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Michigan campaigns near end for races, proposals

Associated Press Modified: November 5, 2012 at 5:16 pm •  Published: November 5, 2012
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DETROIT (AP) — Candidates, their surrogates and those for and against a raft of ballot proposals worked to energize Michigan's electorate in the final hours before Tuesday's election.

Voters will find an overflowing ballot of local, state and national races and initiatives, including those for president, Congress, courts and proposed amendments to the Michigan Constitution. Two highlights include a proposal that would enshrine collective bargaining in the constitution and another asking voters whether the state should be able to appoint emergency managers for broke cities.

Matt Romney and Josh Romney made stops across the state Monday in support of their father, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney — who has emphasized personal ties to his native state but will be hard-pressed to overcome his opposition to the government rescue of General Motors and Chrysler. Polls consistently have shown President Barack Obama ahead in the state, albeit narrowly.

At the Kent County GOP headquarters in conservative western Michigan, Josh Romney echoed his father's campaign's mantra about momentum.

"We feel really good about how things look all across the country, we feel good," Josh Romney said.

Republican Gov. Rick Snyder also planned to stump for Romney and against five of the six ballot proposals. Snyder has for weeks been voicing his support for emergency manager measure and opposition for collective bargaining and the other proposals.

Democratic U.S Reps. John Dingell, Gary Peters and John Conyers, meanwhile, joined a five-city tour with community and faith leaders to support the collective bargaining proposal. The veteran lawmakers have aligned themselves with the union-backed proposal and tour took them to labor-friendly communities such Flint, Lansing and Detroit.

Among the most closely watched races is an up-for-grabs seat in the otherwise Republican-leaning 11th District in suburban Detroit. Tea party-backed reindeer rancher and military veteran Kerry Bentivolio faces Democratic Dr. Syed Taj, a Canton Township trustee — a choice made possible by the bizarre political downfall of veteran lawmaker Thaddeus McCotter.

Four of McCotter's ex-campaign staffers were charged in August with forging or falsifying signatures on nominating petitions a month after his resignation. He wasn't charged, but Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has said McCotter was "asleep at the switch."

Taj greeted volunteers at get-out-the-vote canvassing sites in suburban Detroit on Monday, while a Bentivolio spokesman didn't make available the candidate's schedule.

The race is one of three swing seats in the state as Republicans try to maintain their 8-6 advantage in Michigan's congressional delegation. Freshman Republican Reps. Dan Benishek of Crystal Falls and Justin Amash of Kent County's Cascade Township also face stiff tests in the 1st and 3rd districts.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow is seeking a third term after a spirited challenge from former Rep. Pete Hoekstra, who won a three-way race for the Republican nomination. With no Democratic primary opposition, Stabenow amassed a big fundraising advantage and spent heavily on television commercials portraying herself as a champion of Michigan manufacturers and farmers. Hoekstra tried linking her to the state's economic struggles, which he blamed on Obama's economic policies.

Stabenow attended get-out-the-vote events in Grand Rapids and East Lansing early Monday and was scheduled to make similar appearances later in the day in Flint and Ann Arbor.

Hoekstra, meanwhile, was set to stop at six different Republican "victory centers" across the state as part of his final push. A campaign email detailing his itinerary read: "1 Day To Defeat Debbie Stabenow."

The legislative and judicial landscapes in Lansing also could see some changes.

All 110 Michigan House seats are up for grabs and Democrats seek to narrow the gap with the Republican majority that took control of the chamber just two years ago. Republicans currently hold a 64-46 edge in the House. It's unlikely Republicans will lose the majority after gaining 20 House seats in 2010, winning back in one night all they had lost the previous six years. Still, Democrats see vulnerabilities in the chamber leadership they believe could help them make gains.

Three seats also are at stake at the Michigan Supreme Court in an election that could maintain or expand the 4-3 advantage held by conservatives or shift control to liberal justices.

But the six contentious ballot proposals could be the strongest indicators of voter mood statewide, starting with the emergency manager issue. Another ballot initiative, Proposal 2, seeks to amend the state constitution to ban right-to-work laws. Approval would give Michigan's public and private workers the constitutional right to organize in unions and collectively bargain contracts.

Other measures would order electric utilities to generate one-quarter of their power from renewable sources by 2025, make tax increases contingent on supermajority votes and require a public vote before state money can be spent on any new bridge or tunnel between Michigan and Canada.

While the secretary of state's office declined to provide a statewide voter turnout prediction, the clerk's offices in populous Oakland and Macomb counties expected turnout there to be just slightly less than it was four years ago.

Oakland County, which primarily elects Republicans to county leadership positions but hasn't gone for a GOP presidential candidate since 1988, is expecting a turnout of between 70 percent and 72 percent — down negligibly from a record 72.5 percent in 2008. David Mroz, a spokesman for the Oakland county clerk, said the projected slight decrease isn't a concern, given that most of the nation's counties "would be happy to see a 70 percent turnout."

"I believe we're seeing a very ... engaged electorate," he said.

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Follow Jeff Karoub on Twitter: http://twitter.com/jeffkaroub

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Associated Press writers Mike Householder, Corey Williams, Ed White and John Flesher contributed to this report.