Community leaders leave Schuette meeting with bad feelings, disagreements
By Nick Meyer | Friday, 10.22.2010, 11:51 AM

Republican candidate for Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette met with Arab American leaders at the Lebanese American Heritage Club in Dearborn on Friday, October 15, continuing his long-standing tradition of maintaining dialogue with the community.

Michigan Republican candidate for attorney general Bill Schuette (left) visits with Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard (center) and Wayne County Lead Prosecuting Attorney Abed Hammoud at the Lebanese American Heritage Club.  PHOTO:Nafeh AbuNab/TAAN
Schuette is a former U.S Congressman who most recently served on Michigan's 4th District Court of Appeals from 2003 until 2009. He is running against Democratic challenger David Leyton, the current Gennessee County Prosecutor, for the seat, which will be decided in the November 2 general elections and is currently held by departing term-limited Republican Mike Cox.

Upon his visit for the meeting, which included dignitaries such as Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard and Dearborn City Council Pro Tem and Republican candidate for 15th District State Rep. Suzanne Sareini, Schuette said that he felt as if he was at a job interview and wanted to do his best to highlight his accomplishments and credentials for the position of attorney general.

"I don't have an agenda for the job for tonight, other than to come to get to know you better and to build a relationship and get acquainted," he said.

"I hope to have a discussion today and in the future to have more in-depth relationships with each and every one of you here in the community, that's what I hope to accomplish."

Bouchard introduced Schuette and talked about the importance of the attorney general position.

"The office is important to the whole state and this community, to have a person who cares about the rule of law and the rights it guarantees to everyone," he said.

Schuette said he decided to run for the post because he was "sick and tired of the process in Lansing. Over 8,000 hardened criminals have been released under the policies of (Governor Jennifer) Granholm and there's fewer police on the streets, you put those ingredients together and it jeopardizes Michigan families," he said.

Schuette also pledged impartiality if elected as attorney general.

"When I was a judge on the Michigan Court of Appeals I looked at every issue thoroughly, I never pre-judged anything and I approached everything in a thorough fashion to protect our constitution."

He also criticized his opponent Leyton, for the status of Flint as the fourth-most dangerous city in the U.S (according recent FBI statistics). Flint is located in Gennessee County.

Schuette wants to challenge national health care on the grounds that it is unconstitutional to be forced to buy a service from the government and wants to continue Cox's dogged pursuits of fathers who neglect child support payments, which he said was in opposition to Leyton's plans.

Schuette also took questions from the audience and answered one from American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee Regional Director Imad Hamad about Arizona's recent immigration law passing and whether or not it could potentially be adopted in Michigan.

Schuette responded by saying that it is important for people to elect someone who has strong skills as a lawyer and a judge in regards to this issue to be attorney general.

"Arizona I believe is trying to protect its borders because the federal government did not," he said.

"I believe they passed that law because the federal government failed to do its job."

Schuette also talked about Michigan's borders in response.

"We have one of the longest borders in the nation," he said. "I will protect the borders and enforce the laws while working with prosecutors to make sure we do this in a fair and reasonable way," he said.

Hamad said that he respected Schuette's willingness to speak his mind on the issue but also was disappointed in the way he handled some of the responses to the questions, as was Michigan Civil Rights Commissioner and Arab American Political Action Committee External Vice President Nabih Ayad, who also attended the meeting.

Ayad asked a question about whether Schuette would speak out against or offer extra protections regarding cases of hate crimes against people because of their ethnicity or religion in light of recent events such as the stabbing of a Muslim cab driver in New York City and other similar crimes across the U.S.

During an effort to provide more background on the topic, Ayad was cut off by Schuette during their discussion multiple times.

"I asked him a question about whether he would take a proactive position in addressing and attacking hate on every front and he turned  around and insulted my intelligence acting as if I was asking a political question because I'm a civil rights commissioner appointed by a Democrat, Governor Jennifer Granholm," Ayad said.

Ayad said the way he was treated was demeaning to him and the community in light of the numerous concerns members have in regards to hate crimes and the prospective attorney general's stances on the issue.

Hamad said he appreciated the straightforward "true Republican" approach of Schuette but said that didn't excuse the way Ayad and also some other community members were treated during the meeting.

"That does not justify his lack of political interpersonal skills which didn't allow the courtesy of an open, constructive discussion," he said.

Schuette said he planned to be back to continue a running dialogue with the community in the future, however.

"I am here to build a relationship and to work hard and I'll be working with you and seeing you again, and I will be Michigan's next Attorney General," he said.

A fundraiser was held at a restaurant in Dearborn on Monday, October 18 for Schuette as well.

His opponent Leyton is expected to speak and answer questions at an event held by the Arab Student Union of Michigan-Dearborn at 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, October 27 on the University Center's main stage.

Leyton will also be interviewed by the Arab American Political Action Committee on Friday, October 22, which will help the group decide on a possible endorsement for the attorney general position.

By Nick Meyer

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