A short but vigorous campaign
The campaign for the Chair of the Michigan Democratic Party is in its final stages as we head into the statewide convention this Saturday, February 23rd at the Cobo Center. Both candidates, MDP Chair Mark Brewer and challenger Lon Johnson, are racking up endorsements and traveling the state talking to Democrats to earn their vote.
Last week, five MDP Executive Committee members, Derek Dobies, John Austin, Brenda Lawrence, Rudy Hobbs, and Kathleen Johnston Calati sent a letter to both candidates suggesting that a neutral party chair both the Rules and Credentials Committee and the convention itself. As it stands now, Chair Brewer holds both positions as well as being a candidate. In their proposal, they asked that “neutral Party members, not affiliated with any candidate for Chair, be designated to chair the Rules and Credentials committees and the State Convention.”
Johnson, of course, immediately accepted, saying:
I believe that your proposal to designate neutral members to serve as chair of these committees and at the convention will remove any questions about the process and rules of competition and let us focus on what is best for the future of our Party.
I believe that the discussion going on right now about changes we need to strengthen all aspects of our Party so that we are welcoming new members, strengthening grassroots activities and winning elections at the state and local levels is very constructive and should be the focus these next seven days.
Brewer, however, declined the offer in a rather pointed letter to the group of five:
I am responding to your e-mail received at 6 pm February 14, 2013.
I appreciate your concern with ensuring that we have a fair State Convention. I’m sure fairness was at the forefront of your mind when we adopted the rules and procedures on December 1, 2012 that govern the Convention, a meeting you presumably attended.
These rules and procedures, adopted unanimously by the Michigan Democratic State Central Committee, guarantee fairness to all. Moreover I’m confident the Chair and the members of the Executive Committee — including yourselves — selected by the MDSCC will serve capably in this role.
As you know, our party has never insisted that any party officer, Chair, Vice Chair or elected official resign from their post or step aside from their duties when a candidate has filed against them. At the time these rules were adopted, it was known I would be a candidate for MDP Chair. The rules were designed to ensure fairness then, and I’m confident they will work in the way you intended them on Feb. 23.
Moreover, as you know, any action of the rules and credentials committee, an advisory body, must be approved by the total delegate body of the state convention. No rules or resolutions or procedures or the chair of the convention can be imposed on that delegate body. That body is the sole determinant of the rules and procedures.
So I’m confident that we collectively as officers of the Party will deliver a fair recommendation to the Convention and if there are disagreements there is a process for working these out.
P.S. As you know these rules were adopted because we do not have any of the new Congressional Districts until the date of the Convention.
A Change.org petition has been started, asking Brewer to accept the “neutrality proposal” and, as of Tuesday morning, has 51 signatures.
Johnson released a statement calling on Brewer to reconsider:
I really hope Mark will change his mind and support the “neutrality proposal” so this campaign can be about our plans for the Party not about process. No candidate should chair the convention and the committees that are establishing the rules and procedures for his own election, and Party members need to have confidence that the process is fair and open.
It will be interesting to watch this play out. It appears that Brewer is unlikely to step aside and conventions he has chaired have rarely yielded any surprises. Johnson supporters are sure to be vigilant to be sure everything done on Saturday is done transparently and fairly. This, of course, is essential for the future of the MDP. No matter who wins the Chair position, we must emerge from the convention united behind that Chair and ready to move forward to defeat Republicans in 2014 and beyond.
Meanwhile, both men are accumulating more endorsements. Brewer scored an important endorsement from the SEIU while Johnson secured an endorsement from University of Michigan Regent Mark Bernstein. In his endorsement announcement on Johnson’s website, Bernstein debuted Johnson’s new campaign video:
[Photo credit: Anne C. Savage, special to Eclectablog]