The Biggest Political Blunders of 2021 in Michigan

2021 had its political ups and downs. Gongwer reporter Jordyn Hermani talks about some of the low points on MichMash.

It’s a wrap on 2021, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still look back at some of the highs and lows of last year.

As part of the weekly series MichMash, WDET’s Jake Neher and Slate’s Cheyna Roth focus on the blunders of 2021 with Gongwer Michigan’s Jordyn Hermani.

Hermani, Gongwer’s state House reporter, took on an interesting challenge. Instead of a straightforward look back on the past year, she focused on the biggest blunders that took place throughout the year. 

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State Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey Caught on a Hot Mic. Twice.

For a good part of early 2021, Shirkey just couldn’t seem to stop getting caught saying controversial things on camera or into microphones. One time he said he wanted to challenge Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to a fistfight on the Capitol lawn. He was also caught claiming the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol was a hoax staged by antifa — which is false. And who could forget when Shirkey said he was going to “spank” the governor on the budget?

“So that was an interesting time to put it lightly,” says Hermani. “There was a big fallout after that, where there were questions as to whether he should step down, whether he should stay in the majority. And that really kind of fizzled out around March … As we know, nothing happened. He’s still the Senate Majority Leader. And will be into next year.”

Unlock Michigan Petition Antics

There’s no law that says petition signature gatherers can’t lie to people before getting their signatures. See our previous coverage of that issue here.

Unlock Michigan was accused of taking advantage of that fact as well as using illegal methods to get people to sign a petition to repeal a law that allows the governor to keep the state in a state of emergency indefinitely. State Attorney General Dana Nessel intervened and launched an investigation. But no charges were filed after a group in opposition to Unlock Michigan attempted to spy on the group.

“There was somebody with a legitimate camera in a pen, like in a pocket recording videos of these insider meetings, they were recording interactions with circulators,” says Hermani. “And what happened there was actually those individuals legitimately signed petitions, but with fraudulent names.” Those actions made the evidence unusable and the case was thrown out.

Gov. Whitmer’s Flight to Florida

In the spring of 2021, Whitmer received a lot of pushback over a trip she took to Florida. She used money through a nonprofit to charter a private plane, which caused Republicans to accuse Whitmer of being a hypocrite because of travel restrictions that were in place at the time. As the story went on, there was also a question of whether Whitmer could even use the money from the nonprofit in this way and if the company that flew Whitmer to Florida was even allowed to operate charter flights.

Hermani says it was, “just one of those things where it starts is something where you’re like, oh, this seems weird. And then just more and more keep piling on.”

More from MichMash:

Michigan Reaching Breakthrough Moment for Access to Justice, Says Chief Justice McCormack

Bills to Address Gun Violence Languish in Legislature Amid Calls for Action

Rinke Shakes Up GOP Primary Race for Michigan Governor, But Still No Major Candidates Accept 2020 Election

Infrastructure Package Could Be Big Boost for Michigan, But Major Challenges Remain

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  • Cheyna Roth
    Cheyna has interned with Michigan Radio and freelanced for WKAR public radio in Lansing. She's also done some online freelancing and worked on documentary films.
  • Jake Neher
    Jake Neher is senior producer for Detroit Today and host of MichMash for 101.9 WDET. He previously reported on the Michigan Legislature for the Michigan Public Radio Network.