Published November 27, 2007
LANSING, Mich. – Michigan's Jan. 15 primary ballot will include just half the Democratic candidates for president.
The state Senate on Tuesday refused to take up legislation that would have restored the names of four Democratic presidential candidates to the ballot who withdrew earlier from the primary.
Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, blamed Democrats for not being on the same page with each other.
Some labor groups that support candidate John Edwards have tried blocking the bill putting the candidates back on the ballot because they still favor a caucus, even though a caucus is very unlikely at this point.
"Until they can resolve their differences and come forward with a unified plan, there's no need for us to take it up," Bishop told reporters.
Edwards, Barack Obama, Joe Biden and Bill Richardson last month pulled their names from the ballot because the state violated Democratic National Committee rules by moving up its election.
Senate Minority Leader Mark Schauer, D-Battle Creek, said it's doubtful those Democrats will be on the ballot and blamed Republicans for not allowing a vote.
"It's a missed opportunity," Schauer told reporters, adding that Republicans should be worried about Democratic voters crossing over into the GOP primary since they won't be able to vote on the full Democratic field.
Republicans, however, said Democrats had their chance earlier this month to approve the legislation restoring the names of the candidates to the ballot. Both the House and Senate in recent weeks passed the bill, but supporters failed to produce the two-thirds vote needed in each chamber to put the law into effect in time for the election.
That leaves voters a choice of Hillary Rodham Clinton, Dennis Kucinich, Chris Dodd or Mike Gravel on the Democratic ballot, while all the Republican candidates are on the GOP ballot.
With Clinton the only Democratic front-runner on the ballot, some fear the primary will just be a beauty contest on the Democratic side, taking away the primary's importance.
Some Democratic activists had been pushing to restore all eight candidates to the ballot to give voters a broader choice and to make the candidates pay more attention to Michigan issues.
The slow pace of the legislation had elections officials warning that they will be hard-pressed to get ready before Jan. 15. Election clerks face a Saturday deadline to begin mailing absentee ballot applications, one reason some election clerks already have had ballots printed without the four Democratic candidates' names.
Those ballots would have had to be reprinted if the Legislature and Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm had agreed to put Obama, Edwards, Biden and Richardson back on the ballot.
Bishop said some of the Democratic candidates threatened to sue if their names were restored to the ballot. Republicans said election clerks couldn't afford to delay any further waiting for legislators to act or lawsuits to be settled.
All eight Democratic candidates have agreed not to campaign in Michigan and Florida because they broke DNC rules by moving their primaries ahead of Feb. 5. The Republican presidential candidates all participated in a presidential debate in Dearborn last month and some have campaigned here more often.