THIS is how it SHOULD be done
It was a day that promised to be memorable and the 2013 Michigan Democratic Convention at the Cobo Center in Detroit did not disappoint. In addition to electing the Party Chair, Michigan Democrats are coming off a 2012 election where they experienced mixed results. On one hand, we elected President Barack Obama by 9 points, Senator Debbie Stabenow by more than 20 points, and picked up 5 seats in the Republican-dominated House. On the other hand, we still don’t control any major power position in Michigan whatsoever.
So Michigan Democrats are fired up. Based on the number of voting delegates, 3,677 compared with the Republicans paltry 2,100 and change, Michigan Democrats are more fired up than ever before and poised to fight back HARD in 2014.
It was immediately evident upon entering the Cobo Center that the Johnson campaign had a huge presence. There wasn’t a space in the convention area that wasn’t plastered with Johnson signs. The UAW an entire room set up to check in their members, hand them a free Lon Johnson t-shirt and put Johnson stickers on them. Some were handed signs to carry around the convention center.
“Command Central” for the Johnson campaign
In contrast, when I walked into “command central” for the Brewer campaign, it was a small room empty except for one very weary-looking staffer.
As the day went on, you could feel the momentum building for Johnson. One person who I spoke with had been doing some head counts and said he was finding little support for Brewer compared with Johnson and, when Johnson and Brewer spoke to the various caucuses and Congressional District meetings, Johnson nearly always got a much more enthusiastic response.
I had heard that the Rules and Credentials Committee last night had ruled, with agreement by both campaigns, to accept the 1,400+ contested UAW delegates. However, on nearly every chair in the caucus area was a one-page flyer imploring delegates not to participate in a floor fight to contest the decision. It was clear from that flyer that someone was going to fight it out to the bitter end on behalf of Mark Brewer. In addition to that, Congressman Sandy Levin made the rounds to all of the caucuses to make the same case.
That someone turned out to be Macomb County Democratic Party Chair Ed Bruley, a Brewer supporter. When Rep. Levin delivered his remarks regarding the floor fight to the 9th District meeting, he and Bruley ended up in shouting match as passions ran high.
This and other intra-party friction ended up all being for naught, however. After getting the convention underway and showing a couple of knock-out videos from the House Dems and the Senate Dems (that I am going to try to get my hands on as soon as I can), Mark Brewer calmly announced that he was withdrawing his candidacy for Chair. He told the delegates, “I’ve had a great 18 years as chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party and I’ve enjoyed working with all of you, but I’m withdrawing my candidacy for chairman.”
After a collective gasp, the audience leaped to it feet, cheering and applauding.
The crowd on its feet cheering Mark Brewer’s decision to step down
Brewer then turned the Convention Chair gavel over to former Michigan Lt. Governor John Cherry, a neutral party who had been chosen at the previous evening’s meeting, and left the stage.
Brewer’s withdrawal paved the way to for the election of Lon Johnson as the Michigan Democratic Party Chair by unanimous consent.
In his speech, Johnson thanked Mark Brewer and welcomed him to stay involved in Michigan politics “because we need him”. He said that we must pull together and delivered a strong message of unity and moving forward together into the new era of politics. “When we lose,” he said, “We get right to work. When we win, workers are protected.”
I applaud Mark Brewer’s decision. It avoided an incredibly divisive and destructive battle within the party and allows us to work together for 2014 as a far more unified group. Afterwards, I spoke with Debbie Dingell who lamented that it couldn’t have happened two weeks ago before any damage had been done. While I agree, that’s simply not how politics works. If we’re a strong party, however, filled with members who have integrity and a singular focus on winning elections so that Democratic values determine our state’s path, we can get past these events and work together toward our common goals.
Well played, Michigan Democrats. Well played indeed.
P.S. Did I mention that the Dems had nearly twice as many delegates as the GOP did today? They did. Heh.
[Photos by Chris Savage. In other words, please don't blame Anne Savage ; )]