By Jen Kuznicki
As chair of the Presque Isle County Republicans I was given an opportunity to moderate an Attorney General debate in Alpena, Michigan on February 18th, between Tom Leonard, Matt DePerno, and Ryan Berman.
At the close of the debate, I endorsed Matt DePerno. The winner of the debate wiped the floor with the other candidates. It wasn’t even close.
The fact that all three candidates were attorneys forced me to listen very closely to what they said, and what they did not say. This practice is important in working with lawyers, and working in politics.
When a politician says they’ll do something, and then doesn’t, the reaction is typically a shrug and a comment, “That’s politics.” But when a lawyer says they’ll do something, and then doesn’t, you’d better go find the exact words they used, because there’s an “out” there somewhere. What I mean is, lawyers are notorious for being very careful with their words.
During the Alpena debate, DePerno answered questions then lobbed attacks at Leonard, forcing Leonard to defend himself. But the funny thing is, he didn’t address the attacks. He instead pulled some fancy footwork which I will shine a light upon today.
There were two questions in particular, (the moderators only asked six questions) that were answered very slickly by Leonard.
Question number three asked, “Based on what we know now, will you consider prosecuting Governor Whitmer for her Nursing Home Scandal?”
DePerno answered that yes, he intends to investigate and prosecute Whitmer due to possible misconduct in office and scandal cover-ups. He said of Nessel, that people need to be treated equally under the law, and he scoffed at the idea that some Republicans would like him to “protect the party from scandal” rather than go forward with investigations.
Leonard answered with the gravity of the office they are seeking, and how, with one stroke of a pen, the Attorney General has the power to ruin someone’s life forever. He continued:
“I can stand here and give you talking points like I’m going to arrest so-and-so on day one. But let me be clear here, I respect our system of justice. Does there need to be an investigation on Dana Nessel on day one? Absolutely, and I’ve been very clear that there needs to be an investigation about what happened with this nursing home tragedy, but for me to stand here or any person that’s running to be the chief law enforcement official in the State of Michigan to stand here and say they’re going to arrest somebody on day one does not respect our system of justice. In fact, if there were ever charges brought against that individual, I can tell you what the first thing the defense counsel is going to do, they are going to play the videos of that attorney general on the campaign stump making political promises that they are going to arrest somebody and throw them in jail, and that case is going to be thrown out or that person is going to be acquitted. That is not justice for those that perished. So as we stand here tonight, absolutely, I can look everyone in the eyes and tell you there will be an investigation to determine what happened with these nursing homes, however, I respect our system of justice enough and I respect those victims enough that I’m not going to stand here and tell you that someone is going to be arrested on day one until there is a thorough investigation. I respect our system of justice too much for that.”
Now, in politics and marketing, the power of three is important. Leonard outdid himself here with the power of four.
Tom said “arrest,” “investigation,” and “respect the system” four times each, in that answer. In doing so, he led you to believe that:
- DePerno said he was going to arrest either Nessel or Whitmer on day one, upon assuming office as Attorney General.
- DePerno does not respect the American system of justice.
- DePerno seems not to understand that there needs to be probable cause to investigate.
But that’s not what DePerno said. DePerno clearly said he would investigate and prosecute.
He didn’t say he’d arrest on day one.
What Leonard did by saying, “I could stand here and say I’m going to arrest”…..and then, “I’m not going to stand here and say I’m going to arrest so-and-so,” is put the idea in your mind that DePerno thinks as AG, you can just arrest people with no investigation. With the ridiculous repetition, Leonard sewed doubt in your mind with an absolute lie.
In reality, Leonard’s answer was meaningless, like so many politicians before him. Anyone who has been paying attention knows that Leonard is not serious about investigating either Nessel or Whitmer. He’ll call for an investigation, sure, but nothing will come of it. That way, he can say he did something about it without actually doing anything about it. That is why he added that point that Whitmer or Nessel would be acquitted if charges were ever brought.
In rebuttal, DePerno simply stated, “MCL 750.505 Misconduct of office, a four year felony.”
Question number five asked, “In a recent tweet complaining about the Supreme Court case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, Nessel lamented, ‘By the end of this Supreme Court Term, it will likely be far easier for a teenage boy to acquire a firearm in Michigan than for a woman to procure an abortion.’ If the Dobbs case overturns Roe v. Wade, will you stand up and fight for the unborn defenseless innocents in this state who have no voice?”
DePerno answered the question by pointing out that he will in fact enforce the law in Michigan which makes it illegal to assist an abortion. “If Roe v. Wade is overturned, I will enforce that law.” He said that refusing to give exceptions to that enforcement, cost him the Right to Life endorsement.
DePerno went on to say that Leonard killed the “life at conception bill” and the “fetal pain bill,” when he was in the legislature.
Yet, Tom Leonard received the Right to Life endorsement.
How can that be?
Leonard said in rebuttal that DePerno’s assertions were “bold-faced lies.” But then did not correct the record.
As a listener, I figured Leonard would lay out why what DePerno said was untrue, but he didn’t. Instead, he launched into a story about his child’s birth.
I’ve been watching politics for many years, and when a politician throws bluster like, “How dare you besmirch my reputation,” without actually correcting the record, it hangs there like a fart in church.
That is why I say, pay close attention to what they don’t say.
Leonard should have been livid to have his voting record and his reputation of receiving the Right to Life endorsement called into question. But he didn’t.
Tom’s reaction alone gives credence to DePerno’s other assertion on the abortion issue.
After calling Leonard out on blocking pro-life bills, DePerno asked, “Why would Leonard do this?”
He answered his own question, “Because if there is no more abortion in this state, you cannot continue to raise money off of abortion.”
Harsh but true. I’ve heard many times that RTL doesn’t endorse in these types of races. I’ve seen RTL many times endorse those who have a track record of playing ball with them, rather than those that deserve the endorsement. So the statement by DePerno rings true. Just like there were laws in place to protect slavery, there are laws in place to protect abortion. And there are institutions in place on both ends of the political spectrum that do not actually want to see the end of abortion.
I am proud to endorse Matt DePerno for Attorney General, and I will cast my vote Saturday at the convention.
But wait, Jen, you didn’t mention Ryan Berman.
That’s right, here’s why:
Berman came to the Republican north to tell us he’ll work across the aisle, that he’s the most bi-partisan candidate, that he has lots of money, and that his campaign for office in 2020 was the most expensive in the history of Michigan.