Michigan Republicans vote to strip power from incoming Democrat

Michigan voted to bar incoming secretary of state from enforcing campaign finance law one day after Wisconsin took similar action

The Republican-led Michigan senate has voted to bar the incoming Democratic secretary of state from enforcing campaign finance law, one day after Republicans in Wisconsin similarly took action to restrict the power of newly elected Democrats.

The 25-11 vote, which fell along party lines, was the latest salvo by Republicans seeking to capitalize on a lame-duck session before handing control of the state’s top elected offices to Democrats.

The measure is among several that opponents say ignore voters who spoke loudly at the ballot box during the midterm elections last month, sweeping Democrats into the roles of governor, attorney general and secretary of state in Michigan.

The GOP-controlled state legislature also rammed through bills to gut the $12-an-hour minimum wage and paid sick leave laws, which are pending approval from the outgoing Republican governor, Rick Snyder. Democrat Gretchen Whitmer is poised to take over the governor’s mansion on 1 January and would veto the controversial Republican legislation.

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Republicans in Wisconsin, North Carolina and Ohio are also under fire for taking action in the lame-duck period between the election and early 2019, when the incoming Democrats will take office, to undermine the powers of the new officeholders, especially in the areas of voting rights and gerrymandering.

The move in Michigan creates a bipartisan commission to regulate campaign finance, instead of that role being the purview of the Democratic secretary of state-elect, Jocelyn Benson.

Other measures advancing would strengthen legislative power and block future efforts to force non-profits to disclose their donors. Snyder has not confirmed if he will sign the bills.

Republicans will retain power in the Michigan state legislature next year. But they have sought to strengthen their hand over statewide offices freshly won by Democrats – including that of Whitmer, Benson and the attorney general, Dana Nessel. Democrats have not held all three posts since 1990.

On Thursday morning, Hillary Clinton tweeted: “Republicans in Michigan and Wisconsin lost elections on Nov. 6. Rather than respect the will of voters, they’re using their last few weeks in office to pass laws limiting the power of new governors and put roadblocks on voting. It’s not just anti-Democratic. It’s anti-democratic.”

Republicans in Michigan and Wisconsin lost elections on Nov. 6. Rather than respect the will of voters, they're using their last few weeks in office to pass laws limiting the power of new governors and put roadblocks on voting. It's not just anti-Democratic. It's anti-democratic.

— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) December 6, 2018

In neighboring Wisconsin , the GOP-led legislature has passed legislation to restrict the incoming Democratic administration’s powers, especially the offices of governor and attorney general. Protesters, incensed at what they saw as an anti-democratic power grab in the dying days of GOP control of the governor’s office, crowded the state capitol in Madison. The outgoing Republican governor, Scott Walker, was heckled at the Christmas tree lighting in the rotunda.

Tony Evers, the Democratic governor-elect of Wisconsin, said on Thursday he will make a personal appeal to Walker to veto lame-duck GOP legislation that would strip the governor of powers.

If that doesn’t work, Evers said he might sue.

“The will of the people has officially been ignored by the legislature,” Evers said. “Wisconsin should be embarrassed by this.”

Evers said he would speak to Walker, whom he defeated in November’s election, as soon as the bills reach his desk. If he won’t veto them, Evers said he will consider a lawsuit “to make sure that this legislation does not get into practice”.

A bipartisan group of political figures appealed to Walker on Thursday to avoid staining his legacy and behaving like a sore loser by signing legislation that would weaken the powers of the Democrat who defeated him.

Rather than notching another partisan victory in his final weeks in office, they said, Walker should think bigger. Think of your recently deceased father, they pleaded. Think of former President George HW Bush. Think of Christ.

“You can have a long, successful career ahead,” the longtime Republican and major GOP donor Sheldon Lubar wrote to Walker in a deeply personal email. “Don’t stain it by this personal, poor-loser action. Ask yourself, what would my father say, what would the greatest man who ever lived, Jesus Christ, say.”

Walker, never one to shy away from a fight, gave no signs Thursday of tipping his hand.

People protest in the capitol rotunda in Lansing, Michigan on 4 December.
People protest in the capitol rotunda in Lansing, Michigan, on 4 December. Photograph: Robert Killips/AP

Among protesters at the Michigan capitol in Lansing earlier this week, as the hobbling of the incoming secretary of state was discussed, one wore a large, cartoon-like duck head, emphasizing the GOP tactics of using the lame-duck session to undermine their opponents.

And in Ohio, Republican legislators are introducing a law on an accelerated schedule in an attempt to roll back an earlier, voter-approved constitutional change that would make gerrymandering more difficult for lawmakers.

In North Carolina, allegations of election fraud by Republican operatives have thrown a North Carolina congressional race into limbo, sparking investigations and leaving control of the national seat undecided weeks after the midterm elections.

Guardian staff and agencies

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