TIM SKUBICK: Potential candidate has Macomb County problem

Everybody knows Macomb County is one of those "must-have" areas if you want to win elections.

Ask Ronald Reagan whose legendary courting of Democrats, blue collar workers and independents in the county helped to send him to the White House.

Democratic governor candidate Mark Schauer knows that and Mark Scahuer has a Macomb County problem just days into his infant campaign to unseat Gov. Rick Snyder.

Turns out Mark Hackel a.k.a. Mr. Democrat Maverick, has decided to remain neutral in the race for governor and will not automatically embrace Democrat Schauer's candidacy.

"I'm trying to stay away from it," he reveals for the first time. He reflects that he has a good working relationship with the GOP governor and just because Mr. Hackel and Mr Schauer are Democrats does not mean squat.

The county executive indicates if somebody has a better plan, he is willing to look at it and Mr. Schauer wants a chance to make his case while acknowledging he doesn't have a relationship with the Macomb county leader.

Not playing ball with his own party has become sort of a trademark for Mr. Hackel who definitely marches to his own drum beat.

Years ago he drew the ire of some fellow Democrats by buying a ticket to a Snyder fundraiser.

Then when his name came up as a possible contender to challenger Mr. Snyder, he extricated himself the race. "I will not run against Mr. Snyder," he told the media and now he goes a step further by finding a sideline bench seat.

You have to figure some Democrats must be wondering “why is he a Democrat?”

Former Democratic Party Chair Mark Brewer, also from Macomb County, will not go there refusing to question Mr. Hackel's party loyality.

"Once he gets a chance to talk with Mark, he will come around," Mr. Brewer suggests.

The man who replaced Mr. Brewer contends, "Mr. Hackel is only one vote."

Lon Johnson is right, of course, but he's an important vote that goes beyond symbolism. Hackel has won a number of elections by asserting his independence and apparently the folks in Macomb like what they see. So if he is sitting this one out, maybe some of them will not break their necks getting in Mr. Schauer's corner.

For the executive its not about partisan politics. "I won't vote against somebody just because you may not like him," referring to the Democratic story line that Mr. Snyder is a bad guy.

Mr. Hackel figures if the GOP governor is willing to help the county, why should he fight to unseat him?

It's shades of Gov. Chrisite and President Barack Obama all over again. Recall that during the hurricane the GOP governor had no problem cuddling-up to the Democratic President. "If he can help my citizens, why wouldn't I do that," he retorted to all those conservative Republicans going ballistic over this show of bi-partisanship.

So it's a case of Hackel being Hackel and he shows no signs of changing.

When told of this development, a Snyder aide smiled and offered, "This is huge."

Mr. Snyder is not nearly as expressive but after pondering the impact he did say this: "Him being neutral, I look at it more as thanks for the support Mark in terms of saying we've got a great relationship in that we're going good things in Macomb and the state of Michigan."

That's Snyder-speak for this is not all bad.

Tim Skubick is Michigan’s Senior Capitol correspondent and has anchored the weekly public TV series Off the Record since 1972. He also covers the Capitol and politics for WLNS-TV6 in Lansing.