The Democratic candidate for Attorney General Patrick Miles used a Republican report that demonizes his Democratic opponent Dana Nessel. In distributing the research from the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA) to media, Miles’ campaign overstepped the regular political process in an attempt at character assassination against her.
It’s not abnormal for candidates to spread or “shop” information like this to the media — in fact, Nessel has done so as well — but using another political party’s research in this way calls Miles’ Democratic support into question. And, it’s unprecedented.
“It’s disappointing that the Miles campaign has chosen this route,” Nessel said in an emailed statement to BTL. “I don’t believe it’s ever appropriate for a Democrat to be using the Republican playbook, both literally and figuratively in this case, to attack another Democrat.”
The 40-page RAGA report against Nessel, released sometime over the weekend, outlines a Republican plan of attack on her with a “soft on sex predators” message. This message demonizes not only the Democratic party but queer people specifically because it links LGBTQ people through Nessel — the first out lesbian to seek statewide office in Michigan — to sex crimes.
These allegations against Nessel gloss over more than a decade of her work at the Wayne County prosecutor’s office prosecuting sex crimes and child abuse. For more than 13 pages they liken her to a sexual predator sympathizer. In addition, they also assail her for her law partner’s work as advertised on the firm’s website, while linking her other civil and criminal cases together to paint her as an anti-police candidate. And this attack, in itself, is both relevant as ever to the continued struggle of the LGBTQ community and is highly problematic.
When a tie like this is sought, it encourages a moral sex panic that harks back to the “queer people are perverts” reporting and perspectives from decades past. It may not be the intent of the Miles’ campaign to go that far, but that’s what it does in a world where voters tend to skew toward the older age bracket and who remember that vitriol. And the fact that Anchorage, Alaska, just fought a battle against a citywide initiative to prevent transgender people from using certain bathrooms based on their biological, assigned-at-birth gender, doesn’t make a reality like that impossible. Though common sense won out in Alaska, it nearly didn’t because of the conscious linking of queer people to criminals.
There is a 39-page RAGA book on Miles as well, but Nessel has not distributed that information.
The Miles opposition book spends nine full pages smearing him for publishing work in the Harvard Law Record while the managing editor. The work cited includes very little of Miles’ actual writing, but includes other writers’ attacks on Reagan, and raises issues of social justice as they relate to race. There are also five pages on Miles’ defense of the Social Security Administration in its denial of a man with metal rods in both legs and a bulging disc in his back. Miles argued the man was not disabled. And the courts agreed.
And though political primaries are about testing the candidates both physically and mentally, candidates usually stick to their own party’s findings. For instance, after the UAW and AFL-CIO announced last week they were endorsing Miles for Attorney General, the Nessel team shopped a PDF collection of statements from the websites of various law firms Miles had worked for. Each of these statements reflected on how to keep a business “union free.”
The memo that Nessel released also contained a reference to reporting by MLive that Miles’ former employer, Varnum LLP, represented Kent County’s reform to UAW pensions through the government body, increasing costs and decreasing benefits. These records do not indicate that he was representing the county in this case.
Even with the attacks against her, Nessel said that she will continue going strong in her campaign and looks forward to the upcoming state endorsement convention.
“I plan to continue to motivate my supporters to come to the convention on Sunday, and to persuade those who are undecided that I am the candidate who can best activate and energize voters to come to the polls in November and vote Democrat,” Nessel continued. “My hope is that we can all come together in pursuit of this purpose once our nominees have been selected.”
BTL asked the Miles team a series of questions about this issue and will update this analysis when they send their responses.