Northern Michigan Elections & Government

Courtesy of Tom Stobie campaign.

Tom Stobie has ended his bid in the 101st state House District, leaving former Rep. Dan Scripps as the only Democrat left in what should be a competitive race in November.

“The major reason that I’m withdrawing is, I’m having some health problems,” Stobie said in a conference call. “They’re not life-threatening but they would prevent me from campaigning at 100 percent and I believe that you need 100 percent and probably more to be successful in this campaign.”

Former Kalkaska County Sheriff Jerry Cannon has some ground to make up on the campaign trail in northern Michigan’s hotly contested First Congressional District. In December, Cannon spent more than three weeks recuperating in a Traverse City hospital, after his car slid off an icy road near his home in Fife Lake.

Cannon is only now getting back to his campaign.

This is the second time the Democrat has run in the First Congressional District. Cannon lost in 2014 to incumbent Rep. Dan Benishek.

“We’re trying to build on the success that we achieved in 2014,” Cannon says.

He says the political winds are blowing in his favor this election cycle.

“There’s a lot of disenchantment with the establishment and people who are career politicians,” Cannon, a Democrat, told IPR News Radio in an interview. “And that’s not me. I’m a career public servant. I’m not an insider. I’m not connected. I’m not big money.”

Lon Johnson for Congress

Congressional candidate Lon Johnson is calling for the oil pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac to be shut down while an independent investigation is conducted.

“If we were to have an accident there, the cost would be immeasurable to our ecology, to our economy, to our health,” Johnson told IPR News Radio in an interview last week.

Enbridge’s Line 5 runs across the Straits, and has drawn criticism from environmental groups who worry about the age of the 63-year old pipe. Enbridge says the crossing is safe.

Lon Johnson, the former chairperson of the Michigan Democratic Party, is running for northern Michigan’s seat in U.S. Congress. He led Michigan Democrats for two years, from 2013-2015, before announcing he was jumping into the race for the First Congressional District.

Lon Johnson for Congress

Lon Johnson, a Democrat running for northern Michigan’s seat in U.S. Congress, raised more than three time as much money as all the other candidates combined in 2015. His total was $625,723, according to an end-of-the-year filing report with the Federal Election Commission.

“His fundraising numbers so far are looking pretty solid for him,” says Craig Mauger, executive director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network. Mauger covers political spending across the state.

U.S. Army

President Obama’s record on national defense is a campaign issue in 2016. Some Republicans say the U.S. Army and Navy will be too small at the end of the Obama administration. Presidential hopeful Ted Cruz recently attacked the president for having “dramatically degraded our military.”

A candidate for northern Michigan’s seat in U.S. Congress is also using this argument. Last month, former state legislator Jason Allen kicked off his congressional campaign at his family’s clothing store in Traverse City.

“I’m very concerned about the direction America is heading,” Allen said.

When asked by IPR News Radio why he had decided to run, Allen said the first issue on his list was the drop in troop levels, and he made a bold statement about just how large those reductions are.

“First of all from a national defense perspective, we’ll have the smallest military since before the first World War,” Allen said.

School leaders challenge 'gag order' with lawsuit

Jan 28, 2016
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio


Local government leaders and school officials in Michigan are challenging a new state elections law in federal court.

The law limits how local government and education officials can talk about local ballot questions, banning them from using public funds to send informational communications about ballot questions – via mass mailings, radio, television, or recorded phone messages - 60 days before an election.

David Cassleman

Former state legislator Jason Allen, R-Traverse City, has announced he is trying again to win northern Michigan's seat in US Congress. Allen came within 15 votes of winning the Republican primary for the 1st Congressional District in 2010.

"I'm very concerned with the direction America is heading," Allen says. "First of all, from a national defense perspective, we'll have the smallest military since before the first World War."

He spoke with IPR News Radio's David Cassleman about why he is running.

Northern Michigan's U.S. Rep. Dan Benishek has decided not to run again in 2016, months after announcing he would be seeking a fourth term.

U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Traverse City

Ten thousand people partied on Torch Lake over July 4th weekend this year. The sandbar on the lake has become one of northern Michigan's prime summer party destinations.

But many neighbors on the lake are upset about the trash, the trespassing and the noise.

State Representative Triston Cole (R-105th District) put together a roundtable on the issue last week, seeking a solution.

"This is a public body of water," Rep. Cole says, "and people have a right to have a great time and enjoy places like the sandbar on Torch Lake."

State Dems push to end what they see as gerrymandering

Jul 20, 2015

Gerrymandering is a term you hear a lot about every ten years or so, when state legislatures across the country start to redraw legislative districts after the census. It happens when districts are drawn in a way that favors one political party against another.

In Michigan, Republicans have controlled the redistricting process during the past two censuses, and Democrats have accused them of gerrymandering. Now some Democrats are pushing to change how redistricting is done, which they say would make it less political.

U.S. Rep. Dan Benishek says he's running again in 2016

Mar 24, 2015


Not even five months after winning a third term, the Michigan republican has made plans to run for a fourth.

“I’m happy to serve the people of northern Michigan if they’ll have me," Benishek told IPR News on Tuesday. "And I’ve decided that I’m going to try to stay a little longer.”

Benishek had made a pledge in 2010 in favor of term limits – saying he supported "a three-term limit on members of Congress."

A new session began for state lawmakers last week. 

The newest members of the state House of Representatives and Senate from northern Michigan are settling into new offices and hiring staff, among many other things.

Right now they’re learning about new jobs and about the challenges of getting anything done in Lansing.

City considers 'Indigenous Peoples Day'

Jan 19, 2015

NOTE: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said Indigenous Peoples Day would "replace" Columbus Day. Columbus Day, a federal holiday, has never officially been recognized by Traverse City. We regret the error.

UPDATE (Jan. 20th, 11 a.m.): Traverse City Mayor Michael Estes has called for a postponement on voting to change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day, due to the fact that two commissioners will be absent from tonight's meeting.

Linda Stephan

The Traverse Narcotics Team (TNT) is looking for more money from local governments to replace funding shortfalls.

Eight counties in northern Michigan, along with Traverse City, fund the drug taskforce. But TNT also gets money from federal grants and drug forfeitures.

Missaukee County sheriff Jim Bosscher says those sources are drying up.

The race for Grand Traverse County’s state house seat is open for the first time since 2008.

So far the campaign has been a relatively polite affair, but the two candidates are appealing to voters in totally different ways.

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

Michigan voters will get to weigh in on two laws that allowed wolf hunting in the Upper Peninsula. The Humane Society just started airing ads aimed at persuading voters in the closing days of the campaign season. But whether people vote “yes” or “no” on wolf hunting, the two ballot questions are not the final word on the issue.

That’s because the ballot campaign on its own will not determine the future of wolf hunting in Michigan.

Interlochen Public Radio is co-sponsoring a number of debates over the next week for candidates in Northwest Lower Michigan seeking state and federal office. Candidates for the 101st and 104th State House districts, the 35th and 37th State Senate districts, and Michigan's 1st Congressional District will participate. For information about attending the live events, follow the links below. You can listen online (on this page) within 24 hours and they will also be broadcast at the times indicated on IPR News Radio.

The race for northern Michigan’s U.S. House seat was one of the most closely contested elections in the state in 2012.

Republican Dan Benishek won reelection by less than half a percentage point. Once again he's facing strong competition as the November election approaches – this time from a retired Army National Guard general.

A controversial plan to build a homeless shelter off Eighth Street, near the troubled Traverse City business corridor, faces a critical Tuesday night. The Planning Commission will take public comment and possibly vote to move the proposal to the city commission.

Christie Minervini, fundraising chair for Safe Harbor of Grand Traverse Inc., says she’s been rallying supporters ahead of the meeting. But she worries some will stay home because of a confusing headline on the front page of the Traverse City Record-Eagle Monday.

Stobie challenges Franz on GOP's school funding record

Sep 24, 2014
David Cassleman

Politicians across Michigan are arguing about the Governor’s record on education as the November election approaches.

State Democrats say Republicans cut $1 billion from schools. But Republicans are defending their record on education.

This issue is a key one in the race for the state house district that spans from Ludington to Northport.

David Cassleman

Primary elections in northern Michigan were some of the most expensive races in the whole state this summer, according to a report from the Michigan Campaign Finance Network.

Judge disqualifies himself from Gomery case

Aug 29, 2014
David Cassleman

Judge Thomas Power has disqualified himself from the Clarence Gomery trial.

Gomery – a former prosecutor for Leelanau County – is accused of trying to hire someone in July to kill attorney Christopher Cooke.

Judge Power made the decision at a motion hearing on Friday afternoon. Gomery's attorney filed the motion asking for a new judge because of Power's past involvement in a civil suit between Gomery and Cooke.

A coalition of churches now hopes to open a shelter in Traverse City with 90 beds sometime early in 2015. Safe Harbor submitted formal paperwork today.

City leaders recently approved new zoning rules that would allow a shelter of up to 100 beds. But some neighbors near this proposed shelter have complained that would be too large for the area.

Safe Harbor Chairman Peter Starkel says the group is responding to concerns.

In a wide-ranging interview on Friday, Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate Gary Peters said he does not support sending ground troops to Iraq.

The militant group calling itself the Islamic State has taken control of large sections of Iraq. But the Michigan congressman says he’s not interested in sending troops back into the country to fight the group.

Plan to revamp Hickory Hills Ski Area moves forward

Aug 19, 2014
Hickory Hills Multi-Season Recreation Master Plan

Traverse City has approved a plan that could bring millions of dollars in upgrades to Hickory Hills Ski Area.

The City Commission adopted the master plan on Monday. Planners say the investment would make the park more financially stable by attracting more guests.