"I think that Nofs will win, he's done well with retail politics," Demas said, referencing Nofs massive fund raising advantage
over Griffin. "I also think he should win. The GOP does better in
special elections. It would be more of a bellwether if Griffin won."
For his part, Nofs seemed confident about a victory and eager to
take on the challenge of bringing jobs to a state facing almost 15
percent unemployment. A former police officer, Nofs served six years in
the State House before term limits ended his tenure and has run a
campaign that has been widely-praised by groups on both sides of the
aisle, leading to endorsements from both business groups and unions. During our conversation he repeatedly stressed the need to reform the state's tax code to make it more friendly to businesses.
"We are not a business-friendly state. Everybody knows that," Nofs
said. "Taxes are high, regulations are onerous. We don't do a good job
of partnering with the businesses we do have and keeping them from
Griffin is a pro-life, pro-gun Catholic and confirmed bachelor who
served as mayor of Jackson for 12 years before getting elected to the
state House in 2006. His father Michael also held his current seat for
over 25 years. Griffin agrees that the state needs to overhaul its
entire taxing structure, but thinks it's unlikely to happen with
six-year term limits in place. He said he's in favor of extending term
limits to twelve years for each chamber to allow legislators to become
familiar with the process and engage in long-term planning.
"In the past [a new tax code] may have taken 4-6 years to develop.
Last session with the Michigan Business Tax, it was cobbled together in
about 60 days," Griffin said. "We have to have a group of people that
get it right rather than pushing something through and having to go
back and fix it."
Both candidates promised that win or lose they would run again when
the seat is up next fall, though Griffin's lack of success on the
fund-raising front has led some locals to question whether his heart is
really in the race. Republican pollster and Jackson native Ryan
Steusloff of Wilson Research Strategies said Nofs' campaign has tapped
into the growing unrest among conservatives in Michigan.
"Look at races across the country and all the intensity is on the
Republican side right now," Steusloff said. "I've talked to some folks
in Lansing and it's not just the money on the Nofs campaign, it's
volunteers also. It's been a well-run campaign."
While he has been able to raise significant amounts of money in past
races, Griffin attributed his fund-raising woes this time around to the
economic situation in Jackson, which has been hit hard by the downturn in the manufacturing sector.
"This time around it's been very difficult. Even traditional big
donors just didn't have the money," Griffin said. Still, he's very
happy with the campaign he's been able to run. "We weren't out there on
TV and radio for months, we weren't dropping negative mail. We've run a
very aggressive, under-the-radar campaign and the reaction has been