He's now going to run for attorney general. One thing you can say about Bill Schuette – he has an opinion and isn't afraid to share it. If time wasn't a factor, he might sit and talk all day.

8.Tom Casperson. The state representative from the U.P. ran against Bart Stupak last year for the 1st Congressional seat and lost convincingly. He knew it was a long shot, but he firmly believed he had a chance. Don't be surprised to see him run against Stupak again, or some other seat. I don't believe he'll disappear with term limits in the state House.

7.Dennis Grenkowicz. Love him or hate him, and it seems there is very little in-between, Dennis will let you know what he thinks. He holds no punches when you ask him a question. The think is, don't ask him a question if you're afraid of what the answer might be. That's a characteristic I respect – honesty.

6.Joe Schwarz. A former state senator and U.S representative, Schwarz ran for governor in 2002. There is just something in his demeanor that I think probably helped him to win arguments. He seems like he might be the most level-headed person in the room. Maybe it was the doctor in him, or should I say is the doctor in him.

5.Carl Levin. If he's not the smartest person in whatever room he's in (though he certainly will be in the top couple of people), he's the most prepared. There never seems to an issue or topic that he hasn't researched or been brought up to speed on. Very little, if anything slips by him. That probably helps to explain why he's been in the Senate for over 30 years.

4.Bart Stupak. Bart's another person who tells it like its. He has a firm understanding of the issues before him, like Levin, and he has his beliefs about them. He is a no-nonsense kind of guy who has to deal with one of the biggest district's in the country. That size can create a lot of differences, but he seems to find the common ground for most.

3. Terri Lynn Land. The Secretary of State is a real pleasure to talk to. She's engaged in the conversation and is able to talk to everyone in a next door neighbor way, all the while getting her message across. Never a visit goes by that at some point during the conversation she will let out a good laugh. Every visit with her is one that is both informative and entertaining. She seems like the person you would love to have as your neighbor.

2.Debbie Stabenow. Whenever we get a call to office that the senator wants to stop by for a visit, I make it a point to be here. It doesn't matter whether it's an early visit like last week or an afternoon visit, she is flat-out interesting. She stands by her beliefs and understands why other think the way they do. She might not agree, but she's willing to try and find common ground. She'd be tops if not for …

1 Jennifer Granholm. When she's in a room, you feel like she's talking to you alone. She is the master at making eye contact with everyone in the room and making sure they are included in the conversation. She's engaging and interesting. When she leaves, you feel like you found out a great deal but there is so much more you'd like to know. When we sat down with Bill Schuette during his run for the court of appeals in 2002, he called Granholm a rock star. If you sit down with her for 5 minutes you'll know exactly what he was talking about.

I'm looking forward to the 2010 campaigns to see if any more interesting people stop our way.


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