Motor City Muckraker
The uphill battle to recall Rick Snyder is getting new life.
The Rev. David Bullock says he has secured an endorsement from the state Democratic Party and hopes to get the backing of the UAW soon – and then perhaps other powerful groups. So he is extending the petition campaign another three weeks.
The signature gathering effort began on Easter Sunday, March 27, and was supposed to end May 25. State rules give a recall a 60-day window. But that window can be moved within an overall 180-day period after the petition language is approved. Bullock’s petition was certified Feb. 22. So even a further extension is possible.
For now, the decision means signatures obtained in the first three weeks after Easter will no longer count. But that won’t be a big loss. Bullock says a statewide count this week showed barely over 100,000 signatures in hand – just over an eighth of the total number needed – with most of those collected this month.
Without funding or major backing, the statewide effort has been run out of Bullock’s church on Rosa Parks Blvd. and has relied on a small group of enthusiastic but mostly inexperienced volunteers.
New rules passed last year by the GOP-controlled state legislature shortened the time allowed and increased the number of valid signatures needed to a quarter of all votes cast in the last statewide election, in this case a monumental 789,133. The rules also make signature gathering at large events a daunting task by specifying that registered voters must sign a separate petition for their own municipality, rather than by county.
Nonetheless, many people sign eagerly. “People have been actively looking for petitions to sign,” Bullock said, and momentum has picked up in recent weeks.
Bullock told UAW leaders in recent meetings, “You’ve never seen this level of response in a petition campaign.”
But natural allies so far have mostly sat on the sidelines. Union locals haven’t even let petitioners inside meetings. Many unions have told members the recall is unwise because Lt. Gov. Brian Calley will take office if Snyder is voted out – and Calley is supposedly far more conservative than Snyder.
Bullock calls that position “disingenuous” and says it’s based on misinformation. Even if enough signatures are gathered, the earliest the state elections commission will put the recall on the ballot is next May. Calley would have only a year to serve after that as a lame duck from a disgraced administration.
Only two governors have ever been recalled in U.S. history, but Bullock says this effort is crucial: “Emergency management and the destruction of democracy are issues that affect us all. This is a great way to organize and get people engaged.”
And despite the mountain of signatures that remain to be gathered, Bullock and his small crew of volunteers remain optimistic, hoping the state Democratic Party’s endorsement and the UAW’s potential backing will turn the tide.
“We just need support from more of our allies,” Bullock says. “If we get it, we still have a good shot.”
Michael Betzold is a former Free Press reporter and longtime area freelance journalist. He wrote Queen of Diamonds, a history of Tiger Stadium. He lives on Detroit’s east side.