Schuette and Nessel, who faced off on same-sex marriage case, haven’t met during transition

By: - December 18, 2018 10:09 am

Bill Schuette (left) and Dana Nessel (right)

The Lame Duck session has been marked by a partisan power struggle, with the GOP-led Legislature fighting to strip powers from newly elected Democratic statewide officials.

But the actual transition of power has been very collegial overall, with three of the four top new leaders meeting with their term-limited counterparts. However, Attorney General Bill Schuette, a term-limited Republican who lost his gubernatorial bid on Nov. 6, said on Monday that he had yet to meet with Democratic Attorney General-elect Dana Nessel.

“I traded a message with her,” Schuette said, per the Detroit News. “I have not” spoken with her, “but I’m sure we will. We just haven’t had a chance. Her schedule, my schedule, the holidays and all that.”

Outside the U.S. Supreme Court during the Obergefell v Hodges case legalizing same-sex marriage | Wikimedia Commons

There is a history between the two, as Nessel was the attorney fighting Michigan’s same-sex marriage ban, which the U.S. Supreme Court overturned in a landmark 2015 decision. Nessel will become Michigan’s first openly gay top statewide elected official.

Schuette was one of the attorneys general fighting against LGBT marriage. He published a Detroit Free Press op-ed in January 2015 defending his decision to take the battle to the High Court. During the 2014 hearing in Michigan, Schuette trotted out “experts” with a history of doing questionable research bashing LGBTs. A federal judge bounced Schuette’s first witness after 20 minutes.

But while Schuette’s and Nessel’s staffs have met regularly, it’s notable that the two principals have not.

“Attorney General-elect Nessel and members of her transition team have met with many members of the AG’s staff and all have been wonderfully accessible, cooperative and helpful,” Nessel transition spokeswoman Kelly Rossman-McKinney told the Advance. “Attorney General-elect Nessel is deeply grateful to the hundreds of people who work in the Attorney General’s office and recognizes the tremendous amount of expertise they have and their commitment to civil service. By the time she takes office on Jan. 1, it is her goal to have met with every division and each and every employee.”

This isn’t the first time this year that Schuette has come under scrutiny for snubbing a rival. After a bruising August GOP gubernatorial primary in which the AG scored a victory over Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, the Free Press reported that Schuette refused his fellow Republican’s endorsement.

Gov. Rick Snyder ultimately refused to endorse Schuette, despite considerable pressure from Republicans to do so.

Democratic Gov.-elect Gretchen Whitmer told the Advance in an interview Monday that she and Snyder have met every week since the election and he has hosted her family at the residence with his clan. 

He keeps telling me to use his first name, but I believe that the office deserves respect and I have a hard time not calling him ‘Governor’,” Whitmer told the Advance.

Both she and Lt. Gov.-elect Garlin Gilchrist have both met with Calley, who posted this month on Facebook hearty congratulations to Whitmer.

Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, who was elected to the state Senate in November, has met with her successor, Democrat Jocelyn Benson. Both tweeted about their meeting and posted photos.

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Susan J. Demas

Susan J. Demas is a 23-year journalism veteran and one of the state’s foremost experts on Michigan politics, appearing on C-SPAN, MSNBC, CNN, NPR and WKAR-TV’s “Off the Record.” In addition to serving as Editor-in-Chief, she is the Advance’s chief columnist, writing on women, LGBTQ people, the state budget, the economy and more. For almost five years, Susan was the Editor and Publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, the most-cited political newsletter in the state. Susan’s award-winning political analysis has run in more than 100 national, international and regional media outlets, including the Guardian U.K., NBC News, the New York Times, the Detroit News and MLive.