On Sunday, April 15, the Michigan race for State Attorney General (“AG”) will kick-off when Michigan’s Democratic Party (“MDP”) holds its 2018 State Endorsement Convention to endorse a number of Democratic candidates. Michigan is one of the few states in which the major parties use conventions rather than primary elections to nominate candidates for certain statewide offices, including AG, Secretary of State, and State Supreme Court (and the only state to do so in 2018). MDP has stated on its Facebook page that its rationale for holding an Endorsement Convention prior to the Nominating Convention in August is “[to] allow our candidates more time to campaign…” The Democratic AG candidate that emerges with the endorsement on Sunday will still have to be officially nominated at the Nominating Convention, but according to reports, all three candidates for AG have mutually agreed to drop out of the race if they fail to win the endorsement on Sunday.
The AG endorsement contest is expected to be most competitive slated for Sunday, with no apparent internal party consensus on a candidate. The two presumed front-runners are former U.S. Attorney Pat Miles, who is perceived as the traditional Democratic candidate, and civil rights attorney Dana Nessel, who is viewed as the progressive liberal candidate. Also vying for the nod is attorney William “Bill” Noakes. Last week, Miles received the coveted endorsement of the United Auto Workers (“UAW”). Historically, the candidate who receives the UAW’s endorsement goes on to become the nominee. Miles also has the endorsement of the Michigan AFL-CIO. Meanwhile, Nessel has garnered her own list of strong endorsements including the Michigan Education Association, which is the state’s largest teacher and school staff union. Nessel also has the advantage of having state-wide name recognition stemming from her representation of a Michigan same-sex couple in one of the cases that was considered as part of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage.
In terms of the substantive issues dominating the debate, they have focused on Democratic hallmarks such as marijuana legalization, same sex-marriage, and LGBT rights. Over the past few weeks leading up to the Endorsement Convention, however, the showdown between Miles and Nessel has become contentious. On April 3, Miles filed a complaint with the state’s Secretary of State’s Office against Nessel alleging that she violated the Michigan Campaign Finance Act by failing to report a fundraising event and certain expenditures and in-kind contributions. Nessel has rebuffed Miles’ claims and called his action a “stunt.” In addition, both candidates have accused the other of flip-flopping on issues and questionable campaign tactics.
The Michigan Republican Party will hold its 2018 State Party Convention in late summer on Saturday, August 25. That contest is between Speaker Tom Leonard and State Senator Tonya Schuitmaker and is also expected to be very close. Republican incumbent AG Bill Schuette is term-limited and running for Governor. In the general election, the Governor’s race will be one of many factors that will influence the race for AG.
Please visit Cozen O’Connor’s State AG Election Tracker for the latest news on the Michigan AG primary. You can also sign up to receive real-time AG primary and general election results via text message and/or email.