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Here are the 7 biggest Michigan political fails of 2021, ranked

December 15, 2021
<p>Illustration by Daena Faustino. </p>

Illustration by Daena Faustino.

In a year as overwhelmingly chaotic as 2021, the normally mundane topic of state government had more than a few notable moments worth remembering as we head into the next year. As self-assured experts on Michigan politics, we rounded up some top moments — fails, if you will — that made us laugh, sigh disappointedly and hit the quote tweet button more often than not. 

7. Michigan Senate accidentally adjourning

Starting off with the most legislatively technical of our gaffes, we look to the Michigan Senate. While voting on a series of election reform bills strongly opposed by Democrats, several Republicans weren’t paying close enough attention when the Democrats proposed a motion to adjourn for the day.

Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist, who acts as the President of the Senate, pounced on the opportunity and quickly declared an end to the legislative day.

While the stunt only delayed the passage of the bill by a few hours (and was certain to be met with Gov. Whitmer’s veto regardless), the day certainly stood out as one of the weirdest in the legislature’s recent history.

6. Rep. John Reilly’s Tree Aversion

In October committee hearings about power outages that have plagued the state this year, Rep. John Reilly, R-Oakland County, decided to go after one of the few things that everyone in Michigan typically enjoys: trees. 

Reilly stated that Michiganders have an “unhealthy love affair with trees” in a conversation about clear-cutting for power lines. Reilly owns a business called the Log Cabin Handyman, so maybe live trees that haven’t been turned into buildings just really grind his gears – Who’s to say?

5. Ryan Kelley’s Trip to Washington

New GOP gubernatorial candidate and self-proclaimed “RINOS BeGone member” Ryan Kelley came under fire shortly after launching his campaign against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer for his involvement in the Jan. 6 rioting at the U.S. Capitol. 

Kelley, who made a meager political start as a member of the Allendale Township Planning Commission and a lifestyle blogger, was recorded in videos posted to YouTube and Parler taking part in a mob attack on Capitol police officers in an attempt to breach the barricades outside the building. In a Facebook Live Q&A session in March, he maintained that the events of Jan. 6 weren’t an insurrection and that it was an “energizing” experience.

It remains to be seen whether or not Kelley’s involvement at the Capitol will impact his eligibility as a candidate, but that hasn’t stopped him from trotting it out at events like the October “Stop the Steal” rally in Lansing, where he made frequent use of his Jan. 6 story to prove his dedication to the Trump cause, and also to impress old ladies in American flag sweaters. 

Even if Kelley’s campaign is cut short by a possible FBI investigation or just the implausibility of a political newcomer winning the Republican primary, fans can always keep up with him via his wife’s YouTube channel, where they discuss hard-hitting topics such as the dangers of public schools and how best to go about grocery shopping for their five kids (plus one more on the way). 

4. The Year in Mellissa Carone Events

After making a splashy entrance to Michigan politics at the end of 2020 with her "SNL"-parodied testimony to the state legislature, former Dominion IT contractor Mellissa Carone had a year of newsworthy moments. 

In February, Carone announced a run for the Michigan House of Representatives, on the heels of legal action against her by Dominion, which maintains that she was hired not to work with election software but rather to clean the glass on voting machines in Detroit. It was also revealed that Carone recently spent time under probation for harassing her fiance’s ex-wife by sending her sexually explicit videos. Yikes.

Carone went on to appear at various “Stop the Steal” events around Michigan throughout the year, most notably in October at the state capitol. 

The kicker to Carone’s flawless political year had to be in mid-November when Gongwer News Service obtained information showing that she hadn’t been registered to vote until 2019, and she didn’t actually vote in the 2020 election. For someone whose entire public persona is built on election fraud and the sanctity of a Trump victory, not even voting in the election is sketchy, to say the least. 

3. The Jewell Jones Saga

Where to begin? State Rep. Jewell Jones, D-Inkster, the youngest representative in the state’s history, has had a series of scandals throughout the year. 

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Beginning in April when he was pulled over for drunk driving, Jones was found to be operating at more than twice the legal limit. While getting arrested, he said, “I’ll call Governor Whitmer right now,” according to MLive.

After being released on bail and submitting to alcohol testing, Jones was found to be drinking in early September and was quickly taken into custody. 

Now, for the kicker: During what was supposed to be a three-day stay in jail, Jones brought in a handcuff key taped to the bottom of his foot, which Livingston County Sheriff Mike Murphy said was indeed functional and could’ve been used to unlock his handcuffs.

Facing a new slew of felony charges, Jones remained in jail for nearly two months and was recently released under care of a Detroit-area pastor.

Jones’s scandals this year also include now-deleted Instagram posts in which he joked about COVID-19 vaccines being used as experiments on recipients and offering to provide letters of exemption from his office.

In all seriousness, we wish Jones well in his recovery process.

2. Gov. Whitmer’s Landshark Night Out

Who can resist a sharkbowl and a grilled pizza? Apparently not Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who made an appearance at the East Lansing restaurant back in May, along with 12 of her very closest friends with a couple of tables pushed together. 

If you haven’t kept a close eye on the winding saga of Michigan COVID-19 safety orders, Whitmer’s dinner party took place during an order which held that indoor dining was to be contained to groups of six people per table, with groups seated six feet apart. Not a great look for the governor, who apologized for her transgression and chalked it up to a lapse in judgment due to the vaccinated status of her and her party. 

The good folks at Breitbart had a field day with this one, and while Whitmer’s violation didn’t result in any fines for Landshark, it was certainly a blow to the credibility of future social distancing directives. 

1. Attorney General Dana Nessel’s Tailgate-Gate

We knew this was coming. Like all too many of us, Attorney General Dana Nessel, a proud graduate of the University of Michigan, had a bit too much to drink during the MSU-UMich football game over Halloween weekend.

Nessel said that she had two Bloody Mary’s on an empty stomach — a rookie mistake (or so we hear from friends who are 21).

Among Nessel’s questionable decisions that day were taking a picture with Gov. Whitmer and Michigan GOP Chair Ron Weiser, who called the women “witches” earlier in the year.

And to finish it off, Nessel said she was taken out in a wheelchair by her friends and family, thanking her wife for caring for her once she got home.

We felt this moment was a no-brainer for our number one spot as it happened right on our beloved campus. The faux outrage that followed from her humanizing admission was a nice break from the real stories it overshadowed.


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