Inside and outside of Oakland

A modest proposal: The first Michigan Cold Butt U.S. Senate Debate

  Political campaigns, especially for statewide offices, are largely scripted affairs.
  Candidates from either party announce they’re running. Sabers being out of date, they then rattle their checkbooks to scare off competition within their own parties, and start making the rounds solidifying the loyal and raising money.
See Also:
  14 issues in Michigan U.S. Senate campaign
  Michigan U.S. Senate race by the numbers_
  Then follows nearly a year of public appearances, manufactured news events and, if the race appears close enough, a debate or two aimed at wooing Michigan’s large independent and ticket-splitting population.

  Debates are usually at least a month before the election so that either candidate, or sometimes both, has time to do some damage control if they flub up, and before the inevitable negative advertising kicks in. Debates are usually the only time voters get to see the two candidates in the same place at the same time.
  Which brings up Michigan’s U.S. Senate race in 2014 between Republican Terri Lynn Land and U.S. Rep. Gary Peters . It’s an unusual race in that rarely is a senate seat in Michigan without an incumbent — in this case, Sen. Carl Levin is retiring.
  Perhaps it’s time to scrub the typical campaign scenario since Michigan residents are likely to have the winner as their senator for a long time — Levin will have 36 years in the Senate at the end of 2014, after all.
  Once the Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s holidays are past, the campaigning between Land and Peters will accelerate in earnest, and Michigan voters should have the opportunity to see both Peters and Land in as many places together as possible.
  Both say they’re willing to debate, even if noncommittal about the where, when and format of it.
“We assume we’ll debate next year,” says Land’s spokesman Matt Golden. “We’ll expect those negotiations to start sometime after the first of the year.”
  Says Peters spokeswoman Julie Petrick: “Gary is a proven independent voice that Michigan middle class families and small businesses can count on, and he is looking forward to ample opportunities to debate the issues and to share his vision to create new jobs and and reinvest in Michigan’s economy.”
  One suggestion is to hold a debate in January, rather than waiting until September or October.
  Not just any debate, but in a format that will show their familiarity with Michigan and the issues, ability to think and multitask under pressure, and show some endurance. Many Michigan residents are, after all, hardy folk who enjoy the four seasons, or at least endure them in as good spirits as possible.
  A word about endurance.
  In Milford, Mich., the town holds a Cold Butt Euchre Tournament as part of its August Milford Memories event. Card players sit on blocks of ice while they play and they’re disqualified if the cold forces them to stand up before the hand is finished.
  In the spirit of such hardiness, here’s the debate proposal:

  The Name: The first-ever Michigan Cold Butt U.S. Senate Debate.
  The Participants: U.S. Rep. Gary Peters, a Bloomfield Township Democrat, and Republican Terri Lynn Land from Byron Center.
  The Rules: Peters and Land sit on blocks of ice for 90 minutes while answering questions posed by a moderator in a warm, comfortable chair. No extra padding is allowed, and they can only stand briefly at the end of each topic covered. If either stands up before each has answered, they lose their chance for rebuttal. Each is allowed a three-minute opening and closing statement.
  Topics: Moderator’s discretion, but candidates should be prepared at the least to discuss Obamacare, the federal government shutdown, U.S. debt, immigration, gun laws, tax reform, the economy, and the environment — and perhaps heating assistance by the end of it.
  The Venue: The annual Tip-Up Town winter festival at Houghton Lake, the largest in Michigan, held in 2014 from Jan. 17-19 and Jan. 24-26. An exact date to be negotiated by the two campaigns.
  The Moderator: Perhaps “Off The Record” anchor Tim Skubick with play-by-play by Bill Ballenger and Susan Demas of Inside Michigan Politics. Ballenger is a former Republican lawmaker and Demas’ political leanings are a tad to the left of Bill’s.

  But a debate, whenever and wherever it occurs, shouldn’t be the only time voters get to see the candidates together.
  To acknowledge the year 2014 and to offer both candidates a revised campaign manual, here are 14 other places where Peters and Land should appear and participate together:

Michigan islands
  The uninhabited 206-square-mile island Isle Royale is among the largest in the Great Lakes. It’s also the farthest north in Lake Superior, where even summertime water temperatures are chilling. Another endurance test, Peters and Land can answer questions about protecting the Great Lakes while wading ankle deep in the lake’s bone-chilling temperatures. Then they can visit some of Michigan’s other islands, like Mackinac, Beaver and Bois Blanc. No additional wading required.

Smelt Dipping
  Any lake or stream in Michigan in early spring when water temperatures are in the low 40s and smelt dipping season is underway. Historically, anglers have used buckets or nets to capture the small game fish. Kudos to the first candidate who reaches the state’s two-gallon limit first. Be prepared to discuss federal fish and game regulations.

  You can win a statewide office in Michigan without winning in Menominee, but voters there have largely mirrored the rest of the state in their selection of a U.S. senator over the years.
  The city on the Wisconsin border and the shores of Green Bay in northwest Lake Michigan is located in one of four of Michigan’s 83 counties that are in the next time zone. The city’s location on Green Bay makes it more likely that football fans there will prefer the green and gold of the Green Bay Packers rather than the silver and blue of the Detroit Lions, some eight or nine hours and nearly 500 miles away by car. It’s also likely that Menominee residents have had more reported Big Foot sightings in recent decades than sightings of a U.S. Senate candidate.
  That said, Menominee voters have only missed picking the winning U.S. senate candidate from Michigan once in the six elections since 1996. That was in 2000, when they voted for incumbent Republican Spencer Abraham, who lost to Democrat Debbie Stabenow. Menominee could be interesting since there’s no incumbent this time around, and Menominee has steadfastly backed incumbents.
  Be prepared to discuss economic revitalization and redevelopment and, if brave enough, football allegiances and favorite beer.

The city under the city
  As a metaphor, “back to the salt mines” is a phrase used to describe heading back to work and toil. Under Detroit, however, is the real deal, 100 miles of roadways and salt mines some 1,200 feet below the surface.
  “We don’t do tours anymore,” says a company spokesperson for Detroit Salt Company. But perhaps an exception could be made so that Land and Peters can have a suitable venue to discuss proposals to increase the national minimum wage and other labor issues.

Benedictine Catholic Monastery
  Since monks take a vow of silence or discouarage idle chit-chat, persuaviseness in the fewest amount of words gets points at this idyllic setting east of Oxford, Mich. Think of it as power tweeting. Be prepared to discuss abortion and doctrines like separation of church and state — in as few words as possible.

Bowling alleys
  Bowling alleys entertain a cross-section of Michigan’s population, and the state is in the top five in the number of alleys. But bowling alleys are also the bane of politicians who sometimes feel compelled to roll a ball when they’re running for election, just to connect with the common person. Think back to 2008 when Barack Obama visited one and scored a 37. Obama has since made many a struggling bowler shrug off a bad game when reminded that they still bowled better than the president. The president however, gets kudos for being game. How about a game, Peters and Land?

Great Lakes National Cemetery
  Opened in 2005 in Holly Township, it’s the second national cemetery in Michigan. There’s no more solemn place to discuss military and veterans issues.

Greenfield Village
  Located in Dearborn, it calls itself an 80-acre time machine that takes in Michigan’s agrarian roots as well as the genesis of auto production. A venue to discuss both national farm policy and the auto industry at the same time.

Gibralter Trade Center
  In Mount Clemens or Taylor, the large weekend public markets draw an estimated 2 million shoppers a year. Since that’s a pretty good cross-section of Michigan, a topic Land and Peters could discuss might be federal marijuana law versus Michigan’s medical marijuana law passed by voters in 2008 as part of a larger discussion on the federal war on drugs.

  Founded in the mid-1800s by German immigrants, the town that calls itself “Little Bavaria” may be a good venue for Land and Peters to discuss cultural diversity and federal immigration policies — while sampling the beer.

On the Detroit River
  It’s debatable whether a person should be allowed to run for statewide public office in Michigan without actually having been on one of Michigan’s major waterways at some point. The river dividing the U.S. and Canada is another good venue to discuss federal immigration policy, which Land and Peters can do from a boat pitching in the water. Of course, any international waterway will do. Those include Lake St. Clair, Lake Huron and Lake Superior.

Detroit Institute of Arts
  A big question looming in southeast Michigan is whether the art collection at the Detroit Institute of Arts is an asset that can be used somehow in Detroit’s pending bankruptcy. Bankruptcy falling under federal law, the DIA is a venue for Peters and Land to address the financial woes facing Michigan municipalities, as well as federal bankruptcy law.

Cabela’s or Bass Pro
  How about a friendly target shooting competition? Cabela’s in Dundee and Bass Pro in Auburn Hills are destinations for hunting enthusiasts. Be prepared to discuss federal gun laws during a stop at one or the other

Three uniquely-named towns
  Along the campaign trail, Land and Peters should visit the uniquely-named Michigan towns of Hell, Paradise, and Christmas. Hell is in the lower peninsula while Paradise and Christmas are in the Upper Peninsula. Don’t forget to buy the T-shirts and stimulate the local economy. Be prepared to discuss tourism and small business initiatives in each.

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