Cox nabs Right to Life nod in race for governor

By Kathy Barks Hoffman

AP Political Writer

LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- Republican gubernatorial candidate Mike Cox won the endorsement of Right to Life of Michigan last week, just three days after the attorney general won the backing of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce and wealthy GOP activists Dick and Betsy DeVos.

The influential endorsements are expected to give Cox a boost in the five-way GOP race for governor and came as Right to Life publicly sparred with Republican businessman Rick Snyder.

Democrat Virg Bernero is the only gubernatorial candidate among the two Democrats and five Republicans running who supports abortion rights. With so many candidates in its corner, Right to Life could have endorsed more than one candidate, or not endorsed at all.

But the group is displeased with Snyder over the fact that the Ann Arbor venture capitalist financially supported a constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2008 that loosened restrictions on embryonic stem cell research by allowing people to donate embryos left over from fertility treatments.

"In our judgment, that's not being pro-life," Paul Miller, chairman of the Right to Life of Michigan political action committee, told The Associated Press on Friday. Miller noted that Snyder refused to fill out the PAC's questionnaire or come for an interview, an approach Snyder has taken with all special interest groups.

"If all the candidates were truly pro-life, followed through the process and were electable, credible, pro-life people, there might not have been any reason for us to get involved in the race," Miller said. "Our endorsement is based on who we thinks best meets our criteria and has the best opportunity to win."

Candidates for governor who didn't get endorsed by Right to Life despite being abortion opponents were Democratic House Speaker Andy Dillon and three Republicans: Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard, U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra and state Sen. Tom George.

Hoekstra ran a TV ad last month showing he had a 100 percent lifetime rating from National Right to Life, and said in a release Friday that he was "disappointed" with Right to Life's decision. George has been pushing legislation backed by Right to Life of Michigan that would attempt to regulate embryonic stem cell donations and research.

Snyder said he opposes abortion and would have Michigan opt out of the federal health care provision on abortion coverage if elected governor. Aware that Right to Life's political arm was weighing an endorsement, he wrote a guest opinion in the Grand Rapids Press saying the next governor could do a lot to lower the abortion rate and strengthen families "by focusing primarily on the economy."

Right to Life responded tartly on its website that Michigan would be better off with an abortion opponent who wants to improve the economy rather "than a candidate who thinks his plan to improve the economy makes him 'pro-life.'"

On Friday, Snyder criticized Right to Life for giving Cox the nod over the other abortion opponents in the race, including his GOP rivals.

"Right to Life's political leadership is playing with politics rather than uniting their members around those who would further the pro-life cause," Snyder said in a statement.

Pro-Life Federation President Jerry Zandstra, a Snyder supporter who has clashed with Right to Life in the past, also commented in the statement.

"Most of the candidates for governor have received pro-life endorsements in the past and are certainly qualified to receive them now," he said. "This damages the credibility of their organization, smacks of a dirty backroom deal and raises the question of whether endorsements are for sale."

Miller called the criticism "defensive posturing" and said the PAC board went through its usual, deliberative endorsement process before settling on Cox.

"He's been a champion for life," Miller said, pointing to Cox's defense of measures banning certain late-term abortion procedures. "He's also has a strong campaign and has proven in the past that he can win a statewide election."

Published: Tue, Jun 15, 2010

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