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Media coverage of the Brewer-Johnson fight

by: Eric B.

Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 10:11:50 AM EST

Brian Dickerson does a pretty good job summing up the torn feelings a lot of us have over the fight for state party chairman.

Progressive Democrats can make the case that Brewer has squandered the party's scarce resources on pyrrhic victories (such as disgraced ex-state Supreme Court Justice Diane Hathaway's short-lived tenure) and hopeless causes (such as the unsuccessful bid to cast labor's collective bargaining advantage in constitutional concrete).

But if Brewer's leadership was wanting in those instances, it's because he was pursuing the UAW's agenda, not contesting it.

What if Democrats had invested the millions they ploughed into Proposal 2 in a ballot initiative to reform the process by which Michigan's legislative boundaries are drawn, putting it in the hands of a non- or bipartisan reapportionment commission, as Californians have?

Nolan Finley, who also wrote out it, points out that since Bob King can't publicly take the fall for Proposal 2, that Brewer has to. On that point, it's entirely fair. Most of us knew all along that Proposal 2 wasn't an MDP joint, but something cooked up by organized labor. Mark Brewer has his faults -- plenty of them, actually -- but he's not to blame for the failure of Proposal 2 (in fact, we just a couple of weeks ago published a memo circulated from within organized labor identifying the guilty parties) or Right to Work.

That's the fundamental problem a lot of people are currently working through. Michigan Democrats have performed horribly the last several cycles, and their successes in 2008 were owed to large extent by the OFA folks who, after John McCain stopped campaigning here, started boosting Democrats in general (Diane Hathaway won Isabella County, I'm fairly certain, because GOTV efforts run by the OFA involving CMU students involved instructions to flip the ballot and vote for her). Normally that would demand a wholesale change in leadership, from the public face to the power brokers behind the scenes. In this case, however, the power brokers and the public face have split, leaving people with the deep quandry of picking which one to support.

One last thing to fully flesh this out.

Yet it is the UAW itself that is leading the call for Brewer's scalp and championing Lon Johnson, a baby-faced party activist from Kalkaska, to succeed him. What's with that?

Dickerson wasn't one of the reporters who joined this week's conference call. I was. These things usually all work the same way ... you call in, the candidate is introduced usually by someone who is close to running his campaign, and the candidate after reading off a carefully worded script, dodges questions for maybe 15 minutes before things wrap up.

So, I don't remember the name of the guy who introduced Johnson (Cottage Inn called at the worst possible moment to inform me that they had no sub buns for my ham and cheese sub and asked if pita bread would be an acceptable alternative), but I do remember that he was an OFA guy. It could very well be that the UAW didn't pick Lon Johnson, but that they're going to get behind him anyway because they don't want Brewer.

Eric B. :: Media coverage of the Brewer-Johnson fight
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Spot on
Eric B., OFA deserves a lot of credit for the State Party's successes not the UAW.  Snyder and the Republicans saw the weakness of the UAW and labor in general and it's finally going to become more apparent at the convention.  

Again, UAW International is a business that has no interest in growing the Dem Party or the economy of Michigan. It has  slews of family members in the UAW International bureaucracy and incompetent people appointed in positions such a CAP Coordinators.    

I am interested
in this assertion:
It has  slews of family members in the UAW International bureaucracy and incompetent people appointed in positions such a CAP Coordinators.    
Do you have more information about this? Perhaps a link to more info?


[ Parent ]
It is my understanding
That the UAW did pick Johnson, after seeing his name among those thrown out in early speculation about potential challengers. A UAW friend told me "He's young, good-looking, has ties to a great fundraising organization and most importantly, he's ambitious".

Also, I'm seeing a few former OFA-MI staffers and some of the kids who did a couple months worth of work for Protect Our Jobs picking up the Lon Johnson banner. But it probably has a lot to do with the fact that Lon and the UAW are paying these kids $2500 for a few weeks' work.  

I think that's everyone's suspicion
That he's UAW's guy, because the UAW announced against Brewer and then Johnson's name popped up.

At this point, however, I have a hard time believing anything I hear about his candidacy except for the concrete proposals he's made.

Among the Trees

[ Parent ]
UAW/Lon are putting cash out there which goes along way when people aren't familiar with either Brewer or him and need cash/hope for a job.

"He's young, good-looking, has ties to a great fundraising organization and most importantly, he's ambitious" - It seems to be the strategy. UAW can bring there institutional support and for the progressive folks that feel like Brewer isn't there guy they can be swooned by Lon and convinced to over look the satin jacket behind the curtain.

[ Parent ]
If there is a Democrat eligible to vote at the state convention that does not know who Mark Brewer is then Brewer has some deeper problems...

[ Parent ]
Dude you practically stalk me on here it is weird. Just reread it or move on.

[ Parent ]
Off the Record with Tim Skubick
Nothing new reported.

Skubick and the panelists rehash what others have reported or commented on. High school sports reporters could have done a better job and at least provided something new.

So no change is the answer
I'm disappointed that the discussion on these pages seems to think that keeping the same person in place for another two years is the answer for the change the party needs.  That seems to be counter intuitive.  Why not try someone new even if you're not sure what effect will occur?  You know what will happen with Brewer in place - do you really mistrust change that much?  The MDP needs someone from the outside to come in with fresh ideas and change the way it does things.  If Brewer lasts again, it will be nothing new again.  The UAW discussion is to me a straw man - do you really think that if Brewer wins again, they will have no influence?  If he survives again, it will be two more years of the same bad choices and poor strategy.  

It is perfectly reasonable that two people might see something and interpret it different. For me it certainly has nothing to do with not wanting change and I do not see Lon as being a "change" candidate and a lot of people I have spoken to share that opinion. You can call the UAW dynamic a straw man but it is the most important element at the center of this and without them Lon's candidacy wouldn't exist, so I think it is very prudent to consider when voting.

As much as I do not like Brian Dickerson I thought he did a good job summing up the race and I agree with his take on it:


[ Parent ]
Look past the UAW for now
Why don't you find out what Johnson is going to do?  One thing that I like is he is going to focus on organizing - that is one thing that is sorely needed.  

[ Parent ]
If I was to look past the UAW, and again I feel as if it is the center of this conversation, but looking past them I am not convinced that Lon is actually committed to this and has earned it. I know a lot of people that have been highly involved in the state party and in my opinion a couple of them would honestly do a better job then Lon or Brewer. Lon alliteratively has not been involved, especially recently, in the ways that I think would make him the right candidate for the job.

I personally have a problem with him asking for the $150k and hiring a ED when I feel like his plans are not concretely spelled out (I am not really opposed to the price but without a plan I am). I have seen his website but 5 bullet points and a corresponding sentence isn't the plan I am looking for. Sure he can raise the money and the first $150k would go to his pocket and then the next X would go to his EDs. I don't like that. I am not on board with the OFA talk I get that maybe some people here have had great experiences with OFA apparently but I do not know a single person who did not work for them that thought they did a good job. Lastly he did not vote in 2010 and for whatever reason he could not answer whether or not he would seek office in 2014. That is not ok with me.

Now bring back the UAW into the picture I can not consider voting for him at the point. No way no how.

[ Parent ]
Lon is 41 years old and missed voting once in 2010?
And that's a serious reason not to vote for him?

[ Parent ]
No defiantly not what I said you can chose to focus on it though that is ok.

Yes it is a big deal to me that he for whatever reason he did not find it important enough or did not find the time to vote. If someone wants to be chair of a state party or be an elected official at any level they should have a near perfect voting record. Missing a Gubernatorial election is a major no no. He needs a GOTV call.

[ Parent ]
There can be a bunch of reasons he was not able to vote.
I think he was in Iraq during that general time period? Many absentee ballot requests go astray from overseas.

It WOULD be nice to know, though, and something he should address, I think.

I mean, this is a question I have asked of people who want to be on our Executive Committee, let alone be an officer -- "What's your voting record?" Pretty basic.

[ Parent ]
to a news paper article he returned from Iraq and moved to Michigan in 2006. It's a fair question.

[ Parent ]
I didn't vote in the August 2010 primary...
Because my last grandparent -- my father's 94-year-old mother -- passed away the previous Wednesday and I had no choice but to fly to California for the services.

If someone were to say my action disqualified me from moving up in the MDP, I'd be a tad...upset.

"The two most common elements in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity." ~ Harlan Ellison

[ Parent ]
I did vote in Novermber, for what it was worth...
And I was certainly registered the whole time.

"The two most common elements in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity." ~ Harlan Ellison

[ Parent ]
You can call the UAW dynamic a straw man but it is the most important element at the center of this and without them Lon's candidacy wouldn't exist, so I think it is very prudent to consider when voting.

Another great point.  I mean, people have to take the good and the bad of a candidate, and I'm kind of surprised to see some folks trying to seperate him from his primary backer for this challenge.

It's like everyone trying to deny them three times before the cock crows.  The UAW is Lon's, for better or for worse.  This trying to back away from them from his supporters is kind of craven, if you ask me.  You dance with the one that brung ya'.  

People can argue whether this tie is good or bad, but you can't just deny reality that the tie exists and expected for your opinion to remain credible.

[ Parent ]
<i>A bit melodramatic, maybe?</i> Just saying.
It's like everyone trying to deny them three times before the cock crows.

[ Parent ]
But, if you have a problem with the argument beyond that, even better.  Not that I'm really interested.  I've seen actually silly arguments on here, lately, so if I've got a legitimate one with a little flair to it, so be it.

We've all been arguing in circles, anyway.  There really is little to nothing else to discuss on this subject.  But, you all can have at it, if you will.

[ Parent ]
I was just trying to get the discussion
away from "but the UAW wants him".

[ Parent ]
I understand
And I completely disagree, and I said as much.  You can't move seperate Johnson from the UAW.  You can try, but it's not a legitimate eargument.

[ Parent ]
Knowing both players
For some of us, it is less about the change and more about knowing both men.  I sincerely doubt that there's a person here who does not want to see things improve at the MDP.  But a loose cannon at the helm will be bad for everyone, not just the MDP.

"Action is what separates a belief from an opinion."

[ Parent ]
Good coverage at Eclectablog

of the appearance of both candidates for MDP Chair at Ann Arbor Dems Saturday morning -- but evidently Eclectablog was the only media source to cover it. What's up with that? Probably the only joint appearance of the two prior to the Convention.  

Minds made up
I imagine most MDP members have a pretty good idea who they are voting for by now. Seriously is anyone still on the fence wondering who they will support?

[ Parent ]
Yes, they are.
I've contacted 16 folks in the 6th District who will be going to the convention. Of these, 4 are undecided. Small sample, but there it is. About a quarter.  

[ Parent ]
Can I ask?
Can you divulge how the vote looks in your district?

[ Parent ]
It is such a small sample --
and possibly a biased sample, at least not random -- that I am not going to make my results so far public, since it could be misleading.

[ Parent ]
Good coverage
of the event.  Thanks Mark.

[ Parent ]
Voting Record
I actually am a bit disturbed that Lon didn't vote in 2010. Most of the mess we've experienced in the last two years are because of Dems who didn't turn out in 2010.  I was a bit disturbed at a co-worker who didn't vote. And a sibling. So I feel like I have the right to be concerned about someone running for the highest office in the MDP not voting.

But more importantly, I want to know if Lon has consistently even been a member of the organization he wants to lead. I've been a dues paying member since college. And over the years of working on campaigns I've been surprised by how many candidates only join the party when they decide to run. And then they only show up for county party meetings and events while they are running and just disappear into the ether if they lose.

Anyone on here from Kalkaska County?  

I've heard some rumors that he is a lot more like the candidates you described and a lot less like you as a college student. Which would be too bad because when I was a broke student also I still found the $20 to be a member of an organization I valued. I don't want to say anymore because rumors well sometimes they are wrong but usually where there is smoke there is fire.

I would be pretty interested to hear from someone from Kalkaska also.

[ Parent ]
Rumors? Really?  

[ Parent ]
Unproductive contribution
Just saying.  Please stick to the topic and refrain from silly and irrelevant chastising.

"Action is what separates a belief from an opinion."

[ Parent ]
Rumors Aren't Productive

[ Parent ]
Why don't you ask him some of these things
He has a facebook page - why don't you post your questions there rather than try to guess his motivation and past behavior.

[ Parent ]
Failing to vote in 2010 is not meaningful.
As I said elsewhere, Lon's voter record suggests that he was outside the state quite a bit over the past eight or ten years, and that his voter registration kept being dropped by the Secretary of State.

Almost each time he voted (2002, 2004, 2006, 2008, and 2012, plus a couple primaries) it appears he had to re-register.  I haven't asked him, but this would be typical if he held a non-Michigan drivers license.  Most of his voting was by absentee ballot, presumably requested because he expect to be out-of-town on election day.

If you want to complain about something, you might say that he wasn't really living here; he was preserving his legal residency while doing whatever he was doing.  But missing one even year election, given the bureaucratic complexity of voting by mail, isn't really fair.

[ Parent ]
I think it is meaningful to the people that busted there ass trying to get people to vote in 2010 that the guy who is asking to run the party did not vote. It is fair to me because I would go to the end of the earth to make sure I get to vote, which includes checking my registration in advance of election day.

I think folks who have looked into him or the voters in the 103rd already figured out he is a carpetbagger.

[ Parent ]
For the record
Lon has been asked on his FB page how long he has been a dues paying member of the MDP. So far the question has been unanswered. If anyone sees an answer to this, please post it.

I don't think there was much to the carpetbagging accusation that got a lot of play in his House race. Just the R's repeating something so often that voters believed it to be true.

I think if Brewer is to be displaced it should be by someone who has been in the trenches at the party and in campaigns, someone who can navigate the House and Senate Caucus staffs and their turf wars.

[ Parent ]
The mythical "someone"
Look, folks, we have a real-world contest right now between Brewer and a highly qualified challenger, Lon Johnson.  There is no waiting for someone else, nor should there be.  If you think Mark Brewer if the best on offer for the future of the Michigan Democratic Party then by all means vote for him at the convention and we will keep doing things the way we have been doing them.  Lon offers us an opportunity for change. Is the direction he outlines in his emails and on his web site, is his background as a Democratic trench warrior and political strategist, better than what Mark offers? I think it is but regardless of your answer the idea of waiting for some mythical perfect opponent is not a real choice.  

[ Parent ]
Do you have any info on his CV? I mean I hear a lot of stuff but the only thing that seems to be concrete is he ran Dingel's '02 campaign, worked in fundraising for Gore and was in Iraq "building a democracy". If he is the trench warrior and political strategist I really want to know where he worked, when and what he did.

[ Parent ]
Check his website
And his facebook page for details

[ Parent ]
I did
His biographical info really isn't there. I just wanted to learn more and I thought you might know from your description of his background.

[ Parent ]
Here is a great interview Chris did with Lon, posted this morning:

I think folks will find answers to many of their questions about Lon there.

You will also find a good interview there with Mark Brewer, but of course he is a known quantity.

Eric, sorry to steer traffic away from ML, but Eclectablog has the goods.

[ Parent ]
Lol @ "House and Senate Caucus staffs and their turf wars."  

[ Parent ]
If you want to complain about something, you might say that he wasn't really living here; he was preserving his legal residency while doing whatever he was doing.  But missing one even year election, given the bureaucratic complexity of voting by mail, isn't really fair.

Horseshit, voting by mail is stupid easy, if you can't figure out how to fill out a Ballot request form and mail it in by X date, well.......

[ Parent ]
I make a living at this.
I know something about how likely people are to vote, and how much various kinds of obstacles reduce that probability.

If somebody KNOWS they're going to run for something, and that their voter record will later be scrutinized, they aren't likely to miss an election.  I am repeatedly struck by who casts ballots in completely meaningless elections - it's like panning for gold, and when you get down to the last few never-miss-an-election voters, they include a few people who later end up running for office.  (Bob Bowman, I'm talking about YOU.)

But if you're talking about ordinary folks - and Lon probably put himself in that category three years ago - the odds are closer to those for scheduling your annual physical.  It's a pain, and nobody's watching, and sometimes you screw up.

In Lon's case, the problem of getting an absentee ballot wasn't as simple as you think, since (based on fragmentary evidence) his voter registration had been cancelled.  So if he applied directly for a ballot, they would have rejected him.  And if he waited until after about September 20 to apply for a ballot, he wouldn't have found out soon enough to complete a mail-in voter registration.

That may not have been the exact series of events - my records are inconclusive - but it gives you an idea why I say that voting in five general elections out of six isn't bad.

[ Parent ]
Very helpful.
I was bothered by this, but it certainly helps to get your perspective. I think I will print this comment out to show to others who may express concern.

[ Parent ]
I guess that is the point
"It's a pain, and nobody's watching, and sometimes you screw up."

When no one was watching he did not vote.

I understand his license might have been out of state which might have been the source of his missed vote in 2010 but like I said before I make sure I vote. Period. No one is watching to make sure I vote and I don't ever want to run for office but I still make it a priority to vote in every election. The only other part that bugs me is if he was here in Michigan in 2010 working to elect the Democrats he wants to lead then he would have voted too but he wasn't.

[ Parent ]
But what about MDP membership?
Was he an MDP member before he decided to run for the House? Has he ever participated in an MDP convention before 2012?

I'm more worried about that than him missing votes in 2010.  

[ Parent ]
I don't mean to sound harsh, but it doesn't seem to me that you are worried as much as that you want to pick him apart as a candidate. Have you no regard for the judgement of our Democratic Congressional delegation? I find that most puzzling. If you have no respect for the UAW, the UFCW and the US Steelworkers, I would think you would care about the judgement of our Democratic Congressmen and our Senators.

[ Parent ]
These arguments...
...remind me of all the picking of nits about Barack Obama when he first announced for president. New kids on the block. Hasn't paid his dues. Blah, blah, blah.

It's about who best can lead Democrats to victory. Who is the most qualified to do that. Period.  

Make a case for Brewer, make a case for Johnson. But make the case please.  

[ Parent ]
Lon's MDP membership
Shouldn't the person who wants to take over the MDP leadership also be a member of that organization?  Lon just became a member in 2012, when he decided to run for the State House. All candidates are "encouraged" to be MDP members.  He was not a member before then.  Just sayin'.

"Action is what separates a belief from an opinion."

[ Parent ]
Eclectablog Interviews With Johnson and Brewer Now Posted
Spin Away!


These are great interviews,
and are a real service to Michigan Democrats as we consider this decision.

Mark Brewer is of course a known quantity, and he said what I expected him to say in his interview. He lays out the case for continuing to administer the Party in the way that he has, and strongly defends his fundraising performance and fiscal stewardship of the Party.

Lon Johnson is coming from a completely different direction, and clearly represents a fundamentally different idea of what is possible. I think he also effectively lays to rest any idea that he is a creature of the UAW. Whatever role UAW leadership had in making this challenge possible, now that it is underway, it is plain that Lon has a detailed vision of where he wants to lead the Party, shaped by his own experiences, that is independent of outside forces.

It also seems plain to me that Lon is clearly qualified to be Chair. So then, the question is, do you find his vision credible or not? He describes a better, more effective party structure -- do you think he can bring that about?

[ Parent ]
The unanswered question...
It's not just whether he's a creature of the UAW, but whether when it comes time to actually start clearing some of the deadwood that has held up reform for so long whether he'll be able to do that.

Building the party by addition is a great talking point, but in the end what he means to say is that he'll dilute the influence of the UAW by broadening the Democratic decision-making tent. Will the UAW, after getting behind him during this campaign, willingly acquiesce to a reduced influence that it's held for fifty years?

Among the Trees

[ Parent ]

"Action is what separates a belief from an opinion."

[ Parent ]
Let's unpack the phrase "clearing some of the deadwood"
I don't think Lon wants to kick anyone out of the Party. I certainly don't.

There are many things Lon is promising to do that will effect change in MDP. Broadening the way that ideas get communicated and decided upon will necessarily have the affect of at least diluting the concentration of power that currently exists. The UAW will still be providing a lot of the money, and hence have plenty of clout. I don't see anyone saying otherwise.

I hope by 'deadwood' you mean 'some of the ways things are done' and not 'the UAW'. I have a list of things I would like to see changed. I don't know if many of them coincide with Lon's list, but I can hope. I have not endorsed in this race, and probably won't, but from what I have written here in recent weeks it is easy to guess I am leaning in Lon's direction.

But if your claim is that Lon will in fact be unable to carry out his ideas... well, that is the question I ended my previous comment with, and I guess it is an open question. But if he is not able... who will be?

And your comment assumes that there is deadwood to be cleared out. I agree, in the sense above, but there are many people out there who I have talked with in recent days who like the present way of doing things just fine. That is the issue in this race.

[ Parent ]
Assuming RTW isn't struck down...
...the phrase, "The UAW will still be providing a lot of the money" strikes me as an inaccurate prediction.

The not-so-hidden purpose of RTW is to squeeze money out of unions -- including the UAW -- by allowing individuals to simply stop paying dues. I think it's safe to assume that at least 20% (1 in 5) of current dues-paying members will stop paying in 2013, even with last-minute contract signings to beat the 27 March launch of RTW.

Can any union continue with business as usual when facing a 20% funding cut in the current year? Political activity, from lobbyists to PAC support to funding for the MDP's operations, will inevitably be reduced.

Come 2014 -- again if RTW isn't struck down or stopped -- it's very likely that the non-participation rate will increase, until as many as one third (33%) of current union members will no longer contribute.

Which doesn't even mention how employers will be empowered to fill any and all openings with non-union (or even anti-union) applicants, further diluting union revenues as the number of new members goes down.

That is going to be the reality for the MDP. I don't read anything from Mark Brewer that talks about replacing those lost revenues, or expanding the donor base -- whereas Lon Johnson included that in his first talking point ("addition" of both new people and new revenues).

"The two most common elements in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity." ~ Harlan Ellison

[ Parent ]

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