The Executive Summary: Michigan cabinet shuffles; East coast gubernatorial controversies

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July 12, 2012

Like the intensity of the heat wave that recently swept the nation, the fury of election season has subsided - at least for a little while. Delaware's filing deadline has come and gone, leaving Louisiana (where candidates have until August 17th to file) as the only state in which candidates can still submit the requisite paperwork to appear on the primary ballot. In addition to previewing Delaware's candidate list, this edition of The Executive Summary serves up details on some of the recent controversies surrounding governors and lieutenant governors up and down the east coast, brings you up to date on the new appointments in Michigan's executive branch, and features the office of Natural Resources Commissioner.

Elections and filings

This year, 22 states are holding regularly-scheduled state executive official elections. In those elections, a total of 37 state executive seats and 57 down ballot seats are up for election. Wisconsin also held two special recall elections for Gov. Scott Walker and Lt. Gov Rebecca Kleefisch on June 5, 2012.

  • 13 states have already held primary elections
  • Candidate filing periods have closed in 9 other states
  • Louisiana has not yet had any deadlines pass


See also: Delaware state executive official elections, 2012

The candidate filing period in Delaware ended at noon on Tuesday, July 10th. Three state executive offices are up for election this year: governor, lieutenant governor and insurance commissioner. Incumbents are seeking re-election in all three of the races. In Delaware, a primary election is only held if two or more people file for the same office in the same party.[1] The only state executive primary to be held in the First State this year will be the Democratic nomination for insurance commissioner.

Democratic Party Jack Markell (D) Incumbent
Republican Party Jeff Cragg (R)

Lt. Governor
Democratic Party Matthew Denn (D) Incumbent
Republican Party Sher Valenzuela (R)
Libertarian Party Margie Waite-McKeown (L)

Insurance Commissioner
Democratic Party Karen Weldin Stewart (D) Incumbent
Democratic Party Mitch Crane (D)
Democratic Party Paul Gallagher (D)
Democratic Party Dennis Spivack (D)
Republican Party Benjamin Mobley (R)
Libertarian Party David R. Eisenhour (L)


  • Maine Governor Paul LePage drew national attention late last week when he likened the Internal Revenue Service to Nazi Germany's secret police force. During his weekly radio address, LePage criticized President Obama's health care plan, saying “We the people have been told there is no choice. You must buy health insurance or pay the new Gestapo - the IRS.”[2] Critics and Jewish groups across the country immediately called for a public apology, which LePage eventually issued. His office released a statement earlier this week in which LePage clarified, “It was not my intent to insult anyone, especially the Jewish Community, or minimize the fact that millions of people were murdered.”[3]
    Gov. Nikki Haley
    The statement went on to explain the sentiment he had intended to convey, though many - including the Regional Director of the Anti-Defamation League, New England - found it “insufficient and disappointing.”[4]
  • Nikki Haley, the current Governor of South Carolina, was recently cleared of alleged ethics violations. She was accused of illegally lobbying when she was a member of the South Carolina House of Representatives. While serving in the state legislature, Haley worked as a fundraiser for a hospital and a business development contractor for an engineering firm. John Rainey, a Republican fundraiser in the state, accused Haley of using her position in the state government to get approval “for the hospital to build a new heart center and for the engineering firm to settle a dispute over its plan to build a state farmers' market.”[5] A bi-partisan, six person ethics committee was unanimous in its decision to dismiss the allegations.
  • Florida's lieutenant governor, Jennifer Carroll, has been accused of misconduct by former staffer Carletha Cole. The accusation was made as part of ongoing criminal court proceedings following Cole's arrest on charges of illegally leaking taped staff conversations to the media. Carroll has called the allegations “false and absurd.”[6][7]

Michigan cabinet shuffle

For the first time since he took office in 2011, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder (R) made changes to his cabinet. The first move took place on June 21, when he announced that Rodney Stokes, who had been serving as Director of Natural Resources would be moving into the Executive Office to lead "placemaking" initiatives for cities. Snyder stated, "Michigan's cities are brimming with unique natural and man-made assets that can be cultivated in ways which attract families and visitors, retain talented workers, encourage investment and enhance our overall quality of life. Rodney has the talent and experience to make that happen.”[8]

Four days later, Snyder announced that he would be moving Keith Creagh, the Director of Agriculture and Rural Development, into the vacant DNR position. He then appointed Jamie Clover Adams to take over for Creagh. Adams was serving as the policy and legislative affairs director for the Department of Environmental Quality.[9]

All appointments became effective July 9.

Featured office: Natural Resources Commissioners

Quick facts about Natural Resources Commissioners
  • Wyoming and New Hampshire do not have a Natural Resource Commissioner. In each case, the states' natural resources are overseen by divisions within statewide agriculture and land agencies.
  • Only two states - Texas and Washington - publicly elect their natural resources commissioners
  • Non-partisan in all but 5 states: Alaska, California, Georgia, Washington and Texas
  • Salary range: $75,000 (West Virginia) - $175,000 (California)

When William Shakespeare wrote “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet,”[10] he was alluding to Romeo's name, Montague. 400 years later, the line could be aptly used in reference to the state executive office of Natural Resources Commissioner. Some are called Commissioner of Lands, others are Conservation Commissioners; there are Commissioners of Environmental Protection and Secretaries of Energy and Environmental Affairs. The position, however named, exists in 48 states. The duties of the officeholder vary from state to state, but their general role is to maintain, protect and regulate natural resources, including state parks, forests and recreation areas. Natural resources commissioners receive higher salaries than 18 of their states' respective governors, but it's not always an easy position to nab. In Hawaii, for example, a member of the board of natural resources must have either a college degree in forestry, wildlife conservation, geology, environmental science, or marine biology; or "work history sufficient to demonstrate an appropriate level of knowledge in the subject of land and natural resources, including parks and recreation, public lands management, natural area reserves, aquatic resources, boating and recreation, forestry and wildlife, water resources management, or conservation and resources."[11] Some states have similar requirements but list them much more vaguely, like in Connecticut, where the environmental protection commissioner must be "qualified by training and experience for the duties of his office." There are other subtle differences among the states that range from establishing a minimum age for an officeholder to excluding members of political party committees from serving. California has arguably the most interesting qualifications for office: the office holder, among other things, must not be a member of the Communist Party or any other organization that advocates the overthrow of the U.S. government.[12]

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