Recall efforts target Michigan lawmakers over "red flag" vote

Recall efforts target Michigan lawmakers over "red flag" vote
AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

A half-dozen legislators in Michigan could soon face an official recall effort after petitions were filed with the Secretary of State’s office last week challenging their ability to hold office. In at least two cases, the recall is based on votes in favor of “red flag” legislation, which was signed into law earlier this year by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

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Reps. Betsy Coffia of Traverse City and Sharon MacDonell of Troy are being targeted for voting for House Bill 4145. It only passed the House, but its identical counterpart in the Senate – which Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed in May – establishes a “red flag law” in Michigan.

The Extreme Risk Protection Order Act allows family members and others to ask a court to take away someone’s guns to prevent suicide and other possible violence.

The recall effort also targets Democratic Reps. Jamie Churches of Wyandotte, Jennifer Conlin of Ann Arbor and Reggie Miller of Van Buren Township for voting for HB 4474. The bill says a person is guilty of a hate crime if they intimidate someone based on characteristics like race, religion or gender identity.

“House Democrats take seriously any recall effort and will fully support and defend those targeted,” House Speaker Joe Tate, D-Detroit,Tate said in a statement. “We will continue to put the people of Michigan first.”

One Republican lawmaker is facing a potential recall effort as well; not because of his stance on the “red flag” legislation, but because Rep. Cam Cavitt voted to elect Tate the Speaker of the House. That seems like a bit of stretch to me, especially since the vote for Tate’s leadership role was a lopsided 102-8 in favor, with even the Republican House Minority Leader casting his ballot in favor of Tate.

A recall effort based on the “red flag” law is more substantive, but of the two Democrats facing a potential recall over their “red flag” votes one of them appears to be in a fairly safe district. Sharon MacDonnell won her election last November 58-42 over Republican Mark Gunn, and that’s going to be a pretty steep hill to climb for recall supporters.

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Rep. Betsy Coffia, on the other hand, could be in real trouble. Coffia won her campaign in 2022 by less than 1,000 votes overall, defeating Republican Jack O’Malley 49.8 to 49.5. Energized opponents combined with the typical low turnout in special elections could send Coffia packing, though some Republican strategists see danger in the recall efforts.

Recalls, once they begin, also allow candidates to raise much higher sums of money under Michigan’s campaign finance laws. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer faced ill-organized recalls that never got off the ground prior to the 2022 election, raked in millions in donations above normal contribution limits. She ultimately transferred $3.4 million she could not have otherwise raised to the Michigan Democratic Party.

Jason Watts, a Republican consultant in Allegan County, said the recalls will harm Republicans fighting to win in those districts, including his clients.

“You basically eliminate any hope of a Republican majority by initiating these recalls,” he said, noting some are in crucial swing districts.

I don’t know about that, but it does make sense to limit the recalls to those districts where there’s a decent chance of being successful. Trying to recall a lawmaker in a safe blue district may very well end up allowing them to pad not only their own campaign coffers, but the campaigns of swing district legislators like Coffia as well.

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We don’t even know if the Board of State Canvassers will allow any of these recall efforts to go forward. If any petitions are approved at the board’s August 1st meeting supporters will then be able to start collecting signatures to get the recall on the ballot, but they only have sixty days to gather what’s likely to be tens of thousands of votes in each district. That’s not an impossible bar to reach, though it won’t be easy. Let’s hope these recall efforts are organized and well-funded, because if not they could leave these anti-gun Democrats in a better position (at least financially) to run for re-election next year.

 

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