LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan Democrats on Sunday rallied behind a ticket of candidates they hope will end the GOP's dominance of state government in the November election, nominating gubernatorial candidate Mark Schauer's running mate and other challengers to top Republican officeholders.
"We have all the momentum and we are just getting started," Schauer, who is locked in a competitive race with Gov. Rick Snyder, told fewer than 1,000 delegates at the Lansing Center who endorsed Lisa Brown for lieutenant governor. "Let's stand up straight like the blue state we are here in Michigan. When we vote, we win."
The party's two-day nominating convention featured no major intra-party fight like Republicans had in Novi on Saturday, when Lt. Gov. Brian Calley easily beat back a tea party activist who mounted an extraordinary challenge to Gov. Snyder's preferred running mate. The most visible dispute among Democrats came when some liberal delegates protested Court of Appeals Judge William Murphy's uncontested nomination to the conservative-controlled state Supreme Court because of his past endorsement by an anti-abortion group.
Democratic Party Chairman Lon Johnson and candidates emphasized the necessity of increasing voter turnout to win back the governor's office and House, make a dent in the Senate's GOP supermajority, and loosen Republicans' long-held grips on the attorney general and secretary of state offices. There are nearly 1 million identified Democrats who vote in presidential elections but not off-year races, Johnson said. If about 180,000 of them cast ballots this year and another 143,000 independents flip, he said, Democrats will win.
"We've got everything we need in our candidates. We are united and ready to roll," Johnson said.
Brown, Oakland County's clerk, has been on the campaign trail with Schauer since April. She drew applause after saying she proudly married 82 same-sex couples during a brief window in March.
Michigan State University associate law professor Mark Totten will face Attorney General Bill Schuette, and Detroit civil rights attorney Godfrey Dillard will go against Secretary of State Ruth Johnson.
Democrats railed against Snyder and Republicans for eliminating or reducing tax exemptions for retirees and others while lowering business taxes. They also criticized the passage of what they called a "right-to-work (for less) law" that made payment of union fees voluntary for unionized workers.
"He got tough on the middle class instead because he just doesn't understand that it's the middle class that built this state. The truth is Rick Snyder doesn't understand our lives," Schauer said.
Snyder campaign spokeswoman Emily Benavides countered that the results under his watch are clear and cited the addition of nearly 300,000 private-sector jobs and the lowest unemployment rate in six years.
"The governor works every day for more and better jobs for every Michigander. Michigan's voters recognize the difference between results and rhetoric," she said.
Murphy and Richard Bernstein, a Farmington Hills lawyer for disabled people who himself is blind, became the Democratic nominees for two Supreme Court seats being sought by Republican nominees Brian Zahra, a current justice, and Kent County Circuit Judge James Redford. Democratic-nominated Wayne County Circuit Judge Deborah Thomas and Justice David Viviano, a GOP nominee, will vie to finish the term to which Snyder appointed Viviano when ex-Justice Diane Hathaway pleaded guilty to felony bank fraud.
Although Supreme Court candidates have the blessing and financial backing of political parties, the races appear on the nonpartisan end of the ballot.
Democrats on Sunday reaffirmed Murphy's nomination to the high court. A United Auto Workers union representative moved to reconsider Saturday's voice vote, and the vast majority of delegates stood in favor of him. In the voice vote a day earlier, the opposition appeared louder than the support.
Jane Michener, 64, a semi-retired attorney from Ann Arbor, criticized the party for not picking a pro-abortion rights candidate.
"We're trying to get to our base, and the base is a number of women under age 60, single for the most part, who didn't show up in 2010 and we need to show up now. If we go around nominating pro-life people, they're not going to show," she said.
Other Democrats said, however, that the party has room for diverse views. And Murphy wrote a letter to the convention saying Roe v. Wade is the "law of the land."
Democrats nominated Casandra Ulbrich and Pamela Smith to the state education board. Those chosen to run for the University of Michigan board were Katherine White and Mike Behm. Faylene Owens and George Perles were picked for the Michigan State University board. And Marilyn Kelly and Dana Thompson were selected for the Wayne State University board.
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