LANSING - In the attempt to gain a foothold in state government, Michigan's working families scored only some smaller victories - but one very big one - in the Nov. 5 general election. Democrat Jennifer Granholm was the lone bright spot on the ballot, defeating Lt. Gov. Dick Posthumus by a 51-46 margin in the race for Michigan governor.
"With your votes, you gave a resounding endorsement for change and for leadership that honors your hard work and values," Granholm said in an open letter to her constituents. "Your votes reaffirm what I have believed since the very first day of this campaign: that we in Michigan are a community, and we believe that we are duty-bound to protect our families and educate our kids."
Organized labor is expected to get much more consideration from Granholm for worker issues than under the Engler Administration - starting with the redeployment of the Labor Department, which Engler abolished in favor of the "Department of Consumer and Industry Services."
But the results of the rest of the election, on both the statewide and national levels, placed Republican lawmakers and judges in the driver's seat of what amounts to a conservative steamroller. The GOP now has either won or regained control of the Michigan and U.S. Supreme Courts, both houses of Congress, both houses of the state legislature, as well as the Michigan secretary of state and attorney general offices.
"I'm excited to be able to be on offense, working with this president," said Republican U.S. Sen. Trent Lott, who becomes U.S. Senate majority leader now that the GOP is in the majority. Lott is one of the most conservative members of Congress, and his ability to retain that leadership position underscores how far to the right Republicans have moved.
The first order of business for Congress in the days following the election was the passage of the Homeland Security Bill - minus some union protections for the 170,000 federal workers that will be employed by the new Homeland Security Office. Many workers in that department will be unionized, but disputes will go to an independent review board for mediation, and if no decision is reached, the management of the agency has the ultimate authority to set policy.
The bill is "just another example of the Bush administration's union-busting policies," said Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Fla.
The loss of U.S. Senate control by Democrats is the most important thing that happened on the federal level in the aftermath of the Nov. 5 election. Democrats have not only lost their ability to control legislation in the committees, they have lost much of their ability to approve or deny President Bush's judicial appointments.
President Bush is expected to have clear sailing in appointing new, younger, conservative Supreme Court, Appeals Court and District Court justices, who will be in office long after his presidency ends.
In Michigan, Democrats had slim hopes of wrestling control of the state Senate, which was controlled by Republicans by a 23-15 margin before the election. But Dems picked up just a single seat. The Michigan House tilted much more to the right following the election, with Republicans picking up five seats. The GOP now has a 63-47 majority.
The hopes were high, but the disappointments were many. Republican Attorney General candidate Mike Cox narrowly defeated Democrat Gary Peters, in a race that may see a recount. Secretary of State Terry Lynn Land handily defeated Democrat Melvin "Butch" Hollowell. Greg Stephens, business manager of IBEW Local 252 and candidate of University of Michigan Regent, lost narrowly.
Also among those coming up short were boilermaker Don Sterling (for 100th District state House); Frank Benson (for 24th District State House), and Kevin Kelley for U.S. Congress (11th District).
One bright spot was provided by Democrat Aldo Vagnozzi, the retired editor of a labor paper who won a Republican-leaning state House seat in Oakland County's 37th District by a 52-47 margin.
Vagnozzi told one of the daily papers, "I had a good feeling all day because people coming out of the voting booths didn't give me the middle finger; they gave me the thumbs-up."