Former Michigan Attorney General Frank J. Kelley has formally endorsed Mark Totten for Attorney General. Kelley is legendary in Michigan. He was our Attorney General for 37 years, the longest-serving Attorney General in US history. During that time he set the records for being both the youngest and oldest Michigan Attorney General. Many of his proteges, such as Jennifer Granholm who later became Attorney General herself, have gone on to have amazing careers of their own. Kelley carved out a special place in Michigan history and is beloved by nearly everyone.
Kelley had this to say about his endorsement of Totten:
I’ve been a fervent supporter of Mark Totten. He’s a fighter who will stand up for Michigan families. Michigan needs a leader like Totten and that’s why I’m supporting him.
Last week Totten was endorsed by another Michigan stateman, former Governor William Milliken. These endorsements from pillars of Michigan government speak volumes about the strength of Totten’s candidacy and how well-respected he is.
The Kelley endorsement must truly be a blow to Republican Bill Schuette, Totten’s opponent. however. Schuette has had nothing but flattering things to say about Kelley:
Schuette said when he took office in January 2011, he realized the Frank J. Kelley Law Library on the seventh floor of the G. Mennen Williams Building in Lansing needed an upgrade. It is used for news conferences and attorney staff meetings.
“It didn’t have the pizazz, snap, substance and stature of Frank Kelley,” he said. “It really needed to reflect the stature of Michigan’s and American’s longest-serving attorney general.”
Another former Republican Michigan Attorney General, Mike Cox, was equally flattering in his comments:
“God love him. He loved the Democratic Party and he didn’t hide from that, and he went out and talked about the values and principles of the Democratic Party,” said Cox, who served from 2003-10. “But when it came time to do his job, he was a professional. … When it came time to do the business of this office, to serve the people of Michigan, Frank Kelley was there for so, so long.“
The biography of Frank Kelley at the Michigan Bar Association’s website shows the high esteem in which Kelley is held in our state and in the law community itself:
In the last half of the 20th Century, an Irish-American with undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Detroit became the Attorney General of Michigan. During his next 37 years as the chief law enforcement officer of the state, Frank J. Kelley redefined the role of the Department of Attorney General and created a dynamic organization that had a profound influence on the development of Michigan jurisprudence. Kelley set the record as both the state’s youngest (age 36) and oldest (age 74) attorney general. […]
Before Ralph Nader was out of law school, Kelley had established the nation’s first Consumer Protection Division and cracked down on charities that pocketed more money than they spent on good works and retailers whose price at the scanner didn’t match the price on the shelf. Among state attorneys general across the nation, Kelley was a leader in establishing new frontiers for his attorneys to push the courts toward justice. He was at the forefront of the consumer movement. Quick-buck pyramid scams were targeted and dispatched by his forces. Unscrupulous automobile transmission shops were brought before the courts and the national press chronicled his dedication to the consumer.
Before the environmental movement of the 1970s, Kelley had already established the country’s first Environmental Protection Division, which was quick to respond to water pollution violations. Chemical companies and corporate polluters were sued and injunctive relief was sought to require clean up of their environmental messes. Kelley brought a new dedication to the role of the people’s advocate before the public utility commission; a journalist observed that ‘‘He went after Michigan utilities in rate-hike cases like a pit bull after sirloin.’’ ‘‘It was never personal,’’ Kelley later stated, ‘‘I liked many of the citizens, companies and their executives on the other side of cases. I was only trying to enforce the law fairly.’’
Kelley’s work on consumer and environmental protections stands in sharp contrast to Bill Schuette’s time in government where he co-sponsored a bill that later became law making Michigan the only state in the country that prevents lawsuits against drug companies whose drugs were found to harm or kill people who used them if they had been approved by the FDA. He was also one of only 13 Attorneys General who didn’t sign a letter supporting Richard Cordray to head up the newly-created federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
When the Environmental Protection Agency took steps to clean up pollution flowing into the Chesapeake Bay, Bill Schuette took it upon himself as AG of Michigan to file an amicus brief opposing the EPA’s clean-up plan.
Schuette also led a coalition of state AGs trying to overturn EPA rules about mercury emissions from power plants. Their effort was later shot down by a federal appeals court.
Based on both Schuette’s and Totten’s records, it’s easy to see how Totten has earned the endorsements of such well-respected Michigan legends as William Milliken and Frank Kelley and how he has earned the right to be Michigan’s next Attorney General. It will be interesting to see if Michigan Republican Party Chair Bobby Schostak will call Frank Kelley “irrelevant”, too, like he did with Gov. Milliken.
Be sure to stop by on Wednesday morning when I’ll be posting my interview with Mark Totten. Stop by his website to learn more about his campaign and to make a donation to ensure he replaces our current extremist AG after the election.
[Totten photo by Anne C. Savage, special to Eclectablog]