Schuette pledges public safety first as attorney general

Published 1:41 pm Thursday, March 11, 2010

Former congressman, state agriculture director and senator and six-year Court of Appeals judge Bill Schuette of Midland brought his campaign for attorney general to Cass County Republicans in Edwardsburg March 6. (Leader photo/JOHN EBY)

Former congressman, state agriculture director and senator and six-year Court of Appeals judge Bill Schuette of Midland brought his campaign for attorney general to Cass County Republicans in Edwardsburg March 6. (Leader photo/JOHN EBY)

Leader Publications

EDWARDSBURG – Bill Schuette, on duty since 1984, amassed “unique credentials” with which to become an attorney general who “puts safety first.”

Schuette, keynote speaker for Saturday night’s Cass County Republican Party Lincoln Day dinner, which packed American Legion Post 365, was a congressman when Ronald Reagan occupied the White House; director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture; a state senator; one of 28 state Court of Appeals judges for six years; and, with Cynthia, his wife of 19 years, founder of the Michigan Harvest Gathering to feed the hungry.

Schuette, 56, of Midland – a four-hour drive from Cass County – seeks to succeed Mike Cox, who is running for governor.

“In 242 days I’m going to be your attorney general,” he said, blasting Lansing for “deliberately putting Michigan families at risk because they don’t have the guts to put safety first in the state budget. They’re combining two reckless policy mistakes that leave every Michigan family more vulnerable. They’ve doubled the rate of probation approval for convicted sex offenders and increased the probation rate for other violent criminals by 50 percent. It’s an unprecedented drive to empty out entire prisons – and an unprecedented risk for our families.

“At the same time,” the father of two children said, “they’re dumping more violent criminals back on the streets, they’re slashing funding for the state police and the revenue sharing that funds our county sheriff (offices) and local police departments. Think about it: when you let out the bad guys and lay off the good guys, it’s our families who are put at risk.”

Schuette, who roamed the room pouring coffee, as he did in 2009, said of the absent Fred Upton, “When I was a member of Congress, he’s just an outstanding man –  honest and straightforward.”

Schuette’s reasoning for why voters cannot question his “tenacity” was his determined pursuit of his wife, a former Grand Rapids broadcaster.

“We went to the same bus stop, grade school, junior high, high school. She ignored me for 20 years. I wore her down. We had our 19th wedding anniversary last Tuesday (March 2),” for which he missed the Ottawa County Lincoln Day dinner.

Daughter Heidi, 16, a junior in high school, is scouting colleges.

She has her license, so is offering her driving services to his campaign. Son Bill, 14, “is our football, basketball, baseball guy. Today we had our first catch. You’ll see my family on the campaign trail because my family and I made a family commitment to serve Michigan. Michigan and America. I’ve served in all three branches of government. I could have stayed as a judge on the Court of Appeals until I turned 70, lost my teeth and hair – whichever might have come first.

“Being a judge was a broadening experience. I learned more about issues, where government has its strong points and its many weaknesses,” he said. “Yogi Berra said, ‘You can observe a lot by watching.’ I saw the political establishment we have in Lansing releasing dangerous criminals early, closing prisons, fewer cops on the street – all of which endanger the public safety. That’s wrong.

“What was the Lansing political establishment’s solution to our economic woes? The Michigan Business Tax,” Schuette said.

“It careened our state over the precipice into an economic ditch. Our unemployment rate rose to 15 percent. I’m not one of those to watch our state go down the chutes. If we don’t have a fundamental realignment in Michigan, we’re going to be the sleepy rural backwater of the Midwest. Jobs will disappear, businesses large and small will go, paychecks will vanish; capital, technology, new investment will go elsewhere and we’ll be at the bottom of the pack for decades. I made the determination to finish my term, I joined a law firm in Grand Rapids and I’m running for attorney general. Michigan needs a strong, tough attorney general, and I was a strong, tough judge in my six years on the Michigan Court of Appeals. It’s about a headline like this that you could duplicate anyplace across Michigan.”

A newspaper Schuette held up reported in bold type, “Inmates released at record rate.”
“Sheriff Joe knows this. Prosecutor Vic knows this,” he said.

“We’re seeing the establishment in Lansing throw up their hands and say, ‘It costs too much to keep communities safe.’ So, instead of bringing down the cost of incarceration and managing our prison system efficiently, they’re just letting prisoners out early. Other states manage to keep costs down and keep their prisoners locked up. My message to the policymakers in Lansing is to stop balancing the budget on the backs of the safety and security of Michigan families.”

Elections “are kind of like job interviews,” he continued as applause subsided. “They take the full measure of somebody. Their strength, character, deliberations, how they make judgments. I hope all of you do that in 242 days. I think I have a set of credentials that is unique. As a judge on the Michigan Court of Appeals, over 800 decisions of a criminal nature. I stood with law enforcement across this state. That’s why I’m so blessed to have the support of your sheriff and prosecutor. Thirty-four other sheriffs across Michigan. Forty-four other prosecutors across the Great Lakes state have joined with me because I was a strong, tough judge. As your next attorney general, I will be strong and tough as well. I guarantee it,” Schuette said.

Besides his credentials, previous performance is an element of a job interview.

Schuette said, “Democrats had that Pearl Harbor sneak attack to surprise us with that ballot initiative to reform Michigan government. They were going to replace all the Republican pedigree judges with activist judges, then control the redistricting process. Railroad – like the one I sat at for 15 minutes in Edwardsburg – with all the redistricting done by one party. It so happened I was chief judge on the panel when that case was heard. I was the Democrats’ worst nightmare. I didn’t let the Democrats hijack our constitution and said no to that Pearl Harbor sneak attack.

“I protected our constitution as a judge on the Court of Appeals and I will protect our constitution as your next attorney general. What you see here in Cass County is the same thing I’m going to say up in Marquette County two weeks from now. My wife and I support traditional marriage, the unborn – we’re opposed to abortion – and I was a tax-cutting congressman and senator, which is in sharp contrast to the Michigan Business Tax, which sent our state into the ditch. We ought to scrap it right now.

“I served with Ronald Reagan and we cut taxes and rebuilt our national prosperity. We rebuilt our national defense capability and the Berlin Wall came down. If anybody asks you what kind of Republican Bill Schuette is, I am a Ronald Reagan Republican. My time’s about up, but our time’s coming. There are better days yet ahead for Michigan. If you’re happy and content with the way Michigan’s gone in the last eight years, I’m not your candidate. If you’re happy with dangerous criminals, sex offenders and child molesters being released early, and fewer cops on the street, I’m not your candidate.”