Update: Here’s who has endorsed the 2018 Michigan Attorney General candidates
Update: Here’s who endorsed the 2018 Michigan Secretary of State candidates
Related: Republicans outraise Democrats in bids for Michigan statewide offices
Tom Leonard said he has made hundreds of phone calls this week, put tons of miles on his car and slept for maybe an hour on Friday night.
On Saturday, the Republican state House speaker won his party’s nomination as Michigan’s next Attorney General after a tough, sometimes bitter, campaign against state Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, of Lawton, at the Michigan Republican Party’s state convention in Lansing.
Repairing any strains between the two was job one for the victor.
"I want to first congratulate Senator Schuitmaker on a hard-fought fight,” Leonard said during his victory speech. “She has been an incredible partner in the Legislature, and I know she is going to be an incredible partner as we go forward and take this victory in November.
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Leonard, a conservative former prosecutor from DeWitt, now turns to what is sure to be an ideological donnybrook in the general election, where he will face the presumptive Democratic nominee and Plymouth attorney Dana Nessel. Nessel is expected to be formally nominated at a Democratic gathering Sunday in East Lansing.
The battle between the former prosecutors pits Leonard, a vocal backer of President Donald Trump, gun rights and tax cuts and an opponent of sanctuary cities and abortion rights, against Nessel, an anti-Trump progressive who has promised to sue the president’s administration “all day, every day.” Nessel is pro-choice, pro-pot legalization and played a leading role fighting to bring marriage equality to Michigan.
"It will be fascinating,” said Bill Ballenger, a longtime Lansing political analyst. “You’ve probably never had such a contrast between candidates, at least in recent history.”
In the other major statewide race decided Saturday, Mary Treder Lang, a CPA from Grosse Pointe Farms, will advance to November’s general election to challenge presumptive Democratic nominee Jocelyn Benson, a former dean of the Wayne State University Law School who is expected to be formally nominated at this weekend’s Michigan Democratic Party convention.
"This is only the beginning,” Treder Lang said during her victory speech. “I thank you, absolutely, from the bottom of my heart.”
More than 2,100 Republican convention delegates attended Saturday’s convention and cast ballots for statewide offices, including Attorney General, Secretary of State and Michigan Supreme Court justice.
Republicans in Michigan choose their delegates through a process that starts at the precinct, or neighborhood, level — a process that activates the party’s core supporters.
The GOP Attorney General’s race was heated between Leonard, a former assistant attorney general and an assistant prosecutor in Genesee County, and Schuitmaker, a former private practice attorney who was first elected to the Legislature in 2004.
Leonard was elected to the state House in 2012, where he is serving his third and final term.
He had $910,601 in campaign cash on hand as of Aug. 9, according to state campaign finance records; campaign spokesman Gideon D’Assandro said donations since the most recent filing deadline have taken that amount above $1 million.
In contrast, Schuitmaker had $328,176 on hand. She sent numerous campaign mailers in the days and weeks before the convention, including a 16-page magazine-style print ad that both highlighted her record and agenda and attacked Leonard.
It was a strategy brushed off by D’Assandro, who said “these negative attacks just don’t stick, because these grassroots delegates have a very deep knowledge of the way the Capitol operates and the way that Tom Leonard does his business.”
Leonard’s campaign chest was one of the reasons why Joel Fulton, a delegate from Battle Creek, supported him.
"That’s going to be important in a statewide election,” said Fulton, who owns a firearms store, Freedom Firearms, in Battle Creek. (Nessel, the Democrat, had at least $311,000 on hand as of this month, according to state campaign finance records.)
Leonard’s prosecutorial experience also is an advantage, Fulton said, as is his pro-Second Amendment stance.
Yet it was Schuitmaker’s endorsement by the Michigan Fraternal Order of Police, and her belief in conservative values like law and order and the Second Amendment, that earned her support from George and Janet Beuckelaere, of Kalamazoo County.
Janet Beuckelaere, a delegate from Scotts in Kalamazoo County, said before the vote that she supported Schuitmaker because “she shares my values.”
Law-and-order. Pro-Second Amendment. Pro-life.
And the candidate’s endorsement from the Michigan Fraternal Order of Police was appealing to her husband, George, a sergeant with the Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Department.
"There’s been a little bit of mudslinging back and forth,” he said early Saturday, “but they’re doing what they think they have to.”
Guzman, the Secretary of State candidate, told Bridge before the convention that he believed his support was “trending up, for sure,” with positive response particularly from supporters of the tea party movement and Trump Republicans.
A third Republican Secretary of State candidate, Shelby Township Clerk Stan Grot, withdrew weeks before Saturday’s convention.