Benson, Treder Lang outline visions for Michigan secretary of state

Long waits are a common complaint at Michigan’s 132 secretary of state branches. (photo from SOS Facebook)

Related: Republicans outraise Democrats in bids for Michigan statewide offices

Jocelyn Benson and Mary Treder Lang both promise to shorten waits at Michigan Secretary of State branch offices and protect state elections from hackers and fraud.

And both, of course, say they have the perfect experience to operate a branch of government that touches almost every adult in the state –  an office that collects $2 billion in fees per year, operates 132 branches, coordinates elections and serves as the state’s chief motor vehicle administrator.

Today, Bridge Magazine profiles Benson, 40, a Democrat from Detroit, and Treder Lang, 58, a Republican from Grosse Pointe Farms, the two major parties’ nominees for secretary of state.

On Friday, the two highlighted their differences during a televised debate on WKAR’s “Off the Record” show.

The two sparred over campaign donations, Treder Lang’s tenure on the Eastern Michigan University Board of Trustees and the viability of Benson’s “guarantee” that residents would wait no longer than 30 minutes at branch offices if she is elected.

Treder Lang called it a “gimmick” after Benson could not say what residents would get if they waited longer.

“What if it’s 31 minutes? Are you going to get free license plates?” Treder Lang asked during the debate.

Benson said she’d create incentives for workers to hit the goals.

“My entire career I’ve been setting goals and meeting them,” Benson said.

The exchange highlighted one of the top complaints about the secretary of state: Waits that can extend for 45 minutes to an hour or more for license renewals and other transactions.

Each candidate promised to put more services online – including via smart phone “apps” – and at grocery stores, banks and other locations.

Both pointed to their experience: Treder Lang as an accountant who has expertise in computer security and customer service, Benson as an election lawyer who wrote a book about secretaries of state.

But after Benson touted her tenure as dean of the law school at Wayne State University, where she said she made cuts that allowed tuition to be was frozen, Treder Lang said it was the Board of Governors’ job to set tuition.

Benson noted that Treder Lang voted to increase tuition while she was on Eastern’s board. (Treder Lang said those increases came after several years of freezes).

During the debate, both candidates used lightning rod names: Benson mentioned Treder Lang’s donations from the DeVos family of the Grand Rapids area, who donated $27,200 last December (out of more than $318,000 in contributions).

And Treder Lang pointed out that billionaire liberal George Soros had given to an organization that gave to Benson in 2009 during an earlier campaign for secretary of state.

Both Benson and Treder Lang said they would work to protect drivers: Benson said she’d resist any effort to raise user fees for road work.

Treder Lang went further: she said the office would trim so much fat that user fees might go down.

Learn more about the candidates in these interviews:

Jocelyn Benson: Fix waits, transparency of Michigan secretary of state

Mary Treder Lang: Improve service, voter rolls of Michigan secretary of state

Facts matter. Trust matters. Journalism matters.

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Jim tomlinson
Tue, 10/23/2018 - 8:49am

Devos candidates are bad for the state.

Kim Laforet
Tue, 10/23/2018 - 9:19am

And Sorros candidates are good? C’mon.

Tue, 10/23/2018 - 11:00am

I don't mind the long waits at the SOS office, seriously, what is the big deal for what for most people is a once a year thing? So you wait an hour or so, big deal. When I was there this past summer most people were just staring at their cell phones while waiting which they would probably be doing anyway if they were not there. LOL. If you are really squeezed for time try to go there on a day when you have nothing else scheduled or do the online thing if you can. Everybody is so impatient about everything these days.