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Michigan politics: The week in review

Brian Charles Watson
Wikimedia Commons

In this Saturday's Week in Review, Michigan Radio's Rina Miller speaks with Political Analyst Jack Lessenberry about auto earnings, the new state model for measuring K-12 academic achievement, and the primary election coming up on Tuesday.

RM: U.S. car companies announce their profit statements this week. How are things looking, Jack?

JL: They're all still making money, which is the good news. Chrysler did spectacularly well, compared to a year ago; their sales were up 20 percent. GM and Ford were down, and their main problem seems to be in Europe, where, of course, there's been the European economic crisis.  Ford, especially, is losing tons of money in Europe, and probably both will for the foreseeable future.  One thing that nobody commented on that stood out to me was that GM now has about an 18.5 percent market share in the United States, but its market share in China zoomed to almost 14 percent, so it could be that some day, they'll have a bigger share there.

RM: Now that Michigan schools are getting a little leeway in the No Child Left Behind Act, the state has come up with a new way to monitor academic achievement. What's the plan, Jack, and do you think it's going to be effective?

JL: Well they're now dividing schools, Rina, into three groups. The top group is called "Reward." Those are the schools that are doing very well. The bottom schools have been renamed "Priority," and if they don't shape up, the state's saying they may be transferred to a new academic achievement authority. But then there's a new middle category called "Focus," and these are schools that may, on paper, be doing very well, but where there's a wide gap between the top students and the bottom students. There are people who are either doing very, very well, or very, very poorly, and they want to concentrate on those schools. I think the categories make some sense, but what's not clear at all to me is how they're going to go about remedying this, and the state's been a little vague on that.

RM: Finally, primary elections are coming up on Tuesday. What races should we keep an eye on, Jack?

JL: I think everybody has a lot of different local races, and you know, Rina, a lot of these races are going to be decided in the primary in one-party districts. On the congressional front, the hottest race of all may now be the 11th District where incumbent congressman Thaddeus McCotter didn't make the ballot and then quit. There are races in both the Republican and Democratic sides. The only name on the Republican ballot is Kerry Bentivolio, who is a Tea Party supporter, and regular Republicans are trying to get people to write in the name of Nancy Cassis, a former state senator. On the Democratic side, Syed Taj, a former Chief Physician at Oakwood Hospital, is the preferred candidate, but there's a man named William Roberts who has a more, perhaps, conventional-sounding name, who is, in fact, a LaRouche supporter, and runs around in a van with president Obama with a Hitler mustache painted on it. So mainstream Democrats are hoping that he doesn't win, and how both these primaries turn out will be very key to which party controls this congressional seat after November.

RM: We'll be watching, and I'm sure you will be, too. Thanks for everything, Jack.

JL: Have a great weekend, Rina.

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