Democrats to name court, education board favorites

By Kathy Barks Hoffman
AP Political Writer

LANSING (AP) — Democrats are readying to name their favorites Saturday for this fall’s Michigan Supreme Court and education board races, hoping once again to give their candidates a five-month jump in fundraising and campaigning over Republicans.

Democrats can’t actually nominate the candidates until their fall convention in September, so Saturday’s votes will be nonbinding. Republicans will nominate their candidates in August.

The biggest controversy at Saturday’s convention at Cobo Center in Detroit could be over who gets the nod for spots on the Michigan Supreme Court.

Already running are Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Connie Kelley and Bridget McCormack, co-director of the Innocence Clinic at University of Michigan law school.

Others might enter the race Saturday, state Democratic Chairman Mark Brewer said in a conference call with reporters.

Kelley and McCormack “are the two public candidates who are out there seeking an endorsement. We’ll see what the convention brings,” Brewer said.

The candidates are running for three positions on the November ballot. Justice Marilyn Kelly, who has been endorsed by Democrats in the past, can’t run again because she will be over 70 when the election is held.

Justice Stephen Markman, a GOP nominee, is up for re-election. Justice Brian Zahra was appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder last year to succeed Justice Maura Corrigan, now state human services director, and must win the right to serve the rest of her term. He also is a Republican nominee.

Michigan Republican Party spokesman Matt Frendewey said the Democrats tried endorsing candidates early two years ago without much success.

Republicans won the 2010 secretary of state and attorney general races even though Democrats picked their favorites months earlier than GOP activists did.

“The process didn’t pan out last time and we’re confident it won’t pan out this time,” Frendewey said. “We’re confident the voters care more about the issues than when the candidates get nominated.”

The Democratic convention will feature an appearance by U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, who’s running for a third six-year term.

Democratic candidates for three university boards and the State Board of Education also are seeking endorsements at this weekend’s convention,

State Board of Education candidates are Lupe Ramos-Montigny of Grand Rapids and Michelle Fecteau, executive director of the American Association of University Professors-American Federation of Teachers at Wayne State University.

Democratic incumbent Marianne McGuire of Detroit is not seeking re-election. The other seat is held by Republican Nancy Danhof of East Lansing.

Candidates for the Michigan State University Board of Trustees are incumbent Joel Ferguson and Brian Mosallam, a financial adviser based in Dearborn; for the University of Michigan Board of Regents, attorney Mark Bernstein and Grosse Pointe dermatologist Shauna Ryder Diggs; and for the Wayne State University Board of Governors, Northville attorney Sandra Hughes O’Brien.

The two Democrats currently on the Wayne State board, Tina Abbott of Detroit and Annetta Miller of Huntington Woods, have declined to run for re-election.