The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, September 26, 2014

'Turnout is a problem': Peters seeks to overcome voter apathy in Senate bid

By Marty Mulcahy, Editor

Michigan’s open U.S. Senate seat was seen earlier this year by Republicans as a good, potential pickup for their party, with Terry Lynn Land seen as a solid candidate who was polling well.

But the summer of 2014 has not been kind to Land – she has so far refused to debate Democratic candidate Gary Peters, she doesn’t do town hall meetings, and her public appearances have been highly scripted to avoid questions from the press. Land, Michigan’s former secretary of state, has mainly has gotten word out about her candidacy via television ads. And her poll numbers are slipping, with at least two recent polls showing her down nine points to Peters.

Peters is a three-term Congressman from the state’s 14th District in Oakland County. Like any candidate, he takes the polling with a grain of salt, and reiterated the ongoing push by organized labor to get union members out to vote during this “off-year” election.

“Turnout is a problem all over the country for Democrats, but Michigan has the largest (midterm) drop-off of any state,” Peters told MSNBC. “We just have to make sure our base understands the importance of a midterm election.”

Peters is endorsed for U.S. Senate seat by the Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council, has been making the rounds campaigning in building trades and other union halls the past few weeks. On Labor Day in Detroit, he lauded the work of the man he is seeking to replace, Democrat Carl Levin, who has held the Senate seat for 36 years. “Carl served the longest in the Senate in Michigan’s history, and with all the labor legislation he has supported over the years, we would honor Carl’s legacy by electing another Democrat to represent Michigan in the U.S. Senate,” Peters said.

Michigan does like its Dems in the Senate: since 1978, only one Republican has taken the office, Spencer Abraham from 1994 to 2000.

“Up and down the Nov. 4 ballot, this is an important election,” said Patrick Devlin, secretary-treasurer of the Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council. “Filling this U.S. Senate seat with a labor-friendly candidate like Gary Peters is vital to our interests here in Michigan, and will mean we’re doing out part to make sure organized labor gets heard in Washington. Gary Peters has always been there for us, and knows and supports our issues. But in this election, the key is that we have to overcome apathy among our membership. Like the old saying goes, when labor votes, labor wins.”

Before he entered public office, Peters, 55, was an investment banker. He also served in the United States Naval Reserve from 1993-2000 and from 2001-2005. He was trained as a Seabee Combat Specialist and rose to the rank of Lieutenant Commander.

Said Michigan AFL-CIO President Karla Swift, in announcing that labor umbrella group’s endorsement of Peters: “The son of a veteran and public school teacher and a nurse’s aide, Gary Peters grew up in a Michigan middle class household. That’s why early on, Gary learned the Michigan values of hard work, service, and integrity, and that’s what he fights for every day. Gary’s record as an outspoken champion for ‘Making it in Michigan’ and bringing back good jobs has earned him the support of working people. Whether it’s standing up for Michigan autos and workers or fighting to create good-paying Michigan jobs, Gary is the strong independent voice Michigan’s middle class needs in the U.S. Senate.”